Monday, 30 April 2018

Musical Monday #163

Okay, so here we are.  Season 3 of Crazy Ex Girlfriend.  It started out spectacularly.  The first episode was amazing and I think the second episode had FIVE songs in it, a series record, but after that, I’ll be straight with you, I did not enjoy season 3 as much as previous seasons.  But I don’t know whether this is the show’s fault or not, because the exact same thing happened with iZombie season 3. 

Both shows were recommended to me at the same time by Community fans.  I fell in love with both shows during their pilot episodes.  I binged the first two seasons on Netflix in a couple of days.  But when season 3 came around, it was put on Netflix the day after it aired in the USA so I had to watch it network TV style, i.e. one episode a week with dumb hiatuses for midseason finales and winter holidays and whatever other stupid reasons American TV has to torture me.  The experience of watching season 3 was so different from watching seasons 1 & 2 that I don’t know if the material was genuinely inferior or if it’s just much harder to care about something spread so thin and you can’t remember how it even started by the time it ends. 

But it is possible that season 3 is simply less good than season 1 and 2.  This happens to good shows all too often.  They catch seasonthreeitis.  Season one has a great premise and interesting characters and it’s all bouncy and fresh and it builds to a decent finale, season two continues with the side arc stuff that didn’t get wrapped up in season one, inverts season one stuff in a cool or meta way, while the characters are more developed and the show knows its strengths and builds to another satisfying finale.  But then in season three, they’ve got no original arc left, so they have to make up something new, they start playing around with the premise and the characters, afraid the audience will get bored, and they ruin it. 

Don’t believe seasonthreeitis is real?  Here’s a random selection of some shows I enjoyed that all lost their way in season three: Star Trek: The Original Series, Blackadder,  Due South, Star Trek: Voyager, Jonathan Creek, Arrested Development, Rev., The Flash, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,(and maybe X-Men Evolution, but I don’t really remember).  I’m pretty sure iZombie will be making it on to that list if I ever watch it again, but Crazy Ex Girlfriend may yet be saved by a rewatch in genuine binge style as TV should be enjoyed.

SPOILERS AHEAD.  You were warned.

Crazy Ex Girlfriend season 3 is certainly the darkest season to date, but so was season 3 of Bojack Horseman and that’s a damn masterpiece.  There’s no Greg of course, which would be okay if they hadn’t desecrated his memory, but they did and I kinda hate them for that.  This all led to Rebecca hitting rock bottom.  Each season has a moment where she’s at her lowest, in season 1 she went broke, realised that she was acting like a villain and ran back to New York, in season 2, having lost both Greg and Josh, she set fire to her apartment and tried to reinvent herself, and in season 3, after going completely off the rails, pushing everyone away and sleeping with Greg’s dad, she runs back to New York and then attempts suicide.  This leads to her properly addressing her mental health issues and pretty much forgetting about Josh, which all makes for deep and interesting character development, and I’m on board with that. 

However, the show does seem to forget it’s a musical at times.  Songs are shoved in halfway through an episode as a sort of afterthought, which is disappointing. 

Then there’s Nathaniel.  Now I don’t mind Nathaniel, at times I even like Nathaniel, like, y’know, when he’s pooped his pants or whatever.  If he’s pathetic, I feel sorry for him.  But I cannot STAND him as Rebecca’s new romantic interest.  I know that she’s always been pretty obsessed with sex, but their entire relationship is based on sex and nothing else.  With Greg she had a funny rapport and they got on as friends, with Josh they had an emotional connection and saw the best in each other, but with Nathaniel it’s just a physical attraction so I really don’t give a crap.  She pretty much uses sex as a barter with him in season 3, they compare him to Christian Gray which is horrifying, when she has to stop seeing him due to, oh yeah her mental health issues and suicidal stuff, he gets all petty and mean about it, and later he claims to love her while he spends eight months cheating on his serious girlfriend.  This is not a man we can ever sympathise with. 

