Autumn is a great time of year for many reasons. The leaves start to turn their beautiful shades of oranges, yellows and reds, you can walk outside without being harassed by wasps, and the cooler weather is the perfect excuse to snuggle up on the sofa with a hot drink and a new series to binge. And although we’re having to wait until next year for the next instalment of Brooklyn Nine Nine, there’s plenty of other comedy treats to sink your teeth into without desperately resorting to the final series of The Big Bang Theory.
The return of the CW’s razor sharp comedy drama Crazy Ex Girlfriend ( Season Four started on 12th October on CW and Netflix) is enough of a reason to abandon the outdoors and retire to the sofa on these long, dark nights. The brainchild of comedienne Rachel Bloom and screenwriter Aline Brosh Mckenna, Crazy Ex Girlfriend follows New Yorker Rebecca Bunch (played by Bloom), who finds herself drowning in stress and unhappiness, rather than thriving in her career as a top notch lawyer at a leading firm. When she bumps into her summer camp sweetheart, Josh Chan ( Vincent Rodriguez III) on the streets of New York, Bloom decides to move her life to Chan’s hometown of West Covina, California, convinced that Josh and California are the things she needs to make her life complete.
Although the initial plot line may sound like the set up of a two star rom com, Crazy Ex Girlfriend is a far cry from the unsatisfying romance cliche it pretends to be. Instead, Bloom and McKenna’s creation is a refreshing commentary on love, relationships and female and male representation that places every story line trope under a microscope. With a diverse cast of original, three dimensional characters, hilarious societal commentary told through the show’s brilliant songs and fantastically written portrayals of often taboo subjects such as abortion, mental health and fragile masculinity, Crazy Ex Girlfriend is a prime example of how TV in the 21st Century should be done.
While the fourth and final season (*sobs uncontrollably*) is now underway, now is the perfect time to get some snacks in and binge the other three series, until you’re up to do date. Here’s ten reasons why Crazy Ex Girlfriend should be at the top of your TV list this autumn.
+++++ ++++++++++++ Spoiler Alert+++++++++++++++++++++++
There are disclosures of plot lines, character introductions and developments. You have been warned!
1 it has a cast of diverse characters who are original and relatable
At a time when audiences and industry members alike are crying out for more diversity in casting and character representation, Crazy Ex Girlfriend acts as a how-to-guide on how it’s done. The main cast of characters is a microcosm of a modern, multicultural society, where everyone has their own flaws and issues which aren’t defined by their cultural heritage, ethnicity, age, religion or sexuality. Of the main women we have Rebecca, a woman of privilege, whose mental health issues are brought on by the elitist, competitive world she has been brought up in; Paula, an aspiring lawyer, dragged down by her failing marriage and nightmare sons; Valencia, who is originally set up as the perfect other woman, whose own insecurities have stopped her forming tight friendships with other women; and Heather, Rachel’s enigma of a neighbour who is often the voice of reason to the other character’s irrationality and acts of self interest.
The main cast of male characters is just as well- thought out, with Rodriguez’s Chan, who is set up as ‘the dream man’,being exactly what a Disney prince would be like if they were a person in real life. Charming, yes, but incredibly vague, shallow and self-involved, with a lack of drive and fear of commitment, Josh is depicted as a complex and problematic character, rather than a flawless object of desire. The same is done with Rebecca’s other love interests in the series, Greg (seasons 1 ,2 and 4) and Nathaniel (seasons 2-4), the only straight white men of the main cast, who are both presented as characters who are flawed by toxic masculinity, from Greg’s need to have the upper hand on Rebecca, rather than admit how he feels, to Nathaniel’s obsession with being strong and successful, as inherited from his cold, goal-driven father. Instead of three relationships that are romanticised, Crazy Ex Girlfriend presents the love interests as well-developed characters in their own right, who bring their own baggage to their relationships with Rebecca, and have personal issues and story lines that have nothing to do with their love life, such as Greg’s alcoholism, Nathaniel’s relationship with his parents and Josh’s feelings of hopelessness about his future.
