Look, we get it: You're probably not watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. That's understandable. The title is little off-putting, and, as you might have heard, it's a musical, which, sure, isn't everybody's thing. But don't be fooled: it's one of the best shows of the year, a critical consensus validated by the Golden Globe nomination of co-creator and star Rachel Bloom. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend also got an order for more episodes, further proof that it must be doing something right. In fact, Crazy Ex-Girlfrienddoes quite a few things very well — five of which are outlined below to help you get off the fence and jump into its lovable madness.
1. It's best-in-class dark humor for smart people. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's comedy begins with its insane premise: Rebecca Bunch, a successful but unhappy New York City attorney, becomes convinced she should try rekindling a romance with Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), who she dated as a 16-year-old at camp. On a whim, she gives up everything to follow him to the less-than-glamorous California city West Covina. It's a very long, very campy and absurd sketch. And while the sad single lady isn't a new character, Bloom gives Rebecca a giddy, jittery obliviousness that makes it feel that way. (And it's consistently funny.) Everyone in her circle is a bit demented too, including her boss Darryl Whitefeather (Pete Gardner). In the pilot, he tells Rebecca his wife's divorce attorney is "one of those real smart Jewish guys." When Rebecca tries to blunt his casual racism by informing him that she too is Jewish, he's surprised. "Such a tiny nose!" he says. "It's like a button!"
2. It's different, in the best possible way. Yes, TV is having a renaissance. It's also awash in shows that feel similar and predictable, as well as stuff you feel obligated to watch. Crazy feels fresh and unfamiliar - particularly since the bonkers premise is seemingly unsustainable. You're certain, at the end of each episode, that the next one will surely begin the show's implosion, since Rebecca at some point has to come to her senses and realize it's just not going to happen with Josh. Nope. Crazy sustains itself, particularly with characters like Rebecca's cruel mom (Tovah Feldshuh) that heighten the insanity. "You're selfish and dramatic and weird," Mrs. Bunch says to little girl Rebecca in a childhood flashback. "You drove your father out of this house. You're terrible!" It's unsettling, and one of many times Crazy reminds you it has no intention of being easily classified. It's an alternate universe that often feels like a live-action cartoon; in fact, it is a cartoon, at least in its opening sequence, which has human Rebecca Bloom inside an animated West Covina strip mall.
3. It has awesome songs you'll love, even if you hate musicals. Indeed, what makes Crazy wholly original is its songs. They're as bawdy and catchy as they are comical and rooted in piercing insights. Often parodies of particular genres, they get very close to genius. Take "The Sexy Getting Ready Song," for example, Rebecca's ode to '90s-era Toni Braxton-type R&B that details the horrible things women do to prep for a date.
"Settle For Me" might be the best so far. In it, Josh's friend Greg (Santino Fontana) tries to woo Rebecca by encouraging her to compromise in a Fred and Ginger-style waltz. "If he's your broken condom, I'm Plan B, so lower those expectations and settle for me," he sings.
4. It talks about mental health in a way that's actually enjoyable. Our culture is getting increasingly comfortable talking about mental health openly. As a result, stigma aroundissues such as anxiety, PSTD, depression, ADHD and plain old not knowing what to do with your life are falling away. Still, these still aren't exactly fun topics. But they are on Crazy. Rebecca dumps meds into her sink in the very first episode; even armchair psychologists can diagnose her textbook denial and compulsive tendencies. None of this feels heavy-handed though. Through Bloom's comic brilliance, behavior that might feel pitiful or scary elsewhere is quirky and charming. We root for her though we're cringing at her actions, andwe understand her motivations with compassion. In seeing where she needs to cut the crap or stop being so hard on herself, there's a good chance we become aware that we need to apply that same advice to ourselves or others.
In Episode 7, as Josh drama causes Rebecca to start gasping for breath and chugging vodka, none other than Dr. Phil pops up on her computer, asking "Do you know the signs and symptoms of the dreaded panic attack?" (Hint: gasping for breath and chugging vodka are two.) His extended presence in the episode becomes a nod and wink to the show's self-awareness as a treatise on finding real happiness, owning your mess and getting the help you need.
5. It's the ultimate balm for bad romance(s). Most of us have stared at an ex's Facebook or Instagram, or coordinated a way to "accidentally" run into someone who hadn't returned our calls. That's why when Rebecca makes the horrifyingly bad decision to try to be friends with Josh's girlfriend Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz) or hooks up with some rando to numb her pain, it resonates. Female, male, straight, gay: We've all been where Rebecca is to some degree, aware of how stupid it is to chase someone who's unavailable or bad for us, yet unable to stop ourselves. Those are the dark days you need wine, junk food, good friends and a good TV show to remind you that you're not crazy. You're just in love, and love makes you do crazy things.
Past episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are available on Hulu and cwtv.com. It airs Mondays at 8/7c on The CW.
(Full disclosure TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)