‘Schmigadoon!’ Season 2 Is Perfect for Anyone Who Thought the First Season Wasn’t for Them

Deep in Schmicago lies the heart of a season-length musical parody that gives its audience more to laugh with and latch onto.
TItuss Burgess Schmigadoon
Tituss Burgess in "Schmigadoon!"
Dean Buscher

Some people just want fundamentally different things from musicals. For those who want to see precision petticoat dancing and go home whistling a little ditty about vegetables, “Schmigadoon!” couldn’t have been more of a godsend. Made with the sun-drenched breeziness of a Technicolor classic from the first half of the 20th century, the show followed longtime couple Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) as they teetered on the edge of a breakup. But after spending some time in the magical, mythical world of Schmigadoon, some small-town wisdom from the locals helped them reframe their priorities and rekindle their love for each other. Lessons learned, smiles achieved.

“Schmigadoon!” Season 2 finds Josh and Melissa in a slightly different state. They’re married now, but something is a little off. Now finding themselves a second time in a mystical place at the end of a foggy bridge, their new temporary home of Schmicago has some slightly different surprises in store. Those new wrinkles make room for a little more darkness, a little more pizzazz, and an ambiance that goes beyond one-size-fits-most. The underlying formula is still generally the same, but used to different ends, swapping in the revolutionary history of ’70s Broadway as the base. With that slight tweak in approach, this “Schmigadoon!” Season 2 trip might actually have a better chance at reeling in fans who aren’t automatically sold just by the premise.

If there are times when the first “Schmigadoon!” season felt like a finely, lovingly crafted novelty, Season 2 takes that premise and makes a comedy with a wider scope. Schmicago is a place where flower children and bloodthirsty vengeance seekers and hotshot defense lawyers can all coexist under the same kind of flexible logic that made each piece of that source material work.

Schmigadoon Season 2 Apple TV Plus
“Schmigadoon!”Robert Falconer

It helps that “Schimgadoon!” isn’t just a rehash of an on-the-outs couple leaning on fantasies to help rescue their relationship. Yes, Josh and Melissa face the same “you can only leave if you figure out why you’re here” conundrum. But they’re newlyweds in more of a married-couple hiccup than a relationship at a crossroads. Where the first season was all about their path to a golden-age cheery sendoff, “Schmigadoon!” wisely finds a better balance between their relationship and the eventual outcome of the rest of the Schmicagoans.

“Schmigadoon!” Season 2 also has a fuller palette to draw from, not merely recreating a burst of candy-colored River City pastels. Gone is the need to stick to just the full tableau dance numbers of Schmigadoon, letting director Alice Mathias and choreographer Christopher Gattelli craft sequences that better take advantage of a fuller visual language to go along with them. There are rainbow-colored lens flares, a longer leash for snappier edits, and an embrace of a different storytelling rhythm in each of these company-wide dance numbers. Like the songs themselves, the series’ pacing and playfulness is working from a baseline and indulging its own flourishes where they’re best suited.

That ends up making a bigger contrast between the groovier Webber wing of ’70s musicals and the darker Kander/Ebb and Sondheim branch. (Not all of those legendary songwriters get dropped into the show’s self-aware dialogue, but keep your eyes open and you might just see them pop up nevertheless.) There was a certain charm to the comically idyllic Schmigadoon that counterbalanced Josh and Melissa’s stale partnership. Here, the overriding metaphor of Schmicago is less clean and tidy, something that not only fits with the shows it’s riffing on, but keeps the overall season from feeling less predetermined from the outset.

Schmigadoon Season 2 Jane Krakowski
Jane Krakowski in “Schmigadoon!”Robert Falconer

As for the songs, showrunner/songwriter Cinco Paul has a little less room here to stray from the stylistic signposts. The bulls-eye is a tad wider for a generic Rodgers and Hammerstein melody than “The Worst Pies in London.” The Season 2 sweet spot might just be the show-stopping numbers made for Jane Krakowski’s Bobbie (She’s playing a defense attorney, if that helps your bearings at all.) For crackling one-liners that both take aim and pay tribute to the thing they’re parodying, there are few performers on the planet better suited than Krakowski, who makes every punchline shimmer.

Whether in the book (the episode credited to Julie Klausner is a real standout) or the lyrics (Paul has multiple “song title reveal as joke” gems here), “Schmigadoon!” continues to stand alongside shows like “Documentary Now!” and “American Vandal” as shows that work on an inside baseball level and out of context, too. Tackling so many disparate musical inputs over the course of six episodes does leave parts of the plot feeling like a confusing goulash, but the show always have the added benefit of Josh and Melissa being able to call out when things get too convoluted. One other reason that “Schmigadoon!” Season 2 might be an easier jumping-on point is that Strong and Key are better at selling this brand of musical theater logic. The facial reactions are a few degrees sharper, the ironic winkiness is dialed a few notches back. Suddenly these are two characters who don’t have the knee-jerk reaction that they’re above being part of a throwback generation.

This new season gets just enough juice out of seeing the contrasts in the un-squeaky-clean roles played by returning Season 1 vets Aaron Tveit, Dove Cameron, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Jaime Camil, and Ariana DeBose. It’s another newcomer, Tituss Burgess, that emerges as the season’s most useful rudder. As The Narrator, Burgess sets the table for the premiere and each subsequent episode, switching off between dazzling song-closing belting and the wry smile of a tour guide with all the answers. Even when the metaphorical melody of the show resolves itself in expected ways, Burgess adds that dash of sinister mystery that wasn’t there during Josh and Melissa’s first go-round. “Schmigadoon!” is not a show that gets too far ahead of expectations, but Season 2 leaves room for a little extra magic to do.

The first two episodes of “Schimigadoon!” Season 2 are now available to stream on Apple TV+. New episodes will premiere on Wednesdays. 

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