Oh, yeah, and then there’s THAT episode.  In one ep, we skip EIGHT months.  The only reason for this appears to be so that the show can end with the traditional TV trope of a pregnant character having a baby in the finale.  It throws away so much potential character development that I’m not sure the show can ever recover from such a bizarre move.  Now I will certainly never be able to root for Rebecca and Nathaniel as a couple, while Valencia changed sexuality OFF SCREEN (remember when Darryl got an entire season arc devoted to his sexuality?).

Meanwhile, Darryl, who’s about to become a single father, is completely sidelined almost into oblivion, Rebecca’s relationship with her mum has been pretty much dismantled, Paula just keeps going through the same plot arcs over and over, Greg can pretty much never return now he kept complete radio silence through Rebecca’s suicide attempt and Josh is still here, wandering around in the background with no plot relevance.  Sucks to be him. 

So yeah, I dunno.  It’s pretty telling that my favourite songs from this season are all from the start, but there were some wonderful moments later on, I’d love to dig further into Rebecca as a character, just if Nathaniel would get lost that would be nice (Josh punching him out made me cheer in delight).  Maybe it’ll seem better after a rewatch.

Anyhoo, here are my favourite songs from season 3:

Let’s Generalize About Men from Crazy Ex Girlfriend, episode 'Josh's Ex-Girlfriend Wants Revenge'.
Performed by Rachel Bloom, Donna Lynne Champlin, Gabrielle Ruiz and Vella Lovell

Strip Away My Conscience from Crazy Ex Girlfriend, episode 'To Josh, With Love'
Performed by Rachel Bloom
Written by Rachel Bloom, Adam Schlesinger and Jack Dolgen 

Where’s Rebecca Bunch? from Crazy Ex Girlfriend, episode 'Josh's Ex-Girlfriend Wants Revenge'
Performed by Rachel Bloom and the entire cast of season 3
Written by Rachel Bloom and Adam Schlesinger 

Monday, 23 April 2018

Musical Monday #162

I had a mildly tempestuous relationship with season 2 of Crazy Ex Girlfriend, for a little time feeling like I had become Crazy Ex Girlfriend’s crazy ex-girlfriend.

I had binged the entire first season in one weekend (sometimes The Housemate goes away and Netflix becomes my new best friend).  I started off with season 2 the same way and came to a crashing halt shortly after as I suddenly realised at the end of his penultimate episode that my favourite character was about to leave the show for good.

Savvy people who knew which actor was only signed to a one-year contract saw this coming.  I was totally blindsided.  In utter shock and horror, I stopped watching.  I don’t deal well with losing a beloved character.  I still haven’t forgiven Due South for losing Ray and I’ve never watched a single episode of Jonathan Creek after Maddie left.

But Crazy Ex Girlfriend is such a good show that I missed it, so I watched some youtube videos ABOUT the show, which eventually convinced me to continue. 

And, y’know, it’s still really good.  (Although part of me will always be waiting for Greg’s glorious return).

So here are my favourite songs from season 2.  It was a little easier to pick than season 1, because while the songs are still really good, I wouldn’t say they were all so perfectly brilliant as every song in season 1, and because my absolute favourite song of the entire series is in season 2 (I tear up EVERY time I see or hear this song), so I only had to pick another two songs to accompany it.

The following song perfectly encapsulates how the audience is feeling:

 Who’s The New Guy? from Crazy Ex Girlfriend, episode ‘When Do I Get To Spend Time With Josh?’
Performed by Michael McMillian, Donna Lynne Champlin, Esther Povitsky, Stephnie Weir and Danny Jolles

The following song is spread across the whole episode, which is why it’s a bit disjointed as a youtube vid.  Despite their delightful teasing with reprises, so far, this song is the only time the show has had a song that keeps coming back in one episode, which makes it kind of special:

 Santa Ana Winds from Crazy Ex Girlfriend, episode ‘Josh Is The Man Of My Dreams, Right?’
Performed by Eric Michael Roy
Written by Adam Schlesinger, Rachel Bloom and Jack Dolgen

