Last night turned out to be a full evening of television watching, which beyond Grease Live! also included the two-part season finale of Galavant. Now, yes, I know full-well that Galavant isn't a series for everyone. But it's something I like, and it's also something I particularly admire, a TV show trying something totally different, when "totally different" is not the life blood of television.
I enjoyed the show much more this year than last. I liked it last year, but it had a very thin main plotline, which was basically a band of adventurers making their way to the castle to track down a kidnapped princess. There was another sub-plot at the castle itself, but there was a lot of waiting for the two stories to collide The show from writer Dan Fogelman had very funny and bright dialogue, but seemed to be trying to find itself. It never seemed quite sure what would work best in a show so uncommon for TV -- a musical satire of an epic medieval adventure. The comic songs by Alan Mencken and Glenn Slater were the best part, but even they didn't seem fully sure of what their tone and focus should be. How far should the parody go?
This year, after their surprise renewal (which they sang about repeatedly) everyone seemed to have a much better sense of what worked.
At the heart of it all, making things better significantly, this year they had several storylines going on, and each was enjoyable. The main Galavant/King Richard storyline was a great deal of fun. Not only was their new buddy-relationship and rapport so good on their quest, but the King Richard character (played magnificently by TImothy Omundson, who I think stole the season) had a separate couple of subplots of his own -- his personal growth from wimpy foolish king who'd lost his kingdom (literally, his castle being taken apart and the bricks used elsewhere) into a lost soul trying to mature and have a purpose in life, and he also got a love story after meeting up with a woman who'd been childhood friend.
Here's a song relating to that, where Galavant (Joshua Strasse) tries to get the clueless Richard to realize that Roberta (Clare Foster) is in love with him and what he should do about it.
Among the other plots this year, Princess Isabella (played by Karen David) had her own separate storyline, as well -- in fact, several. Being held a prisoner by her very young cousin, having a spell cast on her by the evil Wormwood, and after escaping leading an army to regain her crown.
The character of Magadelna (Mallory Jensen) got a chance to expand from being a damsel forced to marry a king (though finding she likes the power) into becoming Queen and reveling in her new-found authority -- and falling in love, to her surprise, with the brutal henchman Gareth (played by Vinnie Jones). And Gareth, who had little to do last year other than be threatening, this year became a king who amusingly finds he has a heart, while still setting out to demolish his enemies.
And Galvant's squire Sid (played by Luke Youngblood, always complaining that he never gets to finish a song) even got a small storyline of his own, centering around him accidentally killing Galvant and then trying to get redemption after the hero is fortunately brought back to life with a potion.
There were some other subplots, as well, including a fun turn by Robert Lindsay (who starred on Broadway some years back in the hit musical, Me and My Girl) as the evil wedding planner who continually plots for power.
Through all these stories, the sheer number of which was a major improvement, there was also a tone where the parody was much more pronounced, knowing what it was making fun of and why. And this year there wasn't a hesitance of how far the parody could go, but everything was fair game." Generally what was parodied the most and far better this year were the conventions of epic knight errant adventures, as well as the conventions of television and show itself.
That held for the songs, as well, perhaps even more so. Enjoyable as the songs were last year, this season they were at a higher level, almost consistently wonderful. Part of that was by making them more self-referential, which allowed for larger targets of the humor, and part was making them more a parody of existing Broadway numbers. (For instance, a battle in a field between giants and dwarves -- who turned out to be the same, normal height as everyone -- was done as a street fight between the Jets and Sharks from West Side Story.) Alan Mencken's music was joyful, but Glenn Slater's lyrics especially were sharp, funny and filled with clever rhymes.
Or this song from Galavant's squire who has roused a totally incompetent band of peasants to join in arms hopelessly against a huge professional army, in a noble but insanely fruitless battle sure to cause all their deaths, which is clearly inspired by "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from Les Miserables.
In the finale last night, there was a wonderful "recap" song , which I have been able to find yet. Hopefully it'll be available. It used the wonderful, main theme music from last year -- which the show made great fun of this year by largely avoiding it, since it got sung so much last year -- and in two minutes, explained everything that had gone on during the entire season. That let to one of my favorite couplets --
"Gosh, so much to dump upon your door mat
In a half-hour sitcom format."
And in the reprise later after everything got resolved in a happy ending (which they chided themselves for not doing last year, which had concluded unsatisfyingly on a cliff-hanger), they sang about whether they'll get another surprising renewal next year, and if not --
"Now, we'll prob'ly have to go and get work
On some cheap-ass cable network."
The season was not without flaws. Galavant's quest is near-identical to last year, just a different damsel. The "mistaken communication" between Galavant and Isabella wasn't terribly interesting and didn't really play out. An important issue of an army having no equipment got ignored for convenience's sake. And a few other things. But generally, the season worked very well and was great fun. And though it does seem a long-shot that the show won't get picked up for a third season, I do hope so, because they showed they have a much firmer grasp on how to make Galavant work and be a lot of fun.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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