The other male characters are also incredible relatable and show a diverse depiction of masculinity that smash the normal tropes. From the lovable, sensitive Darryl, who is constantly emasculated through his divorce and business takeover, White Josh, Chan’s friend who is also called Josh, a gay fitness fanatic and blunt voice of reason, to Hector, who is not at all embarrassed that his best friend is his Mum, the male cast of Crazy Ex Girlfriend shows a broad range of male representation that is kind, relatable and realistic.
The ethnic diversity of the main is not only an accurate representation of the makeup of West Covina’s real life citizens, but it also never feels tokeny. The male lead, Josh Chan, played by Vincent Rodriguez III who is of Filipino, Latin and Chinese descent, is Filipino and the inclusion of his family members and childhood friend and local Pastor, Father Brah, played by Rene Gabe, one of the show’s writers, hint at the integrated Asian American community within the the town. Hector, his Mum and Mrs Hernandez are all Latinx, and although Darryl seems white, he is of Native American descent and is extremely proud of his heritage. Heather, who is mixed race, also turns everything on it’s head, as when asked by her manger where she is originally from, she states that both her parents descend from Michigan.
2 It features friendships that will warm your heart
If you’re looking for some wholesome friendships that will warm your heart on the chilliest of these winter nights then this is the show for you. It’s made pretty clear in the show’s first few episodes, where Paula decides to help Rebecca pursue Josh, rather than tell everyone why she moved to West Covina; and Rebecca’s initial desire to befriend Valencia, Josh’s girlfriend, rather than tear her to shreds, that this show values friendship and acceptance. In fact, it’s the close relationships that Rebecca has that are actually the catalyst for her self growth, rather than her relationships, which blows apart the Rom-Com stereotype that women can only reach fulfilment and happiness through a man.
What is particularly great to see in terms of the friendship groups on the show is that affection and real talk is preferred over ‘banter’ and ridicule. This is especially refreshing with Josh’s friendship group who are not afraid to open up to one another and support each other, but to also call each other out on shitty behaviour, like when Josh gets with Rebecca behind Greg’s back whilst he’s in recovery for alcoholism. Instead of praising Josh for getting in there with Rebecca, Hector and White Josh stray away from the stereotypical laddish behaviour and instead are the first to criticise Josh and Rebecca for their selfish and thoughtless actions. The men in Crazy Ex Girlfriend support each other in a way which is transparent and emotionally motivated, rather than based on laddish camaraderie and banter, which is normally seen in Rom-Coms and American teen dramas.
Equally, Rebecca’s female friendship group, formed in season two and including Rebecca’s once nemesis Valencia, is another example of how the characters in the show build each other up, but don’t pussyfoot around or enable toxic behaviour. Rebecca’s pursuit for love, acceptance and happiness causes her to do many irrational, often hilarious,but also morally questionable things throughout the four series, which evoke chaos and harm those around her. However, these are never excused or easily forgiven, even when her close friends discover her history of mental health issues, and when she is working through her problems in therapy after her new diagnosis in season three. Rebecca’s issues are dealt with sensitively by Paula, Valencia and Heather, but she is never let off because of her condition, meaning that Rebecca is treated as a fully dimensional person, with all her flaws, rather than one defined solely by her mental health disorder.
It’s these progressive depictions of female and male friendship that make Crazy Ex Girlfriend a refreshing watch and the anecdote to negative media stereotyping that we’ve all been waiting for.
it has a soundtrack of side-splitting songs
The show’s trademark is it’s hilarious songs, which offer blunt and often side-splitting social commentary in the form of Rebecca’s overactive imagination. Everything from male-bashing, ridiculous female beauty standards and men’s obsessions with boobs, which Rebecca points out are just sacks of yellow fa,t is given the Rachel Bloom treatment and ridiculed in hilarious musical nuggets that often parody songs, musical genres, artists or famous music videos, like this hilarious reworking of ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ from Les Miserables, in which Rebecca’s colleague Tim, following a conversation with his female colleagues, realises that he has never given his wife an orgasm.
