Give ABC credit for trying something different with “Galavant,” a medieval musical comedy from writer Dan Fogelman, who previously wrote the screenplay for Pixar-Disney’s “Cars” and executive produced the polarizing ABC comedy “The Neighbors.”
Odds are “Galavant” will receive a mixed reception, too. Fans of slapstick comedy, Mel Brooks movies and Broadway musicals may be more inclined to check this one out.
With music by Alan Menken (“The Little Mermaid”) and lyrics by Glenn Slater (“Tangled”), “Galavant” definitely serves up some toe-tapping musical numbers in Sunday’s premiere episode as viewers meet dashing hero Galavant (Joshua Sasse) before he loses lady love Madalena (Mallory Jansen) to evil-but-wimpy King Richard (Timothy Omundson, “Psych”).
“By all the stars above, I’ll save my one true love,” Galavant sings. “I shall not be denied, until she is by my side.”
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But things take a turn when the fairy-tale ending Galavant — and viewers — expect gets thwarted by King Richard’s kidnapping of Madalena and her decision to stay with him when given the chance to be liberated.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about it ever since he kidnapped me, and I’m gonna go with the fame and fortune,” Madalena says, breaking Galavant’s heart. “Seems like an easier life.”
Galavant plunges into depression and declares himself “out of the damsel-in-distress business” until Princess Isabella of Valencia (Karen David) shows up and begs for his help, which would also involve revenge against King Richard, whom she says has stormed her kingdom and taken her family hostage.
By the end of the first half-hour episode, Galavant is ready to get back in the saddle, but the show quickly succumbs to the pressures of the limited time to produce a TV series. It takes a long time to get Broadway musicals right, and writing a new “Spamalot” on a weekly basis may just be impossible.
The songs in subsequent episodes are more forgettable, less likely to become earworms, and the plot advances at a snail’s pace as Galavant’s quest to attack King Richard — and the slow-tease revelation of Isabella’s secret — grind on.
It also does the show a disservice to air more than one episode each week; it makes “Galavant” more of a slog; of course, there are no comedies on ABC that seem like naturals to pair it with.
References to “Game of Thrones” are scattered throughout, and there are a few fun guest stars to spot — John Stamos as “Jean Hamm” in Episode 2; Hugh Bonneville (“Downton Abbey”) as a landlocked pirate king in a future episode with the best songs aside from the pilot.
The series does try to develop its characters, but “Galavant” never quite finds a way to ideally pull together its gonzo comedic spirit and musical aspirations.
WHERE TO WATCH
“Galavant” premieres at 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC.
TV writer Sara Smith previews the pile of midseason premieres and returning shows in A+E.