Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe
All of the things that made 2014 terrible, particularly as the year neared its end, have been rehashed ad nauseum at this point, but it's safe to say that a lot of Americans entered the new year begging for some levity. What better than a "four-week comedy extravaganza" to slather all over our chapped sensibilities like a salve?
On Sunday night, ABC premiered the first hour-long installment of Galavant, an appealingly frivolous miniseries with knights, princesses, and jokes about boobs. And lots of singing.
Created by a guy who brought us a bunch of Disney movies, some with music (Tangled), others without (Cars), Galavant opens with an expository number—a sort of bawdy version of "Belle (Little Town)" from Beauty and the Beast —to introduce the titular character and company. In summary (you can hum this if you'd like), Galavant (Joshua Sasse) was an exceedingly brave knight with a reputation for the enormity of his "cojones" until his lady love, Madalena (Mallory Jansen), was taken against her will by bad guy King Richard (Timothy Omundson). In the tradition of The Princess Bride, etc, Galavant stormed the castle to rescue Madalena on her wedding day, only to discover that, given the option, she'd kind of rather stick with the king for the comfort that wealth affords. And so Galavant retreats into his own misery, packs on a few pounds, develops a drinking habit, and becomes a shell of the hero he used to be (or at least the one people believed he was).
Then a princess from another kingdom comes a-knocking on Galavant's door, ostensibly unaware that he's no longer the stuff of legend, to enlist his help in taking her kingdom back from the same mean King Richard who absconded with Madalena—and our journey is set into motion.
The show alternates between turning the medieval hero tale on its ear and milking each and every cliche for all its worth. But even for all its willful fatuity, it's smart. Madalena defies what it means to be a damsel in distress, and not just for the sake of it—there's insight into her motivation. Why'd she forsake true love for wealth? Well, because she was raised in poverty so extreme she was forced to kill and skin and eat her pet goat.
Galavant's biggest victory is that it's funny; the breakneck speed of the dialogue makes it feel pleasantly British (it's already been compared to Monty Python on more than one occasion). The childish, neurotic King Richard is given the best material to work with, and Timothy Omundson is up to the task and then some. Dissatisfied with his loveless, sexless marriage to Madalena, the king is counseled by his right-hand man, Gareth (Vinnie Jones), to "man up." King Richard attempts to protest, but gets distracted by a stain on his waistcoat: "Oh, poop, I've got gravy on my tummy flowers."
If there was anything egregious about the singing, dancing extravaganza, it was the sheer volume of commercials during the broadcast—seriously, there was a break after five minutes—and ABC's incessant plugging of its winter premieres, sung to the tune of Galavant's theme. But I suppose you can't blame the network: the savants at Deadline reported that the series got off to an impressive start, and I'll have to take them at their word since I don't understand how the ratings system works. Say what you will about television's nefarious ability to placate the masses—apparently sometimes we just want to laugh and watch people sing.
Galavant, Sundays at 8 PM on ABC