I identify as a Bunchkin – a fan of Rebecca Bunch and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which I’ve written about here and mention to death in Smutty Social Media. So when I got an email from our site manager Emily about the show ending after season 4, I should have been bummed. Devastated. Raging at the injustice of mediocore shows going into double digit seasons. But I’m not even mad, you guys.
First off, the musical output on CExGF is unbelievable, both in quantity and quality. How long can that be sustained? Not only are they writing original songs, but they are shooting videos with costumes and choreography – and the songs are amazing! I feel like asking for more would be greedy.
Second, Rachel Bloom (the show’s resident genius) has hinted that she expected it, saying that she found out the show was renewed for a final season by turning on her WiFi. I don’t imagine Rachel is entirely stoked about giving her (and her team’s) blood, sweat, tears and best ideas to a network that is like “ya I guess we will keep you around a bit longer.”
Third, this show might be, for lack of a better word, too complicated for network TV. I don’t mean that in a high-brow way, because it was the CW that took a chance on this show in the first place. I just mean that it’s a consistently low performer in the ratings, it’s a musical, it has elements of fantasy and a “difficult woman” as the main character. It’s accessible but not necessarily easily digestible. Rebecca is an unreliable protagonist – she’s not a rock steady comfort to those in the audience looking for one.
This past season was by far the most complex the show has ever done, turning Rebecca from “crazy” and lovable to a place where she is unpredictable and filled with self-loathing. Her bouts of mania, depression and impulsiveness that were once considered part of her kooky charm (what’s more Rebecca Bunch than plotting to leave poo on Josh Chan’s doorstep?) became uncomfortably intense, even for her biggest supporters. Her self-sabotage and poor decision-making, which seemed to hit its peak with Greg’s dad, found new ways to manifest in her life.
The break in the clouds was her diagnosis, although with it came shame, denial, relapses and a different kind of despair, a nuanced (but still very funny) portrayal of treating and living with a mental illness. My quibble with season 4 isn’t with Rebecca’s evolution but rather the group that formed around her – Valencia is kind of pushed aside, Paula has lost a lot of her agency, Josh is treading water and Darryl and Heather are entwined in a shaky storyline (or so my nascent research of surrogate laws in California tell me). With Rebecca focusing inward to deal with her health, the crew has lost its core and the ties that bind them seem much weaker. Perhaps this is completely by design – by working on herself, Rebecca isn’t invested in being social glue, or the office star, or the scheming friend.
Beyond that, the writing team took a massive risk in season 3, not knowing if they would go down that path only to be cancelled. It could have ended its run with a massive question mark over Rebecca, but now we get to see how her current story will play out. Instead, it’s right on time: in 2017, Rachel Bloom and co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna told Vanity Fair that they had four seasons planned for the show all along.
So yes, the show is ending in its current iteration, but it doesn’t have to be over. It’s a musical with roots in theatre – that seems like it could be something. Where’s the West Covina gang in 5 years? Definitely a reboot option. I don’t know if I’m feeling overly optimistic or am completely in denial, but with streaming, this show will could find a whole new audience that goes beyond the critical acclaim and hilarious recaps, reaching people who don’t even like musicals (I was one of those people!). Did Hamilton nerds feel this calm when Lin-Manuel Miranda left the show? If so, I think I can understand why. Rebecca is a creation of Rachel Bloom, a brilliant woman who will go onto to do more brilliant, delightful things. What kind of Bunchkin would I really be if I didn’t let her be great?