Crazy Ex-Girlfriend mixes farcical plots with surprising emotional realism

Characters boldly sing about their psychological flaws and emotional dependencies.

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the comedy series starring Rachel Bloom, has a pretty bizarre premise. The lawyer Rebecca Bunch is depressed by the mundanity of her career-focused life. One day, she runs into Josh, who was her summer camp boyfriend when she was 16. They chit-chat on the street and he tells her that he now lives happily in the suburbs in California. Swept up by the idea of this fantasy life, Rebecca leaves New York to follow Josh to West Covina and win him back. Oh, and did I mention it’s a musical?

The popularity of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which airs in the UK on Netflix, has slowly grown thanks to its combination of farcical plots, surreal yet catchy musical interludes and surprising emotional realism. The role of the “crazy ex-girlfriend” might sound like a hollow, anti-feminist stereotype, but the show, co-created by Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna, makes Rebecca three-dimensional enough to subvert the trope.

The result is wacky 40-minute episodes in which characters boldly sing about their psychological flaws and emotional dependencies, in pitch-perfect parodies of everything from boy-band balladry and rap battles to French chanson and golden-age musicals.

The third season (released on 14 October) marks a significant departure as Rebecca moves away from elaborate scheming to push her and Josh together. After Josh committed one crime too many, the second season ended with Rebecca on a cliff, flanked by her three best friends, gleefully declaring: “Josh Chan must be destroyed.”

All this bodes terribly for Josh (and probably Rebecca, too) but suggests that great things are to come. After all, what could be more melodramatic fun than a crazy ex-girlfriend with a thirst for vengeance? 

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 12 October 2017 issue of the New Statesman, How May crumbled