Review: 'Ex-Girlfriend' is crazy musical fun

Robert Bianco
Rachel Bloom, right, and Donna Lynne Champlin star in CW's 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.'

If this is Crazy, maybe the other networks need to go a little nuts.

Considering what a non-starter the season has been so far, it's not like they have a lot to lose. There are a few time slot successes, but no new show has really broken through the cultural clutter — which is what you might expect when most of them either look like something you're already watching or something you've already rejected.

But not CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Monday, 8 p.m. ET/PT, ***1/2 stars out of four), fall's best new series and easily its most unusual. A story of one obsessive woman's unlikely search for love and happiness, as told through song and dance, Crazy is an out-of-the-blue surprise and an out-of-the-box treasure. It shows what the networks can do when they're willing to throw caution to the wind and turn to something and someone new — in this case, star and writer Rachel Bloom and the show's creator, Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada).

Bloom plays Rebecca, a successful New York lawyer who finds herself fixating on the last time she was happy: As a teenager at summer camp, dating hunky young Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III). A chance encounter with Josh leads her to a not-exactly-inevitable conclusion: She must uproot her life and follow him to West Covina, Calif. ("Only two hours from the beach — four in traffic.")

Song, dance fuel Bloom's 'Crazy' CW adventure

Don't worry about remembering West Covina. The name will be seared into your brain by the end of the show's first production number, a Disneyesque salute to small-town virtues that is both catchy and subversively funny, and which Bloom puts across like a seasoned musical pro. None of which, by the way, will come as a surprise to those who know her as an Internet comedy-song sensation.

Alas, West Covina is not exactly the paradise Rebecca had hoped for. True, there is the sweet bartender (Santino Fontana) who takes a shine to her. ("You're pretty and you're smart and you're ignoring me, so you're obviously my type."). But there's also her boss, who has a thing about Jews, and the firm's head paralegal (Donna Lynne Champlin, who could be one of the year's breakouts), determined to find out what Rebecca is hiding.

Through it all, Bloom sparkles, alternately reasonable and clueless as she leads us to the show's underlying universal truth: love can be destabilizing. You'll spot bits of Tina Fey in her performance, and some of Amy Schumer, particularly in the satirical "Sexy Getting Ready Song." But the final blend is all Bloom's.

As with Rebecca, the road Bloom has chosen is a risky one. (Just ask the folks at Smash how hard it is to stage an original musical number every week.) But it seems to be a risk worth taking.

And if that makes me crazy, so be it.