A star was born in 2015, when Rachel Bloom debuted as a smart, funny romantic obsessive on the musical-comedy series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” But most of us missed it, because it happened on the CW network. Good thing Netflix, on which the series’ first two seasons are streaming, offers new chances to make discoveries.
Bloom, 29, is a marvel. She co-writes the scripts and the exuberantly catchy, darkly comic songs for this series, in which she plays Rebecca, a top New York attorney who moves on a whim to Southern California’s West Covina, where her ex-boyfriend (Vincent Rodriguez III) lives.
A fearless comic presence, Bloom started as a sketch comedian and parody singer and became a YouTube sensation by expressing a carnal interest in Ray Bradbury. Like her contemporary Lena Dunham (“Girls”), Bloom pushes boundaries of propriety, though she does it in “Ex-Girlfriend” through lyrics about her heavy breasts rather than by doffing her top.
The series starts with Rebecca feeling down despite being offered a partnership at her firm. Her mood lifts when she runs into Josh, her upbeat yet shallow ex-boyfriend from teenage summer camp, on a Manhattan street. Josh broke up with Rebecca because he found her dramatic. He’s rethinking it now, he tells her, because she is so attractive.
Still plenty dramatic, Rebecca moves west, to a nondescript condo in a sleepy city that nonetheless inspires her to burst into the Broadway-esque number “West Covina.” Over orchestral strings, she celebrates dining at “Chez Applebee’s.”
She signs on with a local firm owned by a sweet doofus (a likable Pete Gardner) but really run by a paralegal (Broadway veteran and knockout singer Donna Lynne Champlin) who will become Rebecca’s wing-woman. Rebecca haunts a bar Josh frequents and where his acerbic friend, Greg (Broadway’s Santino Fontana) works and quickly develops a crush on Rebecca. She only has eyes for Josh.
Kind by nature, Josh irresponsibly encourages Rebecca’s feelings without necessarily returning them.
Is Rebecca crazy, or crazy in love? Bloom and series co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna achieve a delicate balance in playing Rebecca’s obsessive tendencies for laughs without downplaying the serious implications of her behavior. At points in the series, the usually high-functioning Rebecca cannot function at all. The poignancy Bloom lends these moments highlights the breadth of her talent.
Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Netflix