The following song was censored in the actual episode.  Several songs have explicit and slightly more family-friendly versions, generally to swap out the F-word for something more benign or to avoid sexually explicit references.  I have no problem with that because generally the explicit versions are gross.  But in this case, the word the censors have a problem with is ‘shit’.  Is shit even a swearword?  How is that something that has to be censored, but the word ‘bitch’ is allowed all the time?  Shit doesn’t even mean anything particularly bad, whereas bitch is a horrible, belittling term.  Screwed up censors if you ask me.  Anyway, this is the only song that is bleeped rather than rewritten, because the rude bit is irreplaceable.  Luckily, youtube provides us with the proper, un-bleeped version.

 It Was A Shit Show from Crazy Ex Girlfriend, episode ‘When Will Josh And His Friend Leave Me Alone?’
Performed by Santino Fontana
Written by Adam Schlesinger, Rachel Bloom and Jack Dolgen

See you next week for season 3...

Monday, 16 April 2018

Musical Monday #161

Every time I say to somebody that one of my favourite contemporary shows is Crazy Ex Girlfriend, and get a blank, uninterested stare back, so I say “it’s a musical!”, they react in one of two ways.  A few people say, “Like Glee?”

And I have to calmly say “No.  Because Glee isn’t a musical.  Glee is a show about singers (covering famous songs so that everything sounds the same).  A musical is when characters burst into song during moments of heightened emotion in their daily lives to extend the plot or show their inner thoughts (using original music).  Not the same thing.”

I don’t know what it is about Glee that gets me riled up.  Either it’s that I tried watching a few episodes back in the day and just couldn’t find what was supposed to be remotely appealing about it, or because Community told me to hate Glee, and Community wouldn’t lie.

Anyway, MOST people just react to the news that Crazy Ex Girlfriend is a musical by saying “That’s what puts me off” or “I don’t think I’d like that.”

Even though EVERYONE gets super excited every time one of their favourite shows does a musical episode, which practically everything feels the need to do ever since Buffy The Vampire Slayer normalised the concept.

What the hell is people’s problems?

I gotta admit I felt nervous myself watching the first episode, but a couple of people recommended it and so I gave it a go, and here’s the thing about Crazy Ex Girlfriend: It’s REALLY good.  It’s incredibly witty.  All the time.  All the songs are funny.  There’s nothing to feel embarrassed about, because it’s on your side.

It’s an intelligent and deep show while also being irreverent and witty.  The music pretty much covers every single style there is, some songs are more direct parodies or homages to famous pieces and others are more just using a certain style, but even when it’s a genre that I wouldn’t listen to for fun, the lyrics are so witty and the action is so slick or juxtaposed or clever or y’know, just gonna say this again, WITTY, that I can still love it.

And all the stuff between the songs, which is the majority of the show, is so funny and interesting and involving, that I genuinely care about these characters.

Plus, it makes a deliberate effort to be inclusive of different people, regarding sex, race, sexuality, age, size and mental health, so there’s pretty much nothing to dislike about it.

So for Musical Monday, here are my three favourite songs from Season One.

They were really hard to pick because I don’t think there’s a single dud in the entire first season.

I Gave You A UTI – Crazy Ex Girlfriend, episode ‘Why Is Josh In A Bad Mood?’
Performed by Santino Fontana
Written by Adam Schlesinger, Steven Gold and Rachel Bloom

After Everything I’ve Done For You (That You Didn’t Ask For) – Crazy Ex Girlfriend, episode ‘Paula Needs To Get Over Josh!’
Performed by Donna Lynne Champlin
Written by Adam Schlesinger and Rachel Bloom

West Covina – Crazy Ex Girlfriend, episode ‘Josh Just Happens To Live Here!’
Performed by Rachel Bloom, among others
Written by Rachel Bloom and Jerome Kurtenbach

See you next week for season two.