There are so many streaming options available these days, and so many conflicting recommendations, that it’s hard to see through all the crap you could be watching. Each Friday, The Verge’s Cut the Crap column simplifies the choice by sorting through the overwhelming multitude of movies and TV shows on subscription services and recommending a single perfect thing to watch this weekend.
What to watch
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s 2015 series premiere, “Josh Just Happens to Live Here!”
Directed by Marc Webb (best-known for directing the colorful, stylish romantic comedy 500 Days of Summer as well as the two Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies) and co-written by series creators Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna, the first episode establishes the musical dramedy’s tone and premise. Bloom stars as depressed New York lawyer Rebecca Bunch, who gives up a promising career to move to West Covina, California, the hometown of Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), who she dated at camp when they were teenagers. While establishing a new life on the West Coast, she schemes to find a way to “accidentally” run into Josh. Throughout, she keeps telling herself she isn’t really chasing a man she barely knows across the country. She’s just looking for a happier life… which, she’s confident, will include this random dude she fooled around with one summer more than a decade ago.
Why watch now?
Because Crazy Ex-Girlfriend ends its run tonight with the series finale, followed by a live concert special.
A lot has changed about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend since “Josh Just Happens to Live Here!” Case in point: the show’s episode titles, which were Josh-focused for the first two and a half seasons, are now solely first-person declarative statements, unrelated to any man. The finale, titled “I’m in Love,” answers some of this season’s big questions. Will Rebecca finally end up with the hunky, sweet, somewhat dim Josh? Will she choose Josh’s endearingly surly childhood friend Greg (Skylar Astin) instead? Or her rich, workaholic former boss Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster)? Or no one?
It’s not spoiling anything to say that “I’m in Love” offers a glimpse into the near future, providing satisfying epilogues for nearly all of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s secondary characters. As for Rebecca, she gets one last big musical number — a medley of some of her best self-reflection songs over the run of the series — as she contemplates some good advice from her newly licensed lawyer pal Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin). “You only get one life, and you’ve got to live that the way you want,” Paula says. The finale is about Rebecca finally deciding what “live the way you want” means.
After “I’m in Love” ends, longtime viewers can stave off their sense of loss for another hour by watching “Yes, It’s Really Us Singing: The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Concert Special!” From the start, one element that’s set this show apart from other quirky TV romances has been the musical numbers. They’re delightfully skewed pastiches of pop and Broadway numbers (many partially penned by Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger) that pop up two to three times per episode.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend became a must-see for musical buffs just 10 minutes into “Josh Just Happens to Live Here!” with the show’s first song. After Rebecca flees her New York law firm as she’s being offered a big promotion, she announces her intention to move to where her old crush Josh Chan lives, and she sings the sweeping “West Covina,” about the wonders of an LA-adjacent town “only two hours from the beach.” (As the show repeatedly points out, it’s actually four hours, due to traffic.) The lavish production number contrasts Rebecca’s romanticized version of her new home with how it really is: a low-rent, grubby little community, pocked with porn shops and suffering from budget cuts. “West Covina” is catchy and fun, but it’s also the first sign that Rebecca may be incapable of seeing her life clearly.
Who it’s for
Theater geeks and metafiction freaks.
From the start, Aline Brosh McKenna brought rom-com bona fides to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, having worked on screenplays for the likes of 27 Dresses and The Devil Wears Prada. Rachel Bloom brought the musical theater chops. An NYU drama department graduate, Bloom had a viral video hit in 2010, at age 23, with a raunchy, nerdy song about Ray Bradbury. She carried that combination of playfulness, frankness, and Broadway-style character- and narrative-building to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend numbers like episode 1’s “The Sexy Getting Ready Song,” which details the disgusting, painful processes Rebecca Bunch endures to make herself look stunning for a party.
Fervent Crazy Ex-Girlfriend viewers have been just as impressed with the bold ways McKenna and Bloom have used the look and energy of movie musicals and romantic comedies to suggest their heroine’s emotional instability. It’s remarkable now to see how “Josh Just Happens to Live Here!” sows the seeds for the darker places the show would eventually go. In one of the first scenes in “West Covina,” for example, Rebecca dumps all of her mood-stabilizing medication, convinced that her new life — and Josh — will be all she needs. Earlier, in a flashback to her days in camp, she “jokes” that her dad agreed to send her there because, “I told him I was having suicidal thoughts, and ta-da!” In the seasons to come, the show revisited both these moments from different, more disturbing angles.
A goofy, heartfelt musical comedy about mental health disorders may sound like a misbegotten idea, but the incredibly entertaining and unexpectedly gutsy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend premiere proved otherwise. So did the 60-plus episodes that followed… up to, and including, tonight’s big finish.
Where to see it
Netflix. The final Crazy Ex-Girlfriend season isn’t available on Netflix yet, but it should be soon. In the meantime, the CW’s ad-supported app has the most recent episodes, for those who’ve cut the cord but still want to see the finale.