Feb 19, 2015

[TV] Galavant: Season 1

Musically-inclined television has had mixed success in North American markets. As much as shows like Glee managed to last quite a while, you have much shorter-lived ventures like Smash and to some extent Pushing Daisies that couldn't really get off the ground. Personally, I don't fully understand why more people can't get on-board with this sort of entertainment. A lot of folks already enjoying singing competitions, so why not narratives that involve singing?

Galavant was quite the surprise and we actually got into the show mid-way through its run. But thankfully friends clued us in regarding the show's existence and we were quickly all over it. After all, it's not that difficult to enjoy a musical television series with your classic swashbuckling hero at its center.

Then again, the show is more than just a straight-up medieval fantasy show set to music. The songs are clever and at times rather snarky, but they're generally still almost appropriate to the time period. The humor does push the limits almost all the time, but it manages this fine balance quite well overall.

Synopsis: Galavant is a musical comedy television series created, written and produced by Dan Fogelman together with fellow executive producers Alan Menkin and Glenn Slater, who also act as the songwriters and composers for the show. The half-hour series ran for four weeks by showing two episodes a week.

Our titular hero is Galavant (Joshua Sasse), a noble hero who seems to have everything going for him until the evil King Richard (Timothy Omundson) comes along and steals away the love of his life, Madalena (Mallory Jansen). And all this happened over the course of the opening title sequence alone! So at the very beginning of the show, we have Galavant racing off to rescue his love, only to find that she opts to stay with the King and enjoy the easier life of wealth and power, thus devastating Galavant.

Fast forward a bit and we meet Princess Isabella (Karen David), who seeks out Galavant in order to seek his help in retaking her stolen kingdom of Valencia. Her parents, the King and Queen, are hostages of the new ruler of Valencia, none other than King Richard. But Galavant has pretty much given all hope ever since Madalena had left him and thus his days have largely been about drinking and begging for his next meal. But perhaps Isabella's quest together with the persistence of Galavant's squire, Sid (Luke Youngblood) might be enough to break our hero out of his funk.

The theme song is annoyingly catching and many of the show's early songs build on this same melody over and over and over again. But this is part of the very charm of the show - the fact that it embraces the rather campy nature of classic musicals and it exploits that to a ridiculous degree. We're talking about the work of Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, the team that brought us the memorable music of many a Disney movie including the likes of The Little Mermaid. So to have them apply similar techniques and yet twist things around made for quite the comedic turnaround.

And that opening theme already sets the stage for the rather tongue-in-cheek humor of the show. Thus this also preps you for the fact that this won't just be another one-sided fairy tale story - they wanted to tell a more mature tale that may have somewhat more modern sensibilities yet remain true to the spirit and form of such tales of the classical age.

Thus the show thankfully left behind the confines of archetypes like the dashing hero saving the damsel in distress. Instead we have Madalena embracing her new life of privilege and Princess Isabella being quite the self-assured young woman determined to save her parents. And even young Sid is more than just a loyal squire meant to stay in Galavant's shadow. If anything, Galavant is probably the least heroic character for the most the show. Again, this is all part of the show's appeal.

And this isn't a story solely about the hero and his party. We spent a good chunk of time learning more about King Richard and his challenges with the rather demanding Madalena. Even the poor chef (Darren Evans) actually gets a good back story. And these little twists are nicely surprising and make rather full use of limited cast. And I enjoyed every bit of it.

The show feels rather short by US television standards but is actually pretty long when you look at things from a musical theater perspective. After all, this is about 4 hours of musical madness and mayhem, and that's not easy to pen no matter how good you are. So I was really happy with how things developed and I enjoyed the show from start to finish. And I was rather surprised how things resolved at the end.

Galavant is a delightful musical comedy and one that is nicely refreshing to see on TV again. I only hope that the show managed to get enough support during its 4-week run to a degree where we'll see the second season continue the story and tell us what finally happens to Princess Isabella. Thus the show gets 5 ridiculous musical interludes in the show out of a possible 5.

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