‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ leaves a legacy of musical numbers, inclusivity

The TV musical dramedy will come to a close after four seasons of portraying mental illness, diverse experiences and the messiness of love, all in song.
The CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” series finale will air on Friday, April 5. Courtesy of IMDb

This article contains spoilers for the TV show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”

It is the end of an era for The CW’s sleeper hit “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” On Friday, April 5, the show will conclude its fourth and final season with the episode, “I’m In Love.”

The events of the series were set into motion when depressed New York lawyer Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) runs into her old summer camp flame Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III) and follows him across the country to West Covina, California. With this premise, it’s easy to assume this woman is simply as the show's name implies. But, as the season one theme song declares and the show has spent four years proving, “The situation is a lot more nuanced than that.”

A unique part of the show’s legacy is its use of original musical theater in a modern television format. The music is used to highlight issues, character development or just add a new layer of comedy or drama to a scene. Each of the series’ 61 episodes has at least two original songs in it, with over 150 original songs as of the penultimate episode “I Have a Date Tonight.”

The songs often parody real music, with co-creator and star Bloom drawing inspiration from her background in musical theater. The songs have no real limit as to what they’ll cover. Examples range from an “Uptown Funk” ode to motherhood to a “La La Land” parody about anti-depressants to an “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” parody about vibrators. Pete Gardner, who plays Rebecca’s boss Darryl Whitefeather at the West Covina law firm, finds that this feat sets apart the show and will continue to do so.

“There is nobody, I don’t think, that will ever touch 150 or whatever original songs on a television show,” Gardner told The A.V. Club. “I just think that legacy is untouchable and unbeatable. And they were so clever and funny and dark. I think that will be the thing that will stand alone for a while.”

With these songs from composer Adam Schlesinger and writing from Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” showcases the diversity of the human experience. The protagonist, Rebecca, is Jewish, and her culture is highlighted beyond negative stereotypes, and the main love interest is Filipino. Several characters are LGBTQ, and Rebecca’s best friend, Paula Proctor, is a plus-sized middle-aged mother with several storylines relating to motherhood, issues in her marriage, her return to law school and abortion. Donna Lynne Champlin, who plays Proctor, finds that one of the show’s strengths was its ability to portray these different experiences with a normalized lens.

“For me, ‘Crazy Ex’ created the world that we all wished we lived in,” Champlin told The A.V. Club. “Where you can be bisexual and nobody cares. You can be a plus-sized woman and nobody cares. Instead of making an ABC after-school special about it, you get an abortion and it’s nobody’s business.”

Mental illness is also a key part of the show. In season three, Rebecca is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. This diagnosis marks a significant change for the character and is a turning moment for the series after two seasons of questioning Rebecca’s obsessive tendencies. The label of “crazy” is given a new meaning as Rebecca explores her habits, attends therapy and makes positive strides toward a healthier lifestyle. Scott Michael Foster, who plays Nathaniel Plimpton III, finds that this in-depth view of mental illness defines the show’s legacy.

“I think the way they [approached mental illness] in season three was incredible television,” Foster told The A.V. Club. “The message throughout the season and the show was, ‘If you have a mental illness or you’ve got a disorder, don’t be ashamed of it. Everyone’s got problems. Tackle it head-on.’”

Beyond this, the truly central theme to “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is love. Rebecca is a character whose view of love in her life is obsessive, to say the least. It is largely framed by romantic comedies and clichés, so much so to the point that it often blinds her. Bloom designed Rebecca this way to accentuate her point that love should be shown in its real, messy state, as opposed to the way it can be glorified in media.

“I want us to be remembered for the fact that we took love off its pedestal and put it where it should properly be, which is on the ground with everything else,” Bloom told The A.V. Club. “Love is very human and it comes from human beings. It’s not some ethereal thing to be worshipped, in good ways and bad ways.”

The penultimate episode featured a “The Bachelor” type setup between Rebecca and the three objects of her affection: Josh Chan, Nathaniel Plimpton III and Greg Serrano. Each date was equally romantic and meaningful, leaving viewers wondering who Rebecca will choose in the finale. With four seasons’ worth of mental growth, the choice she makes could be reflective of her matured perception of love, as opposed to the way she blindly chased it in season one.

In respect to the show’s inseparable connection with its music, airing immediately after the finale will be a taped concert special with the cast performing a variety of the show’s original songs.

The “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” series finale will air at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 5 on The CW. The taped concert “Yes, It's Really Us Singing: The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Concert Special!” will air immediately afterward at 8 p.m. The behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the finale, “Oh My God I Think It’s Over,” is currently available at cwseed.com. McKenna warns fans of watching the documentary before the finale, as it provides “an eight out of 10 on spoilers.”

Edited by Joe Cross | jcross@themaneater.com

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