Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW) made musical theater nerds of us all with its hilarious, thoughtful, and challenging first season, which comes to an end on Monday, April 18. The musical drama is named for Rebecca (Rachel Bloom), a 28-year-old lawyer who pursues her camp boyfriend — whom she runs into 10 years after their breakup — by impulsively following him from her native New York to his California hometown of West Covina (“two hours from the beach, four in traffic!”). For playing the show’s wonderfully messed up antiheroine, Bloom earned a Golden Globe earlier this year. (She also cocreated the musical series with Aline Brosh McKenna and cowrites most of the songs.)
Let’s revisit the seven songs that illustrate what makes Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s one of TV’s most original shows.
“The Sexy Getting Ready Song” (Episode 1)
Perhaps the only feminist protest song to feature the phrase “ass blood” in the lyrics, the pilot’s “Sexy Getting Ready Song” serves as a perfect introduction to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s genre parodies, gender consciousness, and gimlet-eyed observations. The R&B track reveals the profound un-sexiness of making oneself sexy — complete with an anal waxing mishap — and ends with rapper Nipsey Hussle decrying the “nasty-ass patriarchal bullshit” that makes up the average woman’s tweezing, scraping, Spanxing, pinching, burning, eye-poking, and light-crying getting-ready routine (“Bye-bye, skin!”). The only thing that’ll have you cringing more than Rebecca’s beauty regimen is when she cuts away to “how the guys get ready,” with Greg (Santino Fontana) snoring on the couch.
“A Boy Band Made Up of Four Joshes” (Episode 3)
The race for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s best musical number is a crowded one, but my vote goes to “A Boy Band Made Up of Four Joshes,” a fantasy sequence in which Rebecca imagines her camp boyfriend serenading her. Performed by a quartet of Joshes (Vincent Rodriguez III times four), the Backstreet Boys spoof is flawless in its harmonies, costuming, and dance moves. With lyrics like, “Baby, you can kiss / All your childhood traumas goodbye” and “All your psychological problems / Girl, we’re gonna solve them,” though, the tune is powered by melancholy, its minor chords accompanying Rebecca’s willfully unacknowledged misery and mental instability. The juvenility of her hope — that getting back together with Josh will solve all her problems — is achingly captured by Rebecca’s giddy hug with her younger self (played by Ava Acres). Bonus points for Josh as pop culture’s rare male Asian-American romantic lead.
“Settle for Me” (Episode 4)
While she pursued Josh in every way possible, Rebecca had a willing suitor for most of Season 1 in Greg, the gloomy bartender who could see her lunacy for what it was and liked her anyway. But Crazy Ex-Girlfriend smartly refuses to offer Rebecca any Prince Charmings; as genuinely caring as Greg can be when the girl he’s pursuing isn’t interested in him, he’s quite capable of being a cad once she does choose him. “Settle for Me” and “I Could If I Wanted To” both betray Greg’s embittered refusal to be the best guy he can be, but the Fred-and-Ginger tribute edges out the angry rock rant for its graceful deco glamour and tap dancing interlude.
“Where’s the Bathroom?” (Episode 8)
Along with Broad City and Transparent, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend benefits from an ethnic hyper-specificity few other shows are willing to approach. The protagonists of all three series wear their Jewishness proudly, but in Rebecca’s case, her cultural identity is also often a burden, as when she’s asked to live up to the Westchester JAP standards she grew up with — and is now failing. Those standards come flurrying into Rebecca’s house in the guise of her previously fabled mother Naomi (Tovah Feldshuh), who casually pokes her nose into her daughter’s ears and bra after passive-aggressively pronouncing to a klezmer tune, “You’re looking healthy / And by healthy I mean chunky / I don’t mean that as an insult / I’m just stating it as fact.” This comic depiction of Naomi — here such a stereotype of the overbearing Jewish mother that she can even weaponize a comb against her daughter — is softened by the character’s later humanization.
“You Stupid Bitch” (Episode 11)
By far Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s most disturbing single, “You Stupid Bitch” is a peek into Rebecca’s internal monologue. The occasion for the song is Josh’s discovery that she faked a burglary to justify breaking into his apartment, but it’s obvious that the self-hating ballad (“You’re just a lying little bitch who ruins things … Lose some weight”) is one she sings to herself often. The announcer who introduces Rebecca’s sequined performance calls “You Stupid Bitch” a “song about self-indulgent self-loathing,” but that doesn’t give Rebecca’s misery enough credit. Even after moving 3,000 miles away, she finds herself still unable to escape her worst behavioral patterns — or her self-disgust.
“I’m the Villain” (Episode 14)
“I’m the Villain” is the number we’d been waiting for all season, both as a Disney send-up and Rebecca’s epiphany that pursuing Josh doesn’t just make her “crazy,” but bad. A reversal of her hyper-defensive “I’m a Good Person,” “I’m the Villain” makes explicit Rebecca’s antiheroinedom, while indulging in some good, old-fashioned fairy-tale gruesomeness: Witchy Rebecca promises Valencia that she’ll “cook [the yoga instructor] into the traditional dish of dinuguan and serve it to Josh’s family.” “God, who is this song’s composer?” normal Rebecca complains. “It’s, like, ridiculously sinister.”
“Heavy Boobs” (Episode 16)
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has been widely commended for its fresh takes on feminism and mental illness, but the show also deserves praise for its quiet championing of non-actress-thin bodies. While far from what we generally consider plus-size, Bloom doesn’t possess the type of physique we generally associate with young women in front of the camera -- a fact she wants us to notice. Sometimes Rebecca’s curves just feed her self-hatred, but often the show playfully riffs on what it’s like to live with her particular body. “Heavy Boobs” is one such example, in which Rebecca decries the “sacks of yellow fat” that she carries around on her chest. And because Rebecca is nothing if not nerdy, she includes an astronomy lesson in the bridge, as well as the names of her breasts’ individual memoirs: Large and in Charge by Right Boob and Slightly Smaller Than the Right by Left Boob. We’d totally read those to keep us within Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s madness until Season 2.