“Way back in days of old / There was a legend told / About a hero known as GAA-LA-VAANT!”
And so begins what is perhaps the most epic medieval tale on televis–. Oh, what’s that, Gareth? Game of Thrones? What the dickens is that? Oh, their budget is five times more than Galavant’s? And they’re on cable so they can put in as much sex and violence as they want? And it’s not TV, it’s HBO? Well what’s the point of it all then, Gareth? Why put a show like this on the air at all? Oh, because it’s a musical? Well, then…
“Now at last begins our true adventure / Epic, wild, a real butt-clencher! / So, huzzah and tally ho! / Sit back and here we go, / Attend the tale of GAAA-LAAAA-VAAAAANT!!!”
And with that bold declaration the world was introduced to the gallant knight on a quest to rescue his fair maiden from the clutches of an evil king. The creators of Galavant are smart enough, though, to know it’s a more interesting story if you flip every part of that sentence on its head.
After a truly, truly phenomenal opening five minutes setting up the show’s premise (seriously, the first five minutes are excellent television), we learn that the hero (Joshua Sasse) isn’t particularly gallant, the maiden (Mallory Jansen) is anything but fair and the king (Timothy Omundson) isn’t evil as much as he’s spineless and infantile. Tonally, the show probably hews closest to Shrek, although comparisons can be made to Robin Hood: Men in Tights (for the music) and Princess Bride (for the aesthetic). Galavant’s not afraid to go lowbrow but it always manages to class it up with a ridiculously clever musical one-liner.
Probably the biggest reason to check out the eight-episode season is the music from legendary composer/lyricist team Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. The reason to stay, however, is the terrific cast. Sasse is certainly the image of the handsome knight, but as Galavant, he’s not afraid of much-needed self-deprecation. Jansen shines as the manipulative and greedy Madalena and her boy toy, newcomer Ben Presley, pulls double duty as a hunky jester and ebullient narrator. By far the breakout star is Omundson, whose King Richard, a coward in a crown, has just enough pride to serve as a decent antagonist. His comedic and musical chops shine the strongest in a particularly strong ensemble.
Other cast members include Karen David as Princess Isabella, the love interest proper for Galavant, Luke