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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How Long Can This Crazy Music Last? #CrazyExGirlfriend #PremiereWeek #3WeekRoundUp

 How Long Can This Crazy Music Last? #CrazyExGirlfriend #PremiereWeek #3WeekRoundUp

All pictures courtesy of the CW

Where to begin with this show. One of the last premiere week/three week roundups I will be doing (with the exception of Supergirl and maybe Wicked City), this one is coming a little late as my computer and I weren't on the best of terms last week and because I had to wade through all of my emotions about this show. As a quick reminder for those of you who want my initial thoughts on this show, I would point you to a post I did earlier concerning the release of my book Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend (#AhStalking). But if you don't want to click that link then let me give you a brief refresher.

My initial thoughts on the CW's only new show for the fall season were not exceptionally good or bad. Actually, they were a mixture of "meh" and "dang it! Not again!" The last sentiment came from the fact that my book covers virtually the same topic (more on that later). Funny enough, if I hadn't written the book over a year ago and decided to edit it as my first comedy to come out after the summer's The Writer, I might not have been interested in this show at all. But after having my mojo and dignity questioned by a few young ladies, I had to step back and wonder about whether I was still current enough to be entertaining in the slightest or if I had just happened upon the wrong audience for the past decade or so. So, with Crazy Ex skewing younger and being a comedy written by women but for everybody, I figured that at least I could see what some ladies find funny... if the show proved successful.

Well, sigh. There's so much here to talk about that I truly don't know where to begin. I know I say that a lot in these reviews, but this one is legitimately all over the place. First, as I mentioned twice already, my book is pretty much on the same thing and was the only reason I tuned into the show. While I would love to not be so self-involved and not throw one big advertisement for Yep in your face, it would be nearly impossible for me to talk about the show without mentioning the book. I'll try to keep the mentions to a minimum, but no promises.

Why Is Josh So Dreamy?

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend starts Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Bunch, a genius Harvard and Yale-educated lawyer (refer back to my post on Limitless to see my thoughts on TVs never-ending crop of geniuses). Like every other genius, she is really good at what she does but finds that her life is a total wash outside of her work. One day, after seeing a butter commercial that asks her when the last time was that she was happy (poorly worded sentence. Moving on), she remembers that she was the happiest when she dated an Asian guy ten years ago back in summer camp named Josh Chan. As if by some miracle, she runs into him on the streets of NYC and learns that he is moving to West Covina, California, a small town about thirty minutes outside of LA (I lived there for a while back when I was homeless; trust me, you can make it to downtown LA on the I-15 in thirty minutes depending on the time of day). As the namesake implies, she is crazy enough to quit her job after receiving a half a million dollar promotion, jump a plane and fly across country to try to be with Josh Chan. No sure thing! No back-up plan! Nothing! Just a "we'll see what happens!"

In West Covina, she finds a job at a local law firm in the town (again, she could have found one in LA but no), she goes to a local bar where she runs into a bartender friend of Josh, her coworker points out that she might be crazy and then just dismisses it as her being in love and she discovers that Josh already has a girlfriend who is super attractive and who he has been with off and on since they were children. In fact, this girlfriend of his, Valencia, was around since their summer camp days ten years ago when Rebecca and Josh were 15 or 16-year-olds. This lady has staying power. Not to mention she does yoga as seen on the second episode.

The first episode ran through many of the typical stalking motifs: she texts excessively, she runs into him by accident and he's weirded out by her sudden presence in California, she stalks him to a party where he doesn't show, etc. At the end of the night, after having spent much of her time with the bartender who instantly liked her from the moment she walked in, she and her coworker sing about the awesomeness of love after she realizes and then un-realizes that she is crazy. Rather than tell the girl to get help, the woman agrees to help feed her fantasy like a good friend would do. The one problem I had here is that it comes off as creepy and kind of insincere that the woman suddenly wants to help her. They haven't been friends for years, she barely knows this girl, she's clearly quite a bit older--why would she suddenly nod her head at helping this Rebecca girl claim this guy. The relationship didn't feel organic.

