Last April, and semi-drunkenly on a dancefloor, I heard this line from a beautiful boy I know, “when are you going to realize you’re a fucking catch?”
This is the moment I cringed (and embarrassingly laughed, “I know I am!”). The comment placed me firmly in my head while my body somehow continued to move. The beat becoming harder and harder to follow, the crowded, sweaty bodies becoming less noticeable, faces blurring.
I mean, what does that really mean? What…do you say to that? It sent me on a bit of a shame spiral, an acid-reflux ego moment. When someone says that (or the analogous “why are you single?”), it places an uncomfortable amount of blame on oneself. You’re the problem. I’m the problem. Further complicating this moment, it was said by a boy I’d gone out with many times, and who just two days before dancing informed me quite happily of his new relationship. Oh. Something of a letdown for me, and disappointingly unexpected. It also got me thinking about one of my current favorite TV shows, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend;” one I got to see live, back in March, with dancefloor boy.
The live performance itself was a solid two hours of music, stories, and near-constant laughs delivered from almost all of the main cast. The amount of cheering that took place as star Rachel Bloom first walked on stage, you would’ve thought you were at an arena show for Katy Perry. Bloom admitted during the performance that a tour for a TV show is rather rare, citing that summer is often when TV actors either get some down time or are able to work on other projects (I don’t think I’ve heard of a musical TV show touring since “Glee”). This rarity made hearing their songs live, seeing the actors perform their favorites, an even more memorable experience.
The date was planned a month in advance but unfortunately, between getting tickets and the performance itself, we only hung out once or twice, largely due to me coming down with Strep Throat the first week of March and then a week after getting better, getting the Flu. March was basically just a month of tea with honey, cough and pain medicine, and fevers for me, all leading up to the live show at the end of March. (Summer/Spring, so far, is blissfully only full of allergies). So, when the time came for the actual performance, I wasn’t sure if it was a date anymore or had simply morphed into just friends. Dating, like friendships, requires a level of prolonged interest and interaction I wasn’t capable of while sick, but also find exhausting even under the best of conditions. Again, I’m the problem.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” if you’re unfamiliar with it, is the kind of show tv show that operates like life, in layers. As a romantic musical comedy, it opens with a simple premise, “The series starts as a miserable single New York City lawyer named Rebecca ([Rachel] Bloom) makes the impromptu decision to move to West Covina, Calif., to try to win back her high school boyfriend, Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III).” Falling back on first love is peak nostalgia and history rewriting – the type of story I can’t get enough of and also tend to live out myself. Vulture even named it the “Best Show on TV,” in 2016, and in their essay describing why they picked “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” as such notes:
Deftly switching between melodrama, cultural satire, and fantasy, the show is at once arch and sincere, risqué but never trashy, ambitious but never pretentious, and it’s consistently honest about its characters’ flaws and blind spots, even when the plotting (as in most romances and musicals) is blithely unconcerned with plausibility.
Lurking beneath all the farcical rushing-about is one more intriguing layer, and once we discern its outline, we realize that all the comical lies, schemes, and misunderstandings on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are means to yet another end: showing the damage people suffer when they can’t or won’t grasp what they truly want in life.
A gut-punch of a last line and one that spoke to my shame spiral. Yet, the best part of the show is that it serves the fantasy of reality so accurately. The lies we tell ourselves, our daydreams, our internal lives, our own fractured emotional intelligence now come with a soundtrack thanks to this show, which also serves to delightfully disarm the harder to handle aspects of life. Having your life fall apart is always more enjoyable if Josh Groban follows you around, serenading your despair.
In an interivew with Vanity Fair, one of the scene-stealing stars Donna Lynne Champlin who plays Paula, Rebecca’s best friend, puts wonderfully how layered the show can be (while also discussing her character’s abortion storyline):
The show’s unapologetic approach was typical of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, though often its story lines draw even less attention to their own progressiveness. “Someone comes out as bisexual, [everyone else] go[es], ‘Yeah, all right.’ Paula is a size 14. They go, ‘O.K.’ Josh is Filipino and our lead is in love with him and everyone goes, ‘Yeah, he’s really attractive,’” says Champlin. “We actively don’t make a Very Special Episode about all of these things. Instead of trying to shine a light on the [abortion] issue, which a lot of shows do, we sort of, kind of create the world in which we all want to live in already. Instead of using the show as a platform—which gets more attention, both good and bad—the show is just what we wish reality was.
If you don’t believe me that a romantic musical comedy on the CW Network is one of the most true to life shows on television right now, you’re letting yourself down. But oddly, my own reflection on this show has helped me put my dancefloor meltdown into perspective: life is largely what we make of it, real and imagined. I could have taken the Rebecca Bunch route and sabotaged a crush’s new relationship, or I can learn from her mistakes (while gaining a good friend), and recognize my own feelings of jealousy and “what-ifs” for what they really are: insecurity and bad timing. Both of which are keeping me an uncaught catch, at least according to the boy that isn’t dating me.
PS: I haven’t even gone into the power of the musical numbers. Some particular favorites of mine are: “Heavy Boobs,” “The Sexy Getting Ready Song,” “Let’s Generalize About Men,” and the truly spectacular Mamma Mia-esque “First Penis I Saw.” Enjoy!