As of last Friday, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is over. After four years of low ratings, 140 original songs (not counting reprises), and a cameo by Weird Al Yankovic, the show on the CW has, by all accounts and most improbably, stuck the landing as it told the story of Rebecca Bunch (played by series co-creator Rachel Bloom), a Harvard-trained lawyer who uprooted herself from New York to Southern California. Since I reviewed the show at its halfway point, Rebecca tried to kill herself and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which tallied with everything we saw of her in the first two seasons. She struggled for self-acceptance until she realized that she didn’t need a man to be content in life, and the way she expressed herself in song and dance created one of the best shows in TV history.
People are making lists of the best songs from the show (written largely by Bloom, Jack Dolgen, and Adam Schlesinger), so I thought I’d do the same. An exercise like this displays just how many supporting characters contributed great numbers over the years, and how many different genres of music the show parodied. I’m not as high on Rebecca’s self-loathing anthem “You Stupid Bitch (You Ruined Everything)” as many fans are, but the program gave us an embarrassment of musical riches in its time.
20. What a Rush to Be a Bride
Sample lyric: “Darkness darkness darkness! Will be avoided by a unity candle.”
It’s such a simple comic idea: Write a nü-metal song about something really girly. And so we get this System of a Down-style wedding song. A simple idea can be quite powerful, enough to knock me out of my chair.
19. Anti-Depressants Are So Not a Big Deal
Sample lyric: “Fluoxetine, fluoxetine / Paroxetine, paroxetine / Our lawyers won’t let us say brand names.”
Rebecca’s psychotherapist (Michael Hyatt) leads this number that removes the stigma from those pills and also parodies “Another Day of Sun” from La La Land. How about the tap-dance break in the middle of the street? Kathryn Burns choreographed every single one of this show’s songs, and was one of its unsung heroes.
18. Face Your Fears
Sample lyric: “If you’re in a burning building and smoke is everywhere / Keep calm, take a breath, and stay right there.”
Tony winner Donna Lynne Champlin did yeoman work as Rebecca’s best friend, even if you don’t count her musical contributions. Her first solo number in the show was this song encouraging all manner of dangerous behavior. (“Stare at the sun! Play in the street! Swim right after eating!”) The chorus of children running with scissors is a nice touch.
17. The Cringe
Sample lyric: “Like when I asked a woman I hadn’t seen in a while / How long she’d been pregnant, and there went her smile. / Turns out she’d just gained weight. ‘I’m so sorry!’ I said. / And when that memory fills me with horror and dread / I do the cringe.”
Patton Oswalt has been a devoted fan of the show, and it rewarded him with a role as a creepy cemetery security guard and this “Monster Mash”-style song during a Halloween episode about the things that are really scary in life. Extra points for the bone dresses, gloves, and stockings on the women.
16. Heavy Boobs
Sample lyric: “Not bitching ’bout my boobies / They look superfly in shirts / But if I swung one in your face / You’d be like, ‘Oh my God, that hurts!’ ”
The show takes some time out of the story to joke about Rachel Bloom’s double D’s. Maybe this is just clickbait, but the specifics of the lyrics struck a nerve with large-breasted women. What a catchy beat, too. The choreography alone is worth tuning into this song for.
15. Let’s Generalize About Men
Sample lyric: “Let’s not distinguish between them at all / Let’s just drink a lot more alcohol.”
Rebecca and her friends (Champlin, Vella Lovell, and Gabrielle Ruiz) drink a ton of rosé and fall into a deep, dark hole of misandry. It could not be more fun, especially with self-awareness and an ’80s-style song reminiscent of the Bangles and the Go-Go’s. The last line, “Your sons are gonna be rapists,” is the show at its envelope-pushing best.
14. I Want to Be a Child Star
Sample lyric: “I’ll be abusive and emotionally stunted / But everyone will tolerate me. / They’ll have no choice / ’Cause my face and my voice / Will make them so much money.”
This show can be so hilarious and so depressing at the same time, and nowhere is that better illustrated than when Rebecca’s young half-brother (Luca Padovan) decides to go Hollywood. Hey, it’s good to have a life plan, even if that plan involves being washed-up at 30.
13. Greg’s Drinking Song
Sample lyric: “Yes, wine can be fun, white, rosé, and red / Till I call up my boss and say I wish he was dead.”
Rebecca’s sometime boyfriend Greg (Santino Fontana) tells his friends that he’s an alcoholic via this Irish drinking song, revealing that he has peed his pants from drinking too much. In turn, his friends reveal that he once had sex with a bush while inebriated. Good thing for Greg he learned to put the glass down.
12. Ping-Pong Girl
Sample lyric: “Look at her skill on the ping-pong, uh, court? / Nothing’s hotter than a chick who’s good at sports. / Whoa, she scored a thousand points! / I think I love her.”
Rebecca takes up table tennis in a bid to impress Josh (Vincent Rodriguez), and her imagining of that happening takes the form of this song that just distills the essence of everything by blink-182, Good Charlotte, The All-American Rejects, Bowling for Soup, and every other pop punk band of the early ’00s. Rodriguez has the style down, too.
