Galavant series premiere recap: ABC's medieval musical premieres
Spoiler alert: EW loves Galavant—so much so that multiple writers wanted to take a stab at recapping it. Which is why resident musical-philes Hillary Busis and Esther Zuckerman decided to do a tag-team discussion of the fluffy comedy’s first episode.
HILLARY: Let’s talk about a show
That takes place long ago
A weirdo musical called Galavant
The jokes are kinda lame
But even all the same
I’m finding that I do like Galavant!
ESTHER: I didn’t think I would
But maybe now I could
Want a second season of Galavant!
Sometimes it sort of sucks
It won’t make big big bucks
But there’s a kind of charm to Galavant!
HILLARY: Let’s back up. Galavant is about 60 percent Robin Hood: Men in Tights, 30 percent The Princess Bride, and 10 percent Smash, meaning it is basically the perfect television series (if you, like me, are… me).
ESTHER: I’d throw some Spamalot/Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and The Court Jester into the mix, too. (Literally, there’s a rhyme in one song that’s an exact replica of one in The Court Jester, a movie I have obviously watched way too much.)
HILLARY: The songs, by Tangled duo Glenn Slater and Alan Menken, are catchy (it’s so hard to keep myself from writing the rest of this review as lyrics to the show’s title tune); the jokes, as mentioned before, are silly and bawdy and often kind of quaintly terrible, in a very appealing way; the performers are clearly having a great time, particularly Timothy Omundson as wicked Prince Humperdick—er, I mean, King Richard—and smiley Luke Youngblood (a.k.a. MAGNITUDE) as the title character’s loyal squire.
If you love musicals, especially the nudge-nudge wink-wink meta-sort that have become common on Broadway over the past few decades, you’ll certainly be won over by this series’ throwback charm and gentle fourth wall breaking. If you don’t, well, why are you reading this recap to begin with?
I sense, though, that you may not be not quite as much of a Galavant cheerleader as me, Esther. How could that possibly be?
ESTHER: Perhaps because the show seems like a stew of medieval comedy classics with some network-TV-safe innuendo thrown in, I was predisposed to dislike it. But it did grow on me over the first two episodes. The songs aren’t particularly original or clever, but at least one is ridiculously catchy—the “Galavant” refrain from the first number keeps popping into my head.
So let’s meet Galavant, shall we? He’s a sexy dude hooking up with the pretty Madalena. It seems like true, “as you wish”-style love until Madalena is kidnapped by King Dick to be his bride. In the opening number, we see Galavant galloping off to rescue his maiden—only to learn that she doesn’t really want to be rescued. (She’d rather have fame and fortune over the true love stuff.) Madalena kind of sucks—but we soon realize that Galavant sucks, too. Right?
HILLARY: If by “sucks” you mean “is basically a depressive, alcoholic Gaston gone to seed,” then yes, I agree—Galavant himself “sucks.”
After being spurned by his twue wuv, Gal retreats into a gross 13th-century man-cave, gains weight (supposedly—the show doesn’t try too hard to make post-humiliation Joshua Sasse look any heavier or more unkempt), and spends his days gnawing on turkey legs and brooding—until the beautiful Princess Isabella Maria Lucia Elizabeta of Valencia shows up to drop a quest right into his lap.
So Galavant itself will be a redemption story, along the same lines as, oh, a billion other TV shows and movies—but the anachronism-filled medieval setting, PG-13-rated humor, and tunes help to keep it from feeling totally tired. As does the pilot’s big twist: The princess is actually in cahoots with Richard, who intends to lure Galavant to him so that he can kill the guy once and for all. Did you see that part coming?
ESTHER: I didn’t, only because I maybe underestimated Galavant as a show. And the reveal is actually executed in a nicely subtle way, via flashbacks that gradually make us realize Princess Isabella Maria Lucia Elizabeta is not exactly telling the truth to Galavant. This twist also gives the princess a nice edge. (Though I have to say, Karen David’s singing voice seems at the outset to be the weakest of the show’s leads—but that’s another subject altogether.)
Everyone on this show is sort of a pleasant jerk, acting for his or her own self interest—which brings me back to Madalena, who I think I’ll like more and more for her wonderful bitchiness as the series continues. She leaves the king with blue balls!
HILLARY: Totally! Why is this show villainizing a woman for going after what she wants? Maybe a medieval wench can have it all! (You know, a castle, a husband who dotes on her even though she’s awful to him, and a hot little jester on the side).
Speaking of which: Jester Narrator definitely has the most accomplished voice we’ve heard so far, and I hope Galavant gives him plenty of occasions to show it off.
ESTHER: Yes! All for more of the Jester side piece. But leaving him aside for a moment, Timothy Omundson as King Richard is definitely the cast’s standout—in the pilot, at least. He gets the other big production number in episode 1, a ditty about all the ways he wants to maim Galavant. There’s dancing. It’s delightful.
HILLARY: It is—except part of me couldn’t help wishing this show had been written in the ’80s so that Tim Curry could’ve played this part.
ESTHER: Oh, fair. Or that John Cleese had just done it.
HILLARY: Which, really, is our way of pointing out that Galavant may have the same basic problem plaguing several Disney properties lately (coughONCE UPON A TIMEcough)—the bad guys are a lot more interesting and fun than the good guys, at least at this early juncture. Though maybe making Galavant a comeback kid instead of a handsome, cardboard hero will help temper that.
ESTHER: Yes, Galavant’s drunken, wallow-y ways actually make him more appealing as a character, if not as a potential boyfriend. I hope his transformation back to his old self doesn’t happen too quickly. Even though, alas, we’ve only got eight episodes of the show.
HILLARY: And another one to talk about tonight! So let’s move on to Part 2 of Galavant: The Stamos-ing. First, though, I’d like to ask you to name your personal pick for the pilot episode’s best-worst rhyming couplet. For me, it’s a dead heat between “adventure/butt-clencher” and “twist ’em/reproductive system.”
ESTHER: Oh, “butt-clencher” was definitely going to be there for me. “Pride/genocide..al war” is also notable.
HILLARY: Not to mention the “perfection/erection” fake-out. Somewhere, Mel Brooks is knitting his fingers together and smiling.