I Know We Just Met But Surprise, I'm Crazy Too

If I'm being honest, neither does the relationship she has with the bartender Greg. The moment he meets her, he tries sleeping with her which isn't far from reality, but the way he does it feels so slimy; yet, he is portrayed as the good and decent guy she should be with. There's no overreaching connection and even after seeing their first official date on the fourth episode, I still don't feel a chemistry between them. Something about Greg makes me think he's gay every time I look at him. I know, some fans of the show will jump on me and say "just because he's a sweet guy doesn't mean he's gay or anything like that." I know. I get that. I have been the sweet guy many times in my life. But for me, some of the most iconic sweet guys were Ross and Chandler from Friends. Even though there may have been jokes about Chandler, I never thought either character was gay. Greg feels like the gay best friend not the love interest we all hope she falls for in the end.

The second episode dove deeper into the psyche of Rebecca and its fractured state. After seeing Valencia and Josh kissing, she sets out to befriend her ex-boyfriend's girlfriend so she can copy everything about her which she believes will win Josh. Valencia, just like all beautiful women, struggles to keep female friends and accepts Rebecca as her new potential bestie. Rebecca's plan goes awry when she kisses Valencia in the middle of a club when Josh and Greg join the women for a night out. She then blurts out that she used to date Josh which sends the overly jealous Valencia into a rage causing her to ban Josh from any future contact with Bunch unless supervised by a third party.

Are You As Confused As I Am?

This all leads to the third episode in which Rebecca throws a house party in hopes of luring Josh to her place and circumventing Valencia's rules while the woman isn't in town. Surprisingly, this goes well when Josh comes to the party and manages to use his powers of cool Asian-ness to turn the pathetic gathering of losers into a real fly kick-back. Greg came because he's stalking Rebecca almost as much as she is stalking Josh, though I can't figure out why. And we also meet Rebecca's psych major neighbor who wants to "study her" because she's fascinating. In the fourth episode this translates into the nihilist neighbor actually recording observations of her strange behavior and wanting to befriend her out of... pity?

What's my grade? Deep sigh. I have to currently give this a C. Let me backtrack for a moment and go over a few things. First off, I know that many of the fans of this show probably would like my book which is hard because alienating a potential customer is never good, but I have to be honest here. I think the show suffers from a few problems. The chief problem is probably the tone and pacing.

A little history of the show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was originally slated to air on Showtime as a half hour comedy. I guess Showtime ordered a few episodes but then saw the pilot and decided to pass. This left the producers in a hell of a predicament. For starters, they had to expand 30 minutes into 60. Sure, commercial breaks factor in, but often Showtime shows aren't a full 30 minutes either. The first two episodes were noticeably drawn-out. Don't get me wrong, I often have plenty of long scenes in my books, especially in Yep, but they have to keep moving at a steady pace. The show didn't pack every second with a joke or with character building. Certain parts fell flat. For instance, the convenient store scene in the second episode where Rebecca sees Valencia for the first time could have had 30 seconds shaven from the entire sequence and it would have made such a difference. The dialogue, while good, is not always delivered snappy enough so it almost feels like the character is working through a joke as they say it. And boy are those commercial breaks long as hell. It feels like they're coming up two minutes short each week so every break has to be 30 seconds longer. This improved slightly by episode four.

Another thing, the silence. Listen, I've always defended laugh tracks on the multi-camera comedy. But I also can enjoy the no laugh track of the single cam when done right. What I find most often, however, for a great deal of single cam shows is that they not only remove the laugh track but they cut down on the filler sounds and cue-ing tones that help to fill the dead space when no one is talking. Outside of the musical numbers, sometimes I could barely hear any ambient sound in the background of scenes crowded with people. It made the show feel like a show rather than a glance into someone's life. The best example I could give is of the Bernie Mac Show (one of the pioneers of this single cam one-hour comedy). When he sits down to talk to America, there was often some music in the background, not overpowering but there in order to offset the undertones in his voice. I'm not going to treat any reader like an idiot but I don't have time to explain this. However, sound engineers instinctively know how to fill the dead space without being overbearing.

Everybody's Singing!

Speaking of sound, the music is pretty much all original pieces, which is both good and bad. Bad for the reasons mentioned above. Good because it shows the creativity of the writers. But you'll have a hit and miss each episode. I actually didn't like the "Getting Ready Song" as much as I did the "West Covina" song of the first episode. And neither came close to the "Yoga" song of the second episode. Interesting enough, though the songs were a clear selling point if you've seen any of Rachel Bloom's online stuff, they have yet to find a harmony with the show. "West Covina" notwithstanding, nearly every other song seemed like it was either a pre-conceived funny music video that was stuffed into the show or overshadows the show and current plot with its catchiness. In other words, some songs feel as if they are just there and others feel as if an entire episode or situation was written around them just so they could use that funny device (hey, I've done it before. Plenty of writers do it. It happens).

