Watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on a television is surreal because, by rights, it shouldn’t even be there. It’s one of those rare shows that feels like it’s getting away with something, as if it snuck on the air somehow and it’s only a matter of time until a network executive notices it and then fixes what clearly must have been some sort of mistake. Even on the show’s off weeks—and this wasn’t one of them—it’s exhilarating to get the weekly reminder that it exists.
“I’m So Happy that Josh is So Happy” isn’t a perfect episode. The highs aren’t quite as high and the music is not as memorable. But even by Crazy Ex standards, it is one of the most wonderful and unlikely pieces of TV in recent memory: an hour-long exploration of depression and the dangers of self-medication delivered in the form of a musical comedy. As if that’s not odd enough, the episode also features several Dr. Phil hallucinations, a high-concept parody of romanticized French sadness, an incredibly gross analogy comparing parking to unsanitary sex, and a slinky jazz song about mid-level credit card perks. Again, how is this show real?
The episode’s story follows three threads: After failing to impress high-profile client Calvin (Cedric Yarbrough) thanks to some despair-driven day drinking, Rebecca must get in control of her mood with Heather’s help. Across town, Josh and Greg struggle to build a new table to impress the newly moved-in Valencia. And last but not least, Paula, who is now openly admitting that she wants to live vicariously through Rebecca’s mistakes, almost makes a mistake of her own by flirting with the possibility of cheating on her husband with Calvin. Unlike some previous episodes, this is a balanced collection of plots that puts the entire supporting cast to good use, especially Donna Lynne Champlin, who gets her most substantial part to date.
The music is, of course, terrific but you won’t be singing it in the shower all week. Given the subject matter, though, perhaps that’s for the best. “Sexy French Depression,” Rebecca’s black-and-white vision of herself as a beautifully sad French woman, is the first number, with wonderful spoken-word lines like “I bought a book about John Wayne Gacy online” and “I black out with dessert wine.” But “His Status is Preferred” is the episode’s highlight, featuring lots of oohing and aahing from Paula over the fact that Calvin’s credit card would allow them to stay at hotels with “chefs that can make omelettes a variety of ways.” It’s funny, yes, but it’s also too subdued of a way to make the episode pop.
But what “I’m So Happy that Josh is So Happy” lacks in musical pizzazz, it makes up for in improvements and surprises in its non-musical segments. For one, the writers are doing a better job of making set ups pay off instead of wandering listlessly through the scenes that don’t center around songs. For example, Calvin and Paula have an entire conversation about smooth jazz, guitar licks, and her listless marriage that culminates in the double entendre: “You know, [my husband’s] not much of a licker.” And a seemingly inordinate amount of backstory on Calvin’s status as widower comes back in an instant when he delivers a completely unexpected line (“My dead white wife loved alpaca”) as he smoothes Paula’s cardigan.
Even the celebrity cameo was pretty good. Sweeps week cameos can be cringe-worthy, and this is Crazy Ex’s first, but hallucinated Dr. Phil ends up being not too shabby, particularly when he gets to deliver this fourth-wall breaking speech: “You do have a very active imagination. One minute, you’re walking down the street. The next minute, you’re in a big musical. Although, I gotta say, I did love the big pretzel. You did a good job on that one.”
That self-reference, incidentally, is a sign of the show’s growing confidence in itself. After seven episodes, the show has finally fleshed out its supporting characters and worked out most of its pacing kinks. It’s understandable that a too-good-for-TV sort of show with this much raw creativity would take some time to form it into something cohesive, but it’s finally getting there. This is what Crazy Ex-Girlfriend looks like when it finds its groove.
May Saunders is a professional dog walker living in Minneapolis and an occasional freelance writer. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with her cat, who does not need to be walked. Follow her on Twitter.