I like to think that I have a pretty firm grasp on what I like and don’t like; for someone who spends as much time as I do consuming and talking about pop culture, I should have finely tuned instincts about what is going to appeal to me and what isn’t. I generally do – nine times out of ten if I think I’m going to dislike something my impulses are correct – but it’s those few times that I’m wrong that prompt me to take a chance on things that don’t appear to be in my wheelhouse. It’s really a win-win proposition for me – either I don’t like it and I’m right (and I certainly do enjoy being right) or I’m pleasantly surprised by something that I didn’t expect to enjoy. It’s those few undiscovered nuggets of pop culture that keep me trying new things, since I don’t always know when I’ll find something fun in an unexpected place.
Now on paper, the idea of ABC’s Galavant does not sound like a show that would be Heather-approved: a musical comedy set in the Middle Ages sounds a little too hokey for my usual comedy tastes. I like my jokes to be smart and drier and this sounded way too silly and earnest for my dark sensibilities. But the show boasts some pretty good guest stars (Ricky Gervais, Weird Al) and it is a limited run of eight episodes, so my investment was pretty minimal and I decided to DVR it to see what it was about. Early buzz on Twitter from television critics that I follow was not great, so my expectations were pretty low.
So I have to say that I was pretty surprised that Galavant tickled me as much as it did; the humor is very silly and I’m not going to go so far as to say that it’s a great show, but I was fairly amused during the first two episodes that aired Sunday night. The jokes are self-aware enough and sometimes a little dirty (though OK for kids – a lot is implied or will go over their heads). I may have even laughed out loud a few times. Don’t tell anyone. I’ll lose my membership in the “serious comedy” club. The cast is universally good and the songs are darn catchy – I’ve found myself humming one of the tunes hours after I’ve watched the show. Galavant isn’t must-see TV but it so far it has proved to be a fun little diversion.
The show quickly dispenses with the back story in the first song of the series: Galavant (Joshua Sasse) and Madalena (Mallory Jansen) are in love. Madalena is kidnapped by King Richard (the spectacular Timothy Omundson), who is taken by her beauty and wants her to be his wife. Galavant sets out to free his lady love before the wedding is to take place. When he arrives, things don’t go exactly as planned, which sets in motion the remainder of the story. The show also stars Vinnie Jones as Gareth, King Richard’s muscle, Luke Youngblood (Community’s Magnitude *pop pop*) as Galavant’s squire Sid and Karin David who plays another princess that requests Galavant’s assistance.
Galavant is kind of like a musical version of The Princess Bride, if The Princess Bride was just a tad sillier, yet was in on its own silliness. The jokes are fairly broad and they don’t always land, but there are enough other jokes that are meta in nature or that are clever to outnumber the occasional dud. I don’t know if I was just in the right mood for it or not, but even some of the sillier and punnier jokes made me giggle; for instance, John Stamos plays a knight by the name of Jean Hamm. I have no idea why that pun cracked me up as much as it did, but probably best not to examine it too closely. I like that the show is in on the jokes – during one song, they own up to if the story line doesn’t go the way everyone thinks it is going to go, there won’t be much left to the plot. The jokes aren’t as self-referential or sophisticated as they are on a show like Arrested Development, Archer or Community, but I wasn’t expecting anything of that caliber. Any show that acknowledges the ridiculousness of a training montage is A-OK in my book. Galavant was fun and that was enough for me.
Timothy Omundson steals the show as the clueless King Richard; without Gareth and his armies to back him up, the infantile King wouldn’t have any power at all. King Richard feels very much cut from the same cloth as Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Omundson is really terrific in the role. I like the other actors just fine, but when Omundson is on screen Galavant really comes to life. He can sell the silliness like nobody as can. Joshua Sasse is easy on the eyes as Galavant (see GIF below) and does a nice job in the role, but the reason to tune in is Omudson’s King Richard.
It plays in this show’s favor that this is a limited run series; not only is it worth taking a chance on since it is only eight episodes (airing back-to-back episodes over four weeks), but I don’t know how long this premise or format could ultimately sustain itself. Of course, ABC is determined to run this into the ground even with its short run, by having the commercials for other ABC shows also done as songs during Galavant’s time slot. This started off as cute, but quickly got pretty annoying, especially since shows like Revenge shouldn’t have a jaunty little ditty used to advertise them. It just doesn’t fit. Plus there is plenty of singing in Galavant itself; having the commercials also done in a similar style taxes my limitations of the genre. I hope they abandon this idea next week.
A good cast, generally smart but silly humor, catchy songs and low expectations all combined to make Galavant a very fun viewing experience. I was doubtful after the first few minutes, but the show ultimately won me over and I’m looking forward to new episodes on Sunday. It’s nothing more than a trifle, but I don’t think it’s setting out to be anything more than that. If its premise and jokes hit you the right way, it’s an entertaining little show that’s worth a look. It won’t change your life, but it will probably make you chuckle a few times and you’ll find yourself singing “Galavant” for days afterward (if anyone knows how to make that stop, let me know). For a post-holiday series that a network is burning off pretty quickly, it’s worth you taking the 22 minutes to check out an episode. If you liked Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Galavant might be right up your alley.
Galavant airs back-to-back episodes on Sunday nights at 8 pm (ET).