Friday, June 10, 2016

MTVP So Cal Summer 2016: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 1.01: "Josh Just Happens to Live Here!"

“Like, if you must know, Josh isn’t my type.”

Adding freshman CW comedy “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” to the So Cal summer line-up was a last minute call for me, I’ll admit. Sarah and I weren’t particularly impressed with the show’s sizzle reel back during Upfronts last year, but as the season progressed, the buzz around the show grew, culminating with the show’s incredibly talented co-creator/ star Rachel Bloom winning a Golden Globe. I’ve been through a rough couple months dealing with some medical issues and a close friend moving half-way across the country back to his hometown (both of these things are semi-responsible for my rather light amount of blogging recently), and I needed something I could binge watch as a distraction from everything else going on. Because I had heard such good things about the show, I started watching “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” the day after my friend’s going away happy hour, and I got half-way through the first season that weekend. I finished the whole thing over Memorial Day weekend. I just love this show for its creativity and subversiveness. Plus, it’s a musical!

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” tells the story of Rebecca Bunch, an overachieving New York lawyer with a domineering mother and a host of mental disorders. Legit mental disorders. The amount of psychiatric medications we see Rebecca throw away in this pilot episode is astounding. Anyway, Rebecca is leading this seemingly charmed life, about to be made the youngest partner at her high-powered law firm. The thought of this achievement gives her a panic attack, though, because it makes her question if she’ll ever really be happy living life the way she is. She feels like she should be happy about being promoted, but she’s not, and it throws her for a loop. As she’s in an alley outside trying to calm herself down, she sees an old flame from middle school theatre camp, and his name is Josh Chan. Rebecca rushes up to say hi, and as a surprise given how they parted ten years prior at the end of the camp season, he actually seems happy to see her. He has lived in New York for the past eight months, but he is about to move back to his hometown of West Covina, California. He tells Rebecca all about how laid back everyone is there and how happy the town makes him. He tells Rebecca that if she’s ever on the West Coast, she should look him up.

Rebecca then makes the rash decision to not accept her promotion and move all the way across the country to West Covina. The transition happens in a big musical number, but I’ll talk more about the episode’s musical numbers in a bit. Soon after Rebecca arrives, we start meeting the characters that will populate West Covina for the rest of the season. First, we meet some of Rebecca’s new coworkers. Her boss is Darryl Whitefeather, who prides himself on being one-eighth Native American. He’s going through a messy divorce, and right away, he asks if Rebecca will represent him. His soon-to-be-ex wife has a ruthless Jewish lawyer, and he’s hoping he can have the same, but one who graduated from Harvard and Yale. I love how Rebecca handles this. She doesn’t cause a scene, but she makes it clear that the way Darryl is speaking to her isn’t okay, and they’re going to have a conversation about it later. There’s also Paula the paralegal (played by the amazing Donna Lynne Champlin). She and Rebecca don’t get along well at first, because she thinks Rebecca thinks she’s above it all.

Rebecca gets an alert on her phone that Josh has checked in at a place called Home Base, so she immediately ducks out of work to see if she can arrange another meet cute. Home Base turns out to pretty much be a kids’ sports facility with a bar on the premises for the parents. Slinging drinks is one Greg Serrano, who happens to be Josh’s best friend and is played by the incredibly talented Santino Fontana. Let’s just say I can’t hate Hans from “Frozen” anymore, because Santino (who did the voice for Hans) is just that charming and has a fantastic voice (although we don’t get to hear that fantastic voice for a few more episodes). Greg immediately takes a liking to Rebecca, although he does notice that she seems weirdly preoccupied with Josh. If we were following typical rom com rules, Greg would be the guy Rebecca is “supposed” to be with. Since Bloom and co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna list “Breaking Bad” as one of their inspirations, it remains to be seen whether that will actually be the case. I think I’m rooting for those two crazy, self-loathing kids, though. More on that later this summer.

Anyway, Greg tells Rebecca that Josh will be at a mutual friend’s house party, and he asks if Rebecca wants to go too. Rebecca accepts, not so much because she wants to spend time with Greg, but because it might be a way to see Josh. They spend quite a bit of time at the party making out, mostly because Rebecca wants to move from room to room to see if Josh is there. They find a bedroom, and things are about to go beyond making out when Greg finally gets a text from Josh. Josh isn’t coming to the party after all, because his girlfriend wants him to go to a family function. Rebecca starts pumping Greg for information about Josh’s girlfriend (apparently he moved back to West Covina for her). She tries to start giving Greg a hand job, but since she’s crying, Greg calls it off. Because he’s a fundamentally decent (although grumpy) guy who doesn’t believe in having sex with crying girls.

As Rebecca goes outside, she runs into none other than Paula. Paula was snooping on Rachel’s work computer, and by how many times she checked his Facebook and Instagram profiles, she has figured out that Rebecca most likely moved to West Covina for Josh. She’s not weirded out by this, though. She thinks it’s super romantic, and she’s only mad that Rebecca didn’t tell her the truth in the first place. She vows to help Rebecca in her quest for Josh. Just as they are talking about the first of what will be many of Paula’s harebrained schemes, Rebecca finally gets a text from Josh. He asks if she wants to go to dinner some time, and obviously Rebecca is thrilled.

Let’s wrap this post up with a discussion of the episode’s musical numbers. First is “West Covina” the song that is performed as Rebecca moves from New York to West Covina. It’s in the style of your typical Broadway standard, but there are a lot of fun details about this sequence if you watch closesly. It’s clear that the creative team really thinks about all the layers of the show. The chorus of “West Covina” reminds me a lot of “Dancing Cheek to Cheek,” specifically the melody to the lines “Heaven, I’m in Heaven,” so I think there’s some symbolism there. Rebecca thinks West Covina is going to be her Heaven. There’s also a lovely reprise of the song with Rebecca and Paula at the end of the episode. The other big song in this one is “The Sexy Getting Ready Song,” which is commentary on how men don’t appreciate all the primping women have to do to look presentable. The rapper in the song sees all of Rebecca’s beauty projects and immediately wants to stand up to the patriarchy and apologize to all the “bitches” he has wronged over the years. We see him calling each of them to apologize in the episode’s tag, and it’s hilarious.

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