Accepting a best actress Golden Globe last month for her first-season CW series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rachel Bloom put on a display of suitably crazy, actress-y fireworks: “We sent the pilot to every other network in Hollywood! We got six rejections in one day – and we felt like crap! But we knew it was good!” She was very excited.
Now it’s time for you to do your part! You owe it to Rachel Bloom to check out Crazy Ex-Girlfriend when it returns Monday night.
The actress, 28, plays brilliant, high-pressured Manhattan attorney Rebecca Bunch, who abruptly runs away from a life of too much work and too much needling, hectoring criticism from her mother (Tovah Feldshuh). What does she run toward? It’s the epiphany she experiences when she ponders an ad slogan for butter: “When was the last time you were happy?”
The answer: summer camp, when she had feelings for Josh (Vincent Rodriguez). She quits her meds, moves to Josh’s town of West Covina, California, and sets about putting together a new life that often lapses into musical-comedy fantasies.
These are clever and rather adorable, without ever dismissing the notion that Rachel is an obsessive stalker.
At some other point in time, this might have made a fine Stephen Sondheim project. It could have been called Lady in the Dark, only that’s already taken.
Bloom, who got her start on YouTube with cute but decidedly off-kilter songs (among them “I Steal Pets”) possesses a strong, clear voice that’s agile enough to dip in and out of pop parody. In other words, she’s a proper musical-comedy star, which the show and the part require.
But Rebecca is also an abrasive, aggressive character, and her eyes often blaze with a fire that does not appear to be friendly. She can be mellow. She can sympathize. She can even change her plans, rationally, according to circumstance. She’s often sweet. But Bloom never scrubs away an awareness that Rebecca is, on some level, clinically disordered – or close to it. She can turn on a dime. She can bring down the curtain on cute.
At the start of Monday’s episode, Rebecca, all alone, comes out from a movie tearjerker called The Cancer Crew. She sings gently and sadly to herself, “I have friends I definitely have friends. Friends, friends, friendly friends I have all the friends.” Invited by Josh to come along for a group picnic at the beach, she charters a bus to take everyone – that’s the disturbing, over-generous gesture of someone who’s truly friendless. Desperate for attention, she does a pole dance on the bus – likewise a disturbing, over-generous gesture. She stumbles along to a moment of truth, then spins it slightly back toward dishonesty. And then the show reprises the unexpectedly catchy, heartfelt “West Covina” from the premiere episode, and she glows to and with the music.
You want to go there.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on The CW.