Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has long used the familiar beats of romantic comedies to raise, and then upset, our expectations. The protagonist moves across the country for the man she loves—but the grand gesture creeps everyone out. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl changes the lives of everyone around her—but her “quirks” are actually serious mental health problems in disguise. A desperate rush to the airport can’t prevent the man Rebecca loves from leaving her—and it ends with a song about feces. You get the idea. Still, there’s one staple of the genre that I can’t believe the show has never addressed before: the gratuitous karaoke scene.
I don’t mean just regular ol’ karaoke, which Crazy Ex-Girlfriend tackled with “Get Your Ass Out of My House.” I mean the weirdly specific moment found in movies like (500) Days of Summer and Lost in Translation, in which the protagonists sing in public to help establish their dynamic. While there are some interesting exceptions—Cameron Diaz butchering “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” in My Best Friend’s Wedding comes to mind—these scenes are usually duets, used by the filmmakers to show the chemistry between the two romantic leads: Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally, Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, James Marsden and Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses. More often than not, they’re also a chance for the actors to show how good they are at singing badly. Stars—hand them a microphone and they’re just like us!
Despite being both a musical and fluent in the language of romantic comedy, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has, remarkably, never before tackled this convenient, crowd-pleasing plot device. That is, until “I’m Almost Over You,” an episode that explicitly parodies a specific genre, as the show did with revenge thrillers last season. Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster), rejected by Rebecca for the umpteenth time, finally watches some of the romantic comedies she has long been obsessed with and imagines himself in the schlubby leading role in his own movie, casting the other characters on the show against type. Rebecca becomes the unattainable object of his affection, Greg the douche-y boyfriend with whom he must compete, and George the sports-fanatic sidekick whose entire existence revolves around his friend’s love life. Tim also has an entire Devil Wears Prada subplot in which he must scrounge up a copy of the nonexistent sixth book in the Millennium series for his domineering boss. (It’s called The Girl With the Face Full of Fire, and it’s about cystic acne.)
But it’s Esther Povitsky, whose uber-millennial Maya is usually on the sidelines, who really gets a chance to shine as the true heroine in Nathaniel’s imaginary movie, complete with Opinions that make her “difficult to love” and a dead mom. In real life, she’s also reeling from a bad breakup, so naturally, Nathaniel decides that they should fake a relationship to make the women of their dreams jealous. Just as inevitably, they develop feelings for each other along the way, hitting some classic rom-com beats as they do so—the meet cute, the makeover montage, and the aforementioned gratuitous karaoke scene.
With “Gratuitous Karaoke Moment,” Crazy Ex-Girlfriend gets its own painfully self-aware “Start of Something New.” All the hallmarks of the scene are there, from the exaggerated details to emphasize that neither is comfortable with their performance to the obviously choreographed Grease shoulder shimmy as they become more enthusiastic.
In this gratuitous karaoke moment
Somehow we are both doing this move
Gratuitous karaoke moment
Sadly, this film does not improve
After this gratuitous karaoke moment
In 10 years, you realize this scene does not hold up
But you’ll still sing this song at karaoke
And no one will care because no one actually likes watching other people sing.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend certainly has the authority to skewer both the genre as a whole and this oddly specific scene, given that co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna knows her way around romantic comedies (and wrote both The Devil Wears Prada and 27 Dresses). As a musical that doesn’t apologize or really require any explanation for being a musical, it’s also well-positioned to call out other romances for finding flimsy excuses for their characters to sing. “Gratuitous Karaoke Moment” and the familiarity of the dynamic between Maya and Nathaniel could sucker you into rooting for Nathaniel and Maya—but life, of course, isn’t a movie.
Best song of the week: By default, I have to hand this one to “Gratuitous Karaoke Moment,” which is the only song I will ever voluntarily sing at karaoke.