Galavant: Left us wanting more than it should

As the final episode of Galavant (season 1?) wound down for the close, we looked at each other and burst into a “WHAT?” and “That can’t be it! What happens next?”

For the uninitiated, Galavant is a fantastical musical extravaganza set in the fictional world of knights, princesses, and evil kings. As you can probably guess, fourth wall breaks and anachronisms abound in the style of Mel Brooks and The Princess Bride. Our hero, Galavant, has laid himself low after his one true love decides to marry into royalty rather than live in squalor with the handsome knight, a move which sets up her character for the rest of the series. After the bad King Richard – a spitting image of King John from Disney’s Robin Hood: effeminate, needlessly cruel, but ultimately harmless – takes over the kingdom of Valencia, Princess Isabella escapes and looks for Galavant to be her country’s savior. But all is not what it seems.

My first impression of the series was that the casting was superb and diverse. Isabella, though “ethnically hard to pin down” in the show, is played by the talented Indian-British-Canadian actress Karen David. Galavant’s squire, Sid, is played by African-British actor Luke Youngblood, famous for his roles in Community and the Harry Potter movies. While Caucasians played the majority of the background and other main roles, I was happy to see such ethnically diverse characters as main recurring speaking roles.

The songs were incredibly entertaining, as written by the indomitable Alan Menken who has scored countless classic Disney movies. The only gripe I have about the songs is that they’re catchy but all mostly too short – I’d say, without actually timing them, that the average runtime of most songs was about a minute and a half to two minutes. Even the series’ main theme only lasts about two minutes. (Also, interestingly enough, they changed the lyrics to be a little more family-friendly)

As the show is on grounds for cancellation, here are my thoughts as to why it didn’t do so well and why it should absolutely be renewed.

  1. The writing outside of the musical numbers is weak and not very funny. I’m not sure if this is exactly the fault of the scriptwriters or if they were simply not given enough time or space to breathe, but I definitely found myself wishing for more musical numbers to forward the plot.
  2. The pacing is either really rushed (speaking parts) or dead stop (musical numbers). This is not the fault of the show being in a musical format, but rather that whoever was in charge preferred to give precedence to guest stars’ songs rather than give adequate runtime to plot- or character-related development. So instead of a nice, tight story in about a 3-hour runtime, which is more or less average for a stage musical, we have “a lot of random things happen with random people, possibly pointless, and a story that could have taken us 2 episodes to tell”. If the show had been a more-or-less normal show with 20-ish episodes, the pacing would have been fine, but instead we got pretty much all of the plot in the first and last episodes and then a little bit of character development and lots of cameos in between.
  3. While the casting is progressive, the story has been done before: effeminate villain, powerful psychopathic queen, gallant hero, and comedic sidekicks. Even Sid and Isabella get relegated to damsel-in-distress status in the last couple episodes as the other characters get more speaking time and active roles.
  4. While not exactly a negative thing, the format in which it was released was a bit strange. Even though its timeslot was an hour every Sunday, they were made as 2 separate 30-minute episodes shown back-to-back. I definitely think that threw off the pacing even more as writers were constrained to half-hour rather than full-hour episodes.

Despite all these, which are easy fixes, I definitely want the show to be renewed, even if it’s in an online-only format. The writers were pretty obviously expecting the show to be cancelled, as the last couple episodes got really cheeky and raunchy (which I think actually suits the tone of the show much better); the “downstairs uprising” subplot with the handmaiden and the chef was the absolute highlight of the last hour. The show started out with a lot of good and with some tweaks and format changes it could really hit its stride in the second season.

Let’s hope that someone at ABC sees its merits and vouches for its return.