Finally, the characters. Everyone seems to be a caricature or is not even attempting to be a real human making the ebb and flow of the show confusing at times. Is the fact that Greg is instantly obsessed with her, and Paula (her coworker) is willing to help her supposed to convey that we are seeing this entire world from her mentally unstable point of view, or are they just as unstable? Or is the show trying to subvert her mental illness and "craziness" by making everyone around her seem crazier, and by default making her look less crazy? This, in part, seems to be the case as her craziness is pitied by the neighbor and bolstered into a "this is actually normal behavior" thought process. Thinking about it, at least she spent real time with Josh, albeit ten years ago. Greg had no prior knowledge of her, yet he lusts after her but hasn't conveyed any sense of love at first sight. To be clear, my other book Unrequited is all about me falling in love at first sight with a girl. There's an overwhelming sense of "oh my god, my world has changed forever." Greg just seems to be hanging around in hopes of getting that pity sex when Josh finally wises up and coldly turns her down.

Nice Guy Bartender Greg. Gay Best Friend? 

And speaking of Josh, did they have to make him a bit of an idiot? Contrary to the title song of the show, I think her craziness is made to be less nuanced because of his lack of any true attractiveness outside of his physical looks. He's sort of a nice guy but he was also begging Rebecca to lie to his girlfriend about having dated ten years prior. This dynamic alone confuses the "this is actually normal behavior and we're all a little maladjusted" message. If he had something legitimately going for him or the man and woman were shown on equal footing, the viewer might feel more inclined to sympathize with her plight. I get the whole "they're opposites" thing but it feels more like the show is reinforcing the crazy stereotype rather than subverting it and making viewers consider the meaning behind such language.

And for the part I was actually dreading, my comparison with my book. Honestly, there are tons of similarities between the book and the show, which actually rather ticks me off, because long story short I had some stories stolen from me a long while back and have been paranoid ever since. But stuff like: the other girl being into Yoga, the protagonist being a smart but quirky adult adolescent, selfies, twitter, etc. All of it is in the book. Don't want to spoil anything but even the parents are similar, which makes me wonder if I dislike or hate my own book. Of course, it's all slightly different and from what I've seen I approach lost love and mental instability from a different angle while still trying to toe a delicate line of funny and heartfelt, but who knows if I succeed, either.

Should you be watching? Hell, the real question is for how long can you watch. The ratings for this show have been abysmal. Yes, Monday at 8pm is a tough slot, especially with no lead-in as critical darling Jane the Virgin comes on at 9pm, but these ratings are... man! Crazy didn't even premiere to a million viewers. It weighed in just shy at 950,000... out of 310 million people in the US. It has a 0.8 share in the 18-49 demographic. The numbers went up the second week but then they went down the third to 860,000. I'm not even sure that the people who watch this show know about this show. Bear in mind, The Flash gets 4 million viewers weekly which is good for the CW. Arrow gets even more. But to not even have a million people watching the show and to have it premiere late and for Supergirl on CBS to now have its premiere which is also geared toward a younger and female audience, I'm really not sure if it can survive. And in fairness, I can't recommend you watch a show when I have a feeling it might get canceled and you end up with TV heartbreak (it's real). Granted, the one lone saving grace of this is that even though it is the lowest rated show on the channel currently, it is still on the CW. They aren't too quick to expel shows and they blew half their fall season advertising budget on this show, so it would be hard to just walk away. But I can't see advertisers staying much longer if the ratings don't jump at least to 1.2 million by Thanksgiving. If you love this show, you have to tell everyone you know. Shameless plug, the book might be better (Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend).

What do you think? Have you heard of this show? Have you seen it? If so, will you continue to watch? What was your favorite song? Let me know in the comments below (hint: click the no comments button if you see no comments).

Check out my new comedy novel Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
Check out my scary reads: #AFuriousWind, #DARKER, #BrandNewHome or  #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic, check out #TheWriter. The full first season is out now exclusively on Amazon. Or check out the crazy, action-packed crime novel #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in the coming months. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right side.

Until next time, this has been another blog post.

P.S. That sounded way cooler in my head. I was thinking I was going to have this cool sign-off specifically for NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month where you do a post a day), but that didn't work out at all. That was just as bad as all of the rest of them. How am I ever gonna get through this month with such bad writing? Eh! I'll think of something good, I know it.

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