Breaking the Rules Well: Galavant (TV Showcase #21)

Where do I even start with this show? I started watching it because it was advertised as a musical comedy, and since I love musicals, I decided to give it a whirl, and subsequently discovered this hidden gem of the small screen. There’s a ton to bring up from this show, as it goes against the grain of what most showrunners would consider to make up a good TV show. So, without any more confusion and delay, here’s what I think about “Galavant”.

“Galavant” started in 2015 and ran for 18 half-hour episodes over two seasons, ending (tentatively) in 2016. The show is about a medieval hero named Galavant, whose true love Madalena was forced by the evil King Richard (played by Timothy Omundson, aka Lasseter from “Psych”) to marry him. Richard has also taken over another kingdom, and Princess Isabella from said kingdom riles Galavant to go save Madalena and win back her kingdom. Galavant’s squire Sid joins the ride, and together they have a huge adventure, which becomes much more involved as the series progresses. Sounds a bit generic, so how does “Galavant” stand out from other comedy shows out there?

“Galavant” has managed to do something that no other show has really pulled off thus far. It’s a continuing saga, so in one 20-minute episode (without commercials), there’s plot advancement, character development, lots of comedy, and at least three full-length songs per episode. How this manages to come together continually astounded me episode by episode. The cast is huge, with many different storylines happening in tandem, and writing just one complete song would take up quite a few minutes, let alone three to five. And the music is fantastic (written by Alan Menken, responsible for the soundtracks of The Little Mermaid and Tangled, among others); it’s written extremely well, it’s funny, it works well with the characters’ conversations, and it keeps the audience from an information overload that can often happen in a continuing saga by taking a break to sing a song. This gives recently acquired information a chance to sink in, as the songs are funny but usually not progressive, requiring less attention. But this isn’t all that “Galavant” does that’s unusual.

The characters of “Galavant” have little to no concept of the fourth wall. For those less familiar with the world of drama, the fourth wall is the invisible wall that divides the performers from the audience. There are times in which breaking the fourth wall is a fun idea (like seeing a stage show and having a character walk through the aisles acknowledging audience members), but “Galavant” does it all the time. The characters practically know they’re in a show, pointing out the silliness of singing musical numbers, making pop culture references, and even parodying other movies and shows (like Les MiserablesWest Side StoryFiddler on the Roof, and “The Brady Bunch”, to name a few). Under normal circumstances, to abandon the fourth wall is a recipe for disaster, but “Galavant”‘s balance of when characters interact with their situations and when they become transcendent of them is perfectly maintained, giving a fantastic charm to the style of humour.

I asked a friend of mine to start watching the show with me, and he told me that he’s not into musicals. When asked why, he stated that he’s not musical, and that typically, the songs are overly cheery and cheesy, plus they don’t really pertain much to the story and are overall boring spots in an otherwise decent movie. But there’s so many songs in a musical that he doesn’t even want to bother sitting through them all. Now, I love songs in musicals, and I like how they enhance a film, but I totally get where he’s coming from. There’s no audience for that sort of thing anymore except for hardcore music and theater lovers. Especially not on TV. But this is where “Galavant” is different.

There’s lots of comedy and gags outside of the music, but the songs help move along a scene, or they literally just continue the humourous conversation that characters are having and take it to the extreme. The songs are story-specific (meaning singing them out of the context of “Galavant” won’t work), and they contain gags that are incredibly creative and original, because a song allows for movements and even dances that a simple dialogue would not. Plus, the songs are so well-written and arranged that once the song’s over, you hardly noticed that you just sat through a full musical number and thoroughly enjoyed it.

There’s lots more I could go into with this show, lots of details, the guest stars, the Easter eggs, but I’ll stop here. At the time of this writing, “Galavant” is waiting to see whether it’ll receive a surprise renewal (this is how season two got on the air) or if it’ll be cancelled. But either way, I’m happy with what I’ve seen. “Galavant” is an awesome example of how to demonstrate that a show knows the rules of TV and then tastefully breaking them. What do you think?

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