Who can say how a soul or mind is transformed? Saint Augustine heard a child’s voice singing, picked up a Bible and forever put behind the loose life. Rebecca Bunch, a Manhattan attorney whose existence so far has been programmed by insistent phone calls from her awful mother, hasn’t been living at all: She’s a tightly wound workaholic. Then she starts noticing a butter ad with the slogan: “When was the last time you were truly happy?”
Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) knows the answer: That was as a teenager, in summer camp, when she performed in a production of South Pacific and had an unfulfilled crush on Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III). Now she, too, hears a childish voice singing. It’s from South Pacific: “I’m in love with a wonderful guy!”
At this point, Rebecca decides to follow Josh to the opposite coast, and The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend becomes the crazy new show you were hoping it would be: Rachel breaks out into an upbeat song about her new home, “West Covina,” and is instantly caught up in a big musical production that ends with her being hoisted into the air on a giant pretzel.
There are two other numbers, one about the grueling ritual of making yourself pretty for a date (“Sexy Getting-Ready Song”) and a reprise of “West Covina” as a duet with a new office colleague. Both songs are somehow light as air but suffused with desperation.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend sometimes resembles Björk’s 2000 movie Dancer in the Dark, in which the pop star played a miserable young woman who keeps escaping into musical fantasy right until the moment she’s executed by hanging. But that movie was about misery, and Ex-Girlfriend is about happiness – a neurotic, stalkery kind of happiness, but an innocent one, too.
The show is kind enough to suggest that Rachel’s craziness perhaps is really a kind of bravery, and former YouTube star Rachel Bloom’s performance makes us agree: She has a touch of Amy Sedaris squirrelyness, but she can sing pastiche-parody songs straight. Or just about.
Rebecca could turn out to be the most captivating romantic-neurotic heroine since Ally McBeal. And that was 900 years ago.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend premieres Monday at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.