I've reviewed the pilot of ABC's new medieval musical comedy GALAVANT, months ahead of its US premiere...
What's the background?
- GALAVANT is a medieval musical comedy with a fairy tale vibe, created by Dan Fogelman (The Neighbors), featuring songs composed by the renowned Alan Menken and Glenn Slater.
- This is a traditional Ye Olde England adventure, about a dashing hero called Galivant (Joshua Sasse) seeking revenge against the despicable King Richard (Timothy Omundson), who stole the heart of his beloved Madalena (Mallory Jansen) with promises of riches.
- Umm, let's see. It's promising that Alan Menken is composing songs for this TV series, because he's an Academy Award-winning talent responsible for hummable tunes in Disney hits like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Tangled, etc. He also scored Little Shop of Horrors.
- I quite liked Timothy Omundson's performance as the dastardly king, which was Kevin Kline-meets-Tim Curry. He seemed to be the only one having fun and treating the silly material with the right light-hearted approach and attitude. Then again, it's easier to play the baddie in crud like his.
- These episodes are mercifully brief half-hours, although the pacing is such that I was checking my watch halfway through.
- Everything else, pretty much. Considering it's touted as a musical there weren't many songs in this opener, and one as a reprise. None were catchy or lyrically clever enough to satisfy me, while the comedy was on the level of something an eight-year-old might giggle at. Until you remember that under-10s enjoy far more sophisticated entertainment at the movies these days. The dance choreography was also very uninspired and simply not good enough for a post-Glee world.
- It looked cheap and tacky, as if everything had been filmed at a medieval theme park when the crowds had gone home. I could have accepted they were aiming for a more artificial "picture book" look (close to a live-action pantomime), but the production rarely shifted from a few locations and consequently felt narrow in scope. Pilots are where the money's spent to try and impress execs to get a full commission, which doesn't bode well for the next seven episodes!
- Galavant only has an eight-episode order from ABC, but unless episode 2 is a total reinvention I don't hold out much hope. Not that I expected a hilarious musical spectacular, as this comes from the man behind woeful sci-fi TV comedy The Neighbors (no UK channel was masochistic enough to import it), and that horrendous Fred Claus film with Vince Vaughn.
- Anyone with low viewing standards, who trick themselves into believing Galavant is a winning mix of Shrek and a family-friendly Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It's not. It dreams of being 5% as entertaining as either of those. Its own characters are one-dimensional caricatures with no spark of life.
- Anyone with decent taste, or who's seen Spamalot! at the theatre and knows what a mediaeval musical comedy looks like. Heck, Ella Enchanted is better than this effort. Making a show like this is very hard and requires better writing, not Fogelman calling in a favour with Alan Menken (who composed Tangled, which he also wrote).
- With only one solid laugh (a good twist of genre convention early on), no musical earworms, and a general vibe of people making a kid's version of Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire with half-hearted song-and-dance numbers thrown in, I won't be revisiting Galavant. Off with its head!
- This will plug the gap when Once Upon a Time goes on mid-season hiatus for a few months in the US. At time of writing, no UK broadcaster has been dumb enough to buy it, despite the fact it has Lock, Stock's Vinnie Jones playing a thuggish guard (looking embarrassed his career's fallen to this new low).