A show about a woman who gives up everything for a guy— okay wait, it’s a lot more nuanced than that.
My roommate and I have been spending many a night in LA with cheap food, an iPad, and Netfilx. We’ve seen a lot of Disney Channel Original Movies, Sweeney Todd, and some Bob’s Burgers. But hands down my favorite has been our recent marathons of Rachel Bloom’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
The premise, neatly wrapped up in the theme song, follows the story of Rebecca Bunch, a big New York lawyer who realizes she’s not happy anymore. It also just so happens to coincide with with Rebecca running into her high school summer camp love, Josh Chan. They talk briefly, and Rebecca decided to move to Josh’s SoCal hometown, but totally not for Josh. The rest of the season falls into romantic comedy place, but not in the typical ways of sitcoms past. Show-stopping musical numbers, a diverse cast, and awesome women leads, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation heir TV has been waiting for.
Except Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (or CXG as the trendy TV writers refer to it) goes farther than 30 Rock and Parks and Rec. Show creators Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna worked together to make a new romantic comedy, and their show speaks to feminism, mental health, sexuality, and reflects the diversity of Southern Cailifornia. The writing for each episode goes well beyond the standard plot of girl-chases-boy, and the characters reflect honest depth in their roles on a sitcom. Rebecca deals with real anxiety, Josh Chan’s Filipino family isn’t a prop, and the base of all the relationships is real love and caring . Without making obvious bigger points, CXG hits home in the best, most musical way.
This show is “critical hit” with audiences and media, taking home a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award. After its first season, it had four Emmy nominations (none for best actress, actor, or comedy) and its second season airs next month. Vulture has done a number of pieces singing the praises of CXG (here, here, and here), and the New York Times did an great profile of Rachel Bloom. NBC Asian America added why CXG is an important representation of Filipino culture. Mainstream love for this show is important not only to keep it on air, but if more people talk about it, more people will want to watch it, and then its brilliance might make a difference on a lot of pre-conceived notions.
That may sound like a lot to hope for from a TV show, but look at the way people talk about Black-ish, Modern Family, Fresh Off the Boat, and Masters of None. All of these shows and more stress the importance of media representation, showing characters ans situations that are simultaneously culturally unique and universal. For instance, American audiences are familiar with Thanksgiving dinner episodes, but not traditional Filipino foods. But do they need to be? The episode focuses on Rebecca’s desire to ingratiate herself with Josh’s family, not the ins and outs of Filipino American identity. People without mental illness won’t understand all the nuances of Rebecca’s struggles, but they can relate to over-bearing mothers and using romance to distract from real problems. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s attention to the little details of the characters lives is what make the show really stand out.
Watch CXG because it’s funny and everyone loves a strong female lead. Stay because it’s funny, real, and everybody loves a strong female lead. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is now one of my favorite TV shows, for a lot of reasons. Mainly Rachel Bloom and the musical numbers, but for a lot of other really important reasons too. Seasons 1 through 3 are on Netflix and all the songs are on Youtube, so don’t Greg and go after the show you love.