created by Dan Fogelman
(ABC, 2015-16)

I just found this series on Netflix, and already its home network, ABC, has canceled it.

After only two seasons, too. Sigh. Well, it still got more than Firefly.

Galavant is a quirky medieval musical -- yes, musical -- that has a lot of fun playing up the tropes, gnashing through the scenery and occasionally breaking the fourth wall. It's a hoot and a half, made for laughs more than mayhem, but it still gives the occasional nod to Game of Thrones just because.

The series focus is the knight Sir Galavant (Joshua Sasse), who is the hero of stories and songs (mostly songs, because it's a musical) until his One True Love, the beautiful Madalena (Mallory Jansen), is stolen away by the evil King Richard (Timothy Omundson). In the first episode, Galavant rides to save her, only to find that she rather enjoys the luxurious lifestyle that comes with being queen. Broken-hearted, Galavant leaves a broken man ... until he and his stalwart squire Sid (Luke Youngblood) are stirred to action by the plight of the displaced Princess Isabella (Karen David), who is Galavant's One True Love, and ... wait, no, that can't be right.

OK, never mind, the story is a little convoluted, and it's too much to map out here without giving it all away. Let's just say that Galavant goes on a Hero's Journey, Richard finds his true path, bruiser/bodyguard Gareth (Vinnie Jones) finds there's more to life than violence, Wormwood (Robert Lindsay) plots to overthrow a kingdom and plans a really lavish wedding, Madalena discovers her true nature, and even some of the castle staff -- the chef (Darren Evans), jester (Ben Presley) and maid (Sophie McShera) -- find some measure of happiness.

The show also boasts an impressive selection of guests, most of whom make only one or two appearances over the course of the series. Among the most notable are "Weird Al" Yankovic as a singing monk, Kylie Minogue as the queen of the Enchanted Forest (a gay bar), Anthony Head as Galavant's father, Ricky Gervais as the calming mystic Xanax, Rutger Hauer as Richard's brother Kingsley, Nick Frost as Andre (a giant), Simon Callow as Edwin the Magnificent, Hugh Bonneville as the pirate king and John Stamos as Jean Hamm.

The series is, of course, a musical, and so it lives or dies by its music. The team in charge of the memorable sound is Alan Menken, best known for his work with Disney, along with composer Christopher Lennertz and lyricist Glenn Slater. They have the chops, and the team isn't afraid to borrow here or there; as you listen you'll hear notes that draw their inspiration from sources as diverse as Fiddler on the Roof, Grease, Hamilton and Les Miserables.

More importantly, the songs are catchy -- especially the hero's recurring theme song -- and some of them will stick in your head.

Let's be honest, a lot of the humor is silly, at times even sophomoric, but it's of a good-hearted sort that will make you chuckle all the same. It's not Game of Thrones, nor does it strive to be; Galavant is fun ear- and eye-candy with likable characters and an interesting, meandering plot. Think The Princess Bride meets -- well, pick a musical. At worst, it's a pleasant distraction, but I'm betting you'll actually enjoy yourself if you watch.

And, let's be honest again, it's better than much of the dreck that somehow gets renewed year after year on network TV. ABC, what were you thinking?

review by
Tom Knapp

28 January 2017

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