11. JAP Battle
Sample lyric: “Your temper, you lost it, oh cute! / Like you’re going to lose this lawsuit / Keeping your piehole shut would be quite wise / Though you kept it open wide for the AEPI guys.”
I’m sad that this show never tackled opera or East Asian pop music, and I’m also sad that there weren’t more rap numbers. The songwriters collaborated with Zach Sherwin of Epic Rap Battles of History on this song for Rebecca and her archnemesis from New York (Rachel Grate). These two Jewish high achievers come up with a rare white-people rap about white privilege.
10. Strip Away My Conscience
Sample lyric: “You’re like Professor Snape in his sad dungeon with his potions, / ‘Cause somehow you don’t have that sucky thing called emotions / Fifty shades of morally grey.”
Bob Fosse is smiling somewhere at how this dance number hits all the marks of his dances: black wardrobe, dancers snapping their fingers and chanting in a whisper, the Kander-and-Ebb style angularity of the rhythm. The songwriters are on fire with the lines here as well: “Let me choke on your cocksuredness.”
9. The End of the Movie
Sample lyric: “You want things to be wrapped up neatly / The way that stories do. / You’re looking for answers, / But answers aren’t looking for you.”
One of the recurring themes of the show is how Rebecca makes herself miserable by trying to make her life conform to the contours of a romantic comedy film. Having seen all those movies, I can say that truer words were never sung than in this song. Also, Josh Groban has never been funnier.
8. Gettin’ Bi
Sample lyric: “It’s something I’d like to demystify / It’s not a phase / I’m not confused / Not indecisive / I don’t have the ‘gotta choose’ blues / I don’t care if you wear high heels or a tie / You might just catch my eye.”
And a coming-out anthem is born. Rebecca’s boss (Pete Gardner) gathers the lawyers in his firm together and announces he’s attracted to men and women. The Huey Lewis/Robert Palmer vibe in this song is genius. The video cuts off before the boss’ nerdy young paralegal (Esther Povitsky) also stands up and announces that she, too, is bisexual.
7. California Christmastime
Sample lyric: “California Christmastime! / We gather round and sing songs by Sublime / And all our local reggae bands are white.”
Ah, the joys of a warm-weather Christmas! My California friends attest that this song is all true about the holidays in SoCal.
6. Buttload of Cats
Sample lyric: “I walk myself down to the Lonely Lady Cat Store / The smell is overwhelming inside. / This is the future smell of my house, / It’s the smell of my dreams that have died (and cats!)”
Bloom and company dismantle the stereotype of the crazy cat lady by leaning into it. There’s an explicit version of this song, but the obscenity doesn’t add anything, and this version has the lesbian cat ladies running off with each other at the end. Bonus points for Rebecca playing the cat-scratch board as a percussion instrument.
5. The Math of Love Triangles
Sample lyric: “This triangle’s scalene.” “That’s astute / So I need to decide which man’s more acute.”
Geometry puns everywhere! With Rebecca trying to decide between Josh and Greg, she imagines herself at the center of this Marilyn Monroe-esque number. Ironically, she winds up proving that triangles aren’t viable. Also, the math professor background dancers are all gay, so even in Rebecca’s fantasies, she’s surrounded by men who aren’t interested in her.
4. A Diagnosis
Sample lyric: “What could it be? What could be right? / Schizophrenic or bipolar lite? / I’ve never heard voices, but maybe it’s time to start.”
You know that fleeting feeling of hope that you get when the psychiatrist gives you a label and you think he’ll give you a little pill will solve all your problems? Yeah, this song is that moment. Also, Bloom can just flat-out sing, as she proves here.
3. Don’t Be a Lawyer
Sample lyric: “Sure, your parents might think you’re a failure / But no one’s ever said, ‘First, let’s kill all the tailors!’”
Career advice in the form of the new jack swing of New Edition and Bell Biv Devoe. This song was widely circulated among lawyers, if you needed proof about how on-target it is. Burl Moseley was mostly a bit player as a colleague in Rebecca’s law firm, but did he ever seize the spotlight here.
2. (Tell Me I’m Okay) Patrick
Sample lyric: “It just feels like everyone is in this cabal of normal people, and they’re all laughing at me, like I’m the jester in my own Truman Show.”
The program could make you bust a gut, but it could rip out your guts, too. Rebecca sees how messed-up she is and pleads with a package delivery guy (Seth Green) to console her in any small way. There are Broadway shows that would kill to have a song as wrenching as this one. Green does nice silent supporting work, as does the delivery package.
1. Settle for Me
Sample lyric: “I know I’m only second place in this game / But like 2 percent milk or seitan beef, I almost taste the same.”
This is the song that made me think, “I’m with this show as long as it goes.” The lyrics are so self-emasculating that they would be hard to endure if it weren’t for the perfectly pitched parody of the Astaire-Rogers films around them. Everything’s in place here: the sophisticated lyrics, the tap-dance break, the “All the Single Ladies” move that Fontana puts on the mention of Beyoncé. Had the show not survived, this number would have been enough to build a legacy on. We’re lucky that it did.