Watching ABC’s new series “Galavant,” created by Dan Fogelman, inspires a lot of questions in a curious mind. Such as: What? Wait, really? ABC, really? ABC, have you tested your buildings lately for a potential gas leak? Because ABC, a gas leak would go a long way towards explaining this.
That’s the experience of watching the first episode. Because “Galavant” is a half-hour comedy, set in generic medieval times, where the best-known actor in the regular cast is Vinnie Jones (you know, the former soccer player from the Guy Ritchie movies), and it also happens to be a musical featuring original music. (Name the last successful series that was a straight musical. Sorry, “Glee” doesn’t count, and neither does “Smash.”)
“Galavant,” in short, is weird as hell. It is light and fluffy, earnest while also not skimping on post-modern charm, like “The Princess Bride” but with singing and dancing and slightly more candy-coating. Which is probably how it was pitched at ABC, along with big loud reminders about how fairy tales are cool because of the network’s long-running “Once Upon A Time.”
So when you consider “Once Upon A Time,” it’s easy to believe that ABC was probably not high on gas fumes when “Galavant” was greenlit. (Probably.) But when you look at current television trends — the existence of “Galavant” makes basically no sense.
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That’s until you’ve watched several episodes, because once you get used to it… Well. “Galavant” is perhaps most watchable thanks to the fact that there isn’t anything like it on TV right now, and likely never will be replicated. Beyond that, it’s silly but fun — rare enough in this world.
The premise is actually pretty simple and self-contained: There’s this swashbuckling sort of guy, Galavant (Joshua Sasse), who wants to reclaim his true love Madalena (Mallory Jansen) from the evil King Richard (Timothy Omundson). He has a loyal squire named Sid (Luke Youngblood) and a potential ally in the mysterious Isabella (Karen David), who join with him to sing and dance their way through some fictional kingdoms. There are a few twists and turns along the way, but it’s a show that proves to be more about the clever moment or silly character beat than anything serious or substantial.
There’s technically nothing wrong with that — and “Galavant’s” unique quality do give it real value in a relatively bleak or homogenous landscape. It’s also notably young-skewing as shows go, especially in a television world which favors the dark and/or salacious. It might in fact be a legitimately family-oriented show, for which families these days, I’m sure, seem starved.
The guest stars are for sure worth noting, as it’s an eclectic bunch ranging from John Stamos to Ricky Gervais to Hugh Bonneville — and it’s a kick to see Youngblood (best known as minor “Community” guest star Magnitude) prove his ability to deliver lines beyond “POP POP!”
And the music is pretty fun! The pilot’s primary tune about Galavant goes from catchy to an inescapable earworm pretty quickly, but that’s primarily a problem because the pilot’s primary tune gets repeated constantly over the course of that first half-hour. Thankfully, future episodes feature new tunes written by Alan Menkin (winner for countless awards after decades of writing the music for Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin” and more), which are equally charming.
ABC scheduled “Galavant” to premiere the last day of the Christmas holiday, with two episodes running every Sunday for the next several weeks — not necessarily a strategy that indicates a lot of confidence in the series (even if the move was spun as letting the series bridge the gapuntil the midseason premiere of “Once Upon a Time”). But it’s no generic family sitcom or ultraheavy political drama. It’s unique. And that makes it, ultimately, the sort of television it’s exciting to see get made.
Even if I’m still holding onto my theory about the gas leak.