Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Galavant 1.01: "Pilot"

“Actually, I don’t know. I’ve been thinking a lot about it ever since he kidnapped me, and I’m going to go with the fame and fortune.”

“Galavant” was by far my most anticipated new show of the 2014-2015 season. I think ABC’s idea to make it a limited-run event for a month in the winter is perfect. This show is to quirky to be sustainable over your typical 22 episode American television season, but for four weeks, it may just do well enough for ABC to commission another adventure for Galavant and his friends to broadcast next winter. “Galavant” combines many things I greatly enjoy. There’s the goofy medieval theme, in the tradition of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” or “Spamalot.” There’s music composed by Alan Menken, of “Little Shop of Horrors” and too many Disney moves to count fame. And there’s Tim Omundsen, until now best known for his role as Detective Carlton Lassiter on “Psych.” While I wouldn’t say that the pilot invoked the “insta love” feeling I was hoping for (like “Pushing Daisies”), it and the following episode were a perfectly enjoyable way to spend an hour, and I will be happy to write about this charming little show for the next month.

Through a catchy tune that we eventually learn is sung by the court jester, we learn the background of Galavant’s current sorry predicament. Sir Galavant (Joshua Sasse) was once the most celebrated knight, but that all ended when King Richard (Tim Omundsen) kidnapped his girlfriend, Madalena (Mallory Jansen). Galavant rides in heroically to try and stop King Richard’s wedding to Madalena, but he’s in for an unpleasant surprise. He gives a big speech about how King Richard may have fame and fortune, but he, Galavant, is the one who truly loves Madalena. Madalena, however, has decided that she’d rather have the fame and fortune. Galavant is crushed. When we next see him, he is basically living in a pig sty, and he’s let his once famous abs go by drinking too much beer.

When Galavant is at his low point, Princess Isabella of Valencia (Karen David) walks into his life. She has heard about his achievements, and she wants his help to save her kingdom. She is willing to give Galavant the Jewel of Valencia, her kingdom’s priceless asset, in exchange for his help. Galavant, however, isn’t really interested. He got out of the hero business after Madalena broke his heart. Isabella, for her part, finds Galavant to be pretty gross. She eventually tells him the story of how she hid under the floor of the throne room of her family’s castle in Valencia, and she only revealed herself when her parents were about to be killed. Galavant still isn’t especially interested until Isabella reveals that the conqueror of her kingdom is none other than King Richard.

While Galavant doesn’t know the true story of what happened to Isabella, we viewers get to see it. King Richard was in Valencia mostly because Madalena wanted the Jewel, and King Richard desperately wants her approval. King Richard certainly has a sadistic streak (four generations of chefs have been killed by Richard and his ancestors for small transgressions), but Madalena brings out the worst in him. She’s very manipulative, and she gets whatever she wants just by mentioning Galavant. King Richard understandably can’t stand Galavant, because his wife keeps making the comparison. Madalena, also understandably, is disgusted by King Richard. He did kidnap her and all. But it doesn’t seem like she actually likes much of anything other than herself. I think Galavant dodged a bullet with that one.

Anyway, back to Isabella, what she doesn’t tell Galavant is that when King Richard discovered her hiding under the floor, he set a plan in motion. He wants the Jewel of Valencia for Madalena, but he’s playing a long game. In exchange for sparing her parents’ lives, King Richard wants Isabella to go find Galavant and offer him the Jewel in exchange for freeing her kingdom. He instructs her to strategically let it slip that King Richard is the one who conquered her kingdom. Then he tells her to let Galavant know that she constantly heard Madalena crying “I’m sorry Gal, I made the wrong choice.” The plan works exactly as King Richard predicted. As soon as Isabella starts talking about Madalena, Galavant is all in. He wants to defeat King Richard once and for all and win Madalena back.

As you’d expect, since the composer was Alan Menken, the music was a highlight for me. The main “Galavant” theme is super catchy. ABC decided to promo all their shows by singing about them to the theme, though, so I got kind of tired of it by the end of Sunday night. King Richard also has a very funny song in this episode about how much he hates Galavant and wants to kill him. If you’ve previously seen Tim Omundsen’s musical talents in Psych credit sequence routines, you can guess that this number was a lot of fun. Omundsen is a reasonably good singer, although I think the real vocal standouts were Joshua Sasse and Ben Presley (the Jester). The lyrics to the music are all irreverent and quirky, courtesy of Glenn Slater, who also collaborated with Menken on Disney’s “Tangled.”

All of the performers in “Galavant” seem to be having a great time with their roles, which makes watching the show enjoyable. They all play their parts with tongue firmly in cheek. I don’t think a show like this could work if it took itself too seriously. There are singing and dancing knights, after all! Tim Omundsen especially seems to be having the time of his life. He hams it up as King Richard like nobody’s business. Even the actors in the more serious roles in the show play every scene like they can’t believe their good fortune. I always feel that when the creative team and actors behind a show are having a good time, that comes out on screen and makes the show itself more fun to watch.

While I think the quirk of “Galavant” (which makes it something I really enjoy watching) makes it unsustainable for a typical 22 episode American television, I think it’s going to be a very fun month of January. I’m going to enjoy all the singing knights, Alan Menken music, and Tim Omundsen hamming it up that I can get. Since the ratings from the first night (which featured two half hour episodes, the second of which I will blog about within the next few days) were decent, I would really love if ABC would order a second limited run adventure for next winter. For now, though, I’m going to enjoy what we’ve got, and I suggest you do the same.

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