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The new theme song for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” unconvincingly denies both parts of the show’s premise that are discernible from its title. The protagonist’s “craziness” is refuted by a group of highly theatrical back-up dancers singing, “They say love makes you crazy / Therefore you can’t call her crazy / So when you call her crazy/ You’re calling her in love!” The “ex-girlfriend” part seems antithetical to the fact that, at the beginning of the second season, Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) is finally in a relationship with her ex-boyfriend Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III), which is reflected in her general state of blissful infatuation in the theme song.
Soon into the second season of the musical comedy, however, Rebecca once again finds herself in the position of the ex-girlfriend. The five episodes released so far of the show’s second season focus on letting Rebecca try to define herself independently of Josh (her ex-boyfriend, and for a brief moment in the second season, also current one) in what is an appropriately feminist pursuit, given the show’s constant cultural commentary that often focuses on issues of gender.
An essential part of the show’s goofy appeal is that it is also a musical. The second season definitely delivers there, and features numbers such as “Love Kernels,” a far more stylized song in comparison to the show’s usual replications of Broadway stereotypes. The black-and-white intro and visuals for “Love Kernels” seem inspired by Beyonc⚟⚟é’s “Lemonade.” Rebecca addresses the audience directly, saying, “This video ate up our production budget,” in an another example of the show’s light-hearted and entertaining self-awareness. The show’s classic Broadway form, however, is also very successfully explored in the Marilyn Monroe-esque “The Math of Love Triangles,” which follows the show’s common strategy of coming up with an inane pun, and pushing it to the extreme so it is truly funny. Another such example is “We Tapped That Ass,” a song performed by Rebecca’s exes Josh and Greg, where the butt of the joke is that while they singingly list all the places they had sex with Rebecca in her house, they are actually tap-dancing.
Although the “crazy” in the series’ title is a feminist appropriation of the term—another such appropriation, “bitch,” is even explicitly addressed in one of the episode—part of the joke is that Rebecca does have actual mental health issues. Despite often relying on caricature to satirize certain issues, the show laudably does allow its characters to make (or attempt to make) personal progress. Thus Rebecca does begin to realize that she is over-dependent on her romantic pursuits and that she is in fact deeply selfish. Another of the show’s strengths is the way it treats its decidedly uncool supporting characters—the second season sees Rebecca’s best friend Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) finally deciding to go to law school and her boss Darryl (Pete Gardner) (mostly) maturely overcoming relationship issues with his boyfriend. This is indicative of the show’s ability to treat its characters with respect, rather than making them static exaggerations, which initially were amusing but would have grown tired if the show had continued to insist on them. The show also addresses a number of issues such as abortion or alcoholism without tragedizing them, to heart-warming yet not over-simplifying effect.
One of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s” very few flaws is perhaps occasionally its aesthetic—the domestic, overlit sitcom look is unavoidable in its non-musical sequences. Although that is probably a consequence of its reasonable budget, the show overcomes even that by ironizing it in its musical sequences. The truly crazy thing about “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is that it even exists, given its eccentric combination of the medium and the message—the show is a social critique masquerading as a sunny musical.
—Staff writer Petra L. Oreskovic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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