Not only are they ridiculously catchy, well-written and will leave you in stitches, but the show’s songs often give a voice to taboos rarely addressed in the media and challenge stereotypes and assumptions about both sexes. In the first episode we see Rebecca sing ‘ The sexy getting ready song,’ where she attempts to shave, wax and shove her body into Spanx to look good for her date, a process that leaves her rapper accompaniment so traumatised that he rings every girl he has worked with and apologises for his disrespect and sexualisation of them in his music videos. Visual expectations for men are also challenged through the art of the song in ‘ Fit, hot guys have problems too,’ where Nathaniel, White Josh and Josh lament on being pressured to seem perfect and unbreakable because they’re so attractive. It is these musical monologues that give not just the characters, but woman and mankind, a voice about problems that are so often swept under the rug and literally make a song about things that are often taboo, such as female sexual pleasure, bisexuality, and men being affectionate.
It features positive LGBTQ relationships
Crazy Ex Girlfriend manages to do what in 2018 still seems to be too much for most TV shows and films: acknowledging bisexuality exists! It also steers clear of any stereotypes or assumptions in it’s representation, in fact when the topic is first introduced through Darryl’s discovery of his sexuality and eventual coming out, all myths about bisexuality are smashed apart in the fantastic song, Getting Bi, which I have personally adopted as my own personal theme tune and should be used by bisexuals coming out everywhere.
What’s especially interesting about the representation of bisexuality in the show, is that the two bisexual characters are members of the LGBTQ community, especially the Bi community, who are rarely represented within the media; Darryl, a middle aged man and Valencia, a very feminine woman, both of which have had long term relationships with partners of the opposite sex. The assumption that bisexuality is just a phase and that you’re either straight or gay all the way is therefore blown apart by these characters, who rediscover dating and form new relationships with members of the same sex. These relationships are also portrayed as positive and monogamous, and none of the LGBTQ characters on the show are oversexualised, but are instead shown as complex, three dimensional characters, whose sexuality is just one part of their personality.
Another character that blows apart stereotypes is White Josh. We only discover that he is gay when he tells Darryl half way through series one; nothing about his mannerisms or appearance suggest his sexual orientation, which again presents a character who is not completely defined by his sexuality.
It’s not afraid to deal with taboo subjects
Crazy Ex Girlfriend plays out slightly like a soap opera, as although the plot mainly revolves about Rebecca, we also follow the lives and struggles of her friendship circle in West Covina. The difference between Crazy Ex Girlfriend and a Soap Opera, however, is that, whilst both get to grips with difficult subjects, nothing is glamourised or over dramatised in Crazy Ex. The show’s dealings with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and attempts, addictions such as alcoholism, as well as life decisions like career plans, breakups and having children are always incredibly sensitive and give the character in question complete agency in their recovery or reaching a decision that will affect their life. Paula’s abortion story line is particularly well done; instead of focusing on what others believe is right, the writing makes Paula the one who decides, and her decision to abort the pregnancy so she can fulfil her dreams of going to Law School and becoming a Lawyer is fully supported by her husband, Scott.
In shows that choose to deal with everyday problems and issues that people experience, it can often become tokeny when issue after issue is addressed, but this is never the case in Crazy Ex. Instead, the cast represent a microcosm of modern society, where everyone has their own baggage and issues they’re working through, however minor or major, and no one is perfect or untouchable.
Rebecca Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna’s brainchild is the show I never knew I needed or wanted, but also one I wish I had wrote. As the fourth season is confirmed to be the show’s last, I can only hope that its impact and message will pave the way for more groundbreaking television ventures that give both men and women a fair voice.