The Unlikely Magic of Galavant

Who would have thought it would actually work? An epic self-aware medieval comedy musical extravaganza on network TV sounds like a disaster about to happen, yet Galavant just finished its second season on ABC with blood on its sword and a song in its heart. After lackluster ratings in its first season, most prognosticators said it would never get a renewal. But, whether due to ABC’s relationship with Disney and Alan Menken, or to the show’s nature as a limited series that fits perfectly in the otherwise pretty dead month of January, Galavant defied the odds and came back from the dead (much like a certain character this season) to charm us once again. In case you couldn’t tell, I am kind of in love with this little show.

galavant-season-2

The music is the first thing that I fell for in this show. Alan Menken (yeah, the one who wrote the music for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors, etc…) writes the music and Glenn Slater (lyricist for Tangled) writes the lyrics. Their collaboration has given us such new gems as “A Happy Ending For Us,” “Together,” “Goodnight My Friend,” “We’re Off On A Secret Mission,” and “(Maybe You’re Not) The Worst Thing Ever.” Menken and Slater do comedy, plot advancement, and emotional resonance with equal deftness, and the talented cast sings everything beautifully.

One of the best things about Galavant is its perfectly cast ensemble of characters. Galavant walks a delicate balance between outright buffoonery and heartfelt emotion, and actors like Mallory Jansen, Karen David, Vinnie Jones, and the series MVP Timothy Omundson as King Richard (All Hail the King) sell the hell out of every joke, song, and tear-jerking scene that they’re given. Even when the material is weak, these actors bring a life and joy to it that is impossible to resist.

The show is also just hilarious. The comedy opportunities in a self-aware musical fairy tale are numerous, and the show is so creative in its use of space, characters, and cinematography. Galavant belts out the last note to a song and then immediately doubles over to catch his breath, panting “Whoo, that was a long song, I’m really out of shape.” Characters meet up in the Forest of Coincidence, where everything that they need is illogically available to them. Galavant’s squire leads an army of minor characters, shouting “Forces of the Second Season, charge!” The writers manage a neat trick of using self-referential humor without completely pulling the characters out of the reality of the show. For instance, a character remarks to a group that their storylines have been separated recently. It’s obviously an observation on the various plot threads that have been running through the season without overlapping very much, but it’s also a plausible observation from a character noticing that she hasn’t seen these people in a while. That extra touch of effort makes it even funnier when Princess Isabella proclaims “They’re invading us on January 31st at 8pm Eastern time, set your DVRs!”

If you’re a fan of musical comedy, epic fantasy, musical fantasy, or epic comedy, do yourself a favor and check out Galavant. Tad Cooper super believes in you.

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