Galavant, Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2, “Pilot”/”Joust Friends”
January 4th, 2015, 8PM, ABC
Welcome to the world of medieval hijinx and bawdy humor that is Galavant! As encapsulated in the opening song, this is the story of the titular, famous, brave warrior and dragonslayer who falls in love (or at least lust) with the fair maiden Madalena. The twosome’s paradise is quickly brought to an end when she catches the eye of King Richard, who kidnaps Madalena and imprisons her in his castle in the hope of making her his bride. But when Galavant goes to rescue Madalena in the name of true love on her wedding day he discovers she’s picked power and money over their simple romance and wishes to become Richard’s Queen. Brokenhearted, the famous adventurer is humiliated by Richard and kicked out of the ceremony, all the while assuming that Madalena’s being forced to marry Richard against her will in spite of her speech to him.
One year later Gal’s taken up drinking and gluttony, and lies abed in his stone cottage in abject humiliation. This is how his worshipful squire Sid finds him when the Princess Isabella Lucia Maria Elizabetta of Valencia arrives to beg him to help her in her quest for vengeance. She hid in the cellar of her family’s palace as they were slaughtered quite literally over her head by King Richard’s men in the hope of gaining the kingdom’s treasure, a large emerald Madalena covets. But Isbaella’s father hid the jewel with his daughter, and she offers it to Galavant in the hope that he will help her battle back Richard’s men and help her save her people, castle and world. Galavant resists her entreaties – until he realizes that this is his best chance for revenge against Richard. And so, Isabella and Galavant, alongside Sid, soon take off on a quest to rid Valencia of Richard’s presence. Meanwhile, King Richard and Madalena have settled into a married life rife with adultery (Madalena, who’s sleeping with the castle’s jester and our narrator) and jealousy (Richard’s, for Madalena doesn’t hesitate to use Galavant and his reputation as a carrot to dandle before him and force him to do what she wishes. ) Madalena makes it clear that she requires the jewel for their relationship to continue happily, and thus is Richard set in pursuit of Gal and his team.
In “Joust Friends,” Jean Hamm, an arrogant and immature knight from Galavant’s past, resurfaces to challenge Galavant to a (duh) jousting match. Isabella and Gal train hard for the joust to better knock some of the rust from Gal’s suit of armor – but ultimately end up working him so hard that his muscles stiffen up, leaving him frozen on horseback. Will he be able to successfully defeat Jean in the world’s slowest jousting match? Meanwhile, Gareth tries to tutor Richard in the ways of manliness to better help the king seduce his queen, and Madalena and Richard struggle to find some sense of common ground even though they’re repulsed by one another.
Galavant is perhaps the most daring show ABC’s greenlit in awhile. A musical sitcom with parodic humor, an actual heart and elaborate set pieces, it’s quite the odd fit for their current Sunday line-up of sudsy women-centered dramas. ABC’s decision to place it in Once Upon A Time’s timeslot doesn’t feel properly advantageous; while it’s the sort of fantasy piece that used to thrive on ABC in this timeslot across the decades it’s not a good match for the much more serious world OAT has mined for ratings gold. Perhaps it would have thrived on a Saturday, or worked better nestled closer to other fantasy programming. One could imagine it becoming a cult favorite on the WB in other circumstances.
While many have compared the tone of Galavant to Monty Python’s Spamalot, the show takes its influences from many different places; it carries the naughty humor of Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men In Tights (and his earlier “When Things Were Rotten”), the sprightly and silly songs of the Broadway hit Once Upon a Mattress (You can hear head composer Alan Menken tossing in little winks and nods to his other Disney composing work, specifically Beauty and the Beast), and the rootable characters in silly circumstances that The Princess Bride offered. In these early episodes it’s hard to tell if the show will break away from these roots and become its own program, but for now it’s an entertaining show, and that’s enough.
The set pieces and choreography are lovely, and several pieces of music are insidiously catchy. Of our crop of performers, the real standouts are Joshua Sasse as our titular hero, Timothy Omundson’s King Richard – whose behavior feels like a cute wink and nod toward that of Disney’s Robin Hood’s animated King Richard – and Vinnie Jones. Jones in particular is a revelation, his performance as man-at-arms Gareth showing surprising comedic chops. The show has earwormy songs and a lot of charm and actor chemistry going for it.
And yet the show remains a confoundingly odd duck; too ribald to be a family sitcom, too song-filled to be seen as your average ABC sitcom, not serious enough for the Game of Thrones crowd, too serious for the parody crowd. And the humor’s not quite all there. But by the time Madalena and Richard and Isabella and Gal sang a song about being not-quite-as-repulsed by one another as they once were, I surrendered to its charms and just kept chuckling out loud. Much like fungus, Galavant grows on you and gets you grinning. There are flaws in its armor, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t sit and watch it with the biggest damn grin on my face.
- Several members of Galavant’s cast are well-known character actors. Most prominent among them is Timothy Omundson, who appeared regularly on Judging Amy, portrayed Eli on Xena and Cain on Supernatural, and is perhaps best-known for his eight-season run as Head Detective Carlton Lassiter on USA’s Psych. Vinnie Jones is a former Ultimate Fighter who’s made his trade as a b-movie action and horror star since retiring from the sport; Mallory Jansen appeared on the show Baby Daddy, and Karen David was a regular on the British serial Waterloo Road.
- As stated above, the music for the series was written by Alan Menken, one of Disney’s star composers, who won Oscars for his work on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin .
- By the third time that Wednesday sitcom promo aired I started yearning for earplugs. I actually yelled ‘enough’ when the Fresh off The Boat promo aired. PLEASE STOP THE CORPORATE SYNERGY.
- Yes, there is a kingdom named ‘Winterfell’ within the world of Galavant. Sharpen your pencils and start writing that crossover fanfiction now!
- And that is John Stamos pulling out a surprisingly successful British accent as Jean Hamm.
- Okay, I admit it – I laughed the loudest at the 80s slow-mo training montage.
- Next Week: King Richard throws a ball, the gang finds out Sid’s been lying to them about his past and Sid, Isabella and Galavant must learn to work together to reach the conclusion they seek in “Two Balls” And “Comedy Gold”, respectively.
Giddy, wicked, sweet and surprisingly touching in spots, Galavant is one oddball of a treat. There are some obvious problems with the show’s structure – mainly an imbalance of tone that needs to be corrected. But the pilot provides a nice – and very addictive - starting point. Now to see if the show will live beyond its four-week ‘special event’ billing…