As we say goodbye to one of the most wonderful shows on TV, we certainly cannot forget the impact Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has had and the legacy it’s leaving behind. Yes, it’s a damn good time with some songs that slap but there’s also SO much more to it. After four fantastic seasons, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is ending its run as a prime example of what quality television can be.
It was only about four years ago that Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna introduced us all to the wonderful world of West Covina, California (which is very real and actually about two hours from the beach). But in 2015, if you had told anyone that a musical comedy on a disrespected netlet was the secret to storytelling success, surely no one would have believed you. On paper, an hour-long musical television series sounded like a theatre kid’s wet dream; in practice, it was pure genius. CXG has been taking huge risks from the beginning and over the course of the series, these risky choices have proven to be the show’s secret weapon.
For starters, take the biggest plotline of all: Rebecca’s mental health. Not only is CXG one of the few shows to represent Borderline Personality Disorder, but it does so in a way that reminds viewers that mental illness is a continuous battle. Rebecca isn’t her illness by any means, though it has impacted her decisions in the past. We even see her nearly end her life in Season 3. During Season 4, we saw Rebecca in therapy, learning new tools to control her emotions. Along the way, Greg returned and started dating Rebecca, and her therapy sessions become less frequent. Not coincidentally, her actions started to become a little brasher. Just when it seemed like the writers forgot about this whole plotline, we were reminded again just how clever they truly are. Rebecca’s BPD isn’t some story arc that can eventually be resolved, because that’s just not how mental health works. Rebecca stopped going to therapy, so her mental health suffered. Say what you want about Rebecca, but she’s not as crazy as the show's title may think. CXG isn’t a show about mental illness by any means, but rather a show about people who deal with very real-life events.
And having the main character struggling with her mental health is only one of the many risks taken by the writing team. Think back to all the shows you’ve ever seen and try to count how many of those have had an Asian American play a total heartthrob, as we've gotten with Vincent Rodriguez III's Josh Chan. Or, what about TV's (already few) bisexual characters? How many of them are middle-aged dads, just coming to terms with their fluidity, as is Pete Gardner's Daryl? Heck, think about how many shows are dedicating a whole musical number/recurring comedy bit to the taboo that is period sex. All of these things are very, very real, but CXG is the first to really put them on display and normalize them. Instead of creating more unrealistically perfect characters with fatal flaws that The CW is chock full of, Bloom and McKenna have shown how some of the best characters are the most relatable.
But if none of the show’s NSFC (not safe for cable) topics were enough of a risk for you, then we just have to talk about the show's knack for genre-bending. Since the pilot, CXG hasn’t played TV’s unspoken set of rules and instead has showcased over 160 original songs (which are total bops, fort the record). These songs are all completely different in every way, shape, and form. Think of an artist and CXG has probably written a song inspired by them. Beyoncé? The Beach Boys? ABBA? Check, check, and check. In going from pop to country to heavy metal, the show keeps viewers on their toes. We never know what’s going to come next, but we are sure as hell are coming back every week to see it.
But maybe the biggest risk of all is Rebecca finding true love after all in West Covina. The last big story arc where Rebecca has to choose the guy she wants to be with has had viewers in a frenzy. Who would she choose? It would have been so easy for Rebecca to end up with Josh Chan, the man she literally moved across the country for. Or to marry Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster) or even Greg (Skylar Astin; formerly Santino Fontana) and have the family she wanted. But the love Rebecca really needed wasn’t from any guy. It may not have been the ending she’d originally planned for herself, heck it wasn’t even the ending I predicted, but it’s the happily ever after Rebecca deserved.
CXG has never been the biggest blockbuster on TV, but the show speaks for itself. Now more than ever, writers have the opportunity to take risks and go against everything that’s considered normal. Could a show about real life struggles be enjoyable? Heck yes. And for four seasons, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was all the proof you needed.
Lauren Garafano (@laurengarafano) is a TV-obsessed writer living in New York City. Her work has appeared on BuzzFeed, Decider, and TV Insider. She also ships Rachel Green with Joey Tribbiani and nothing in this world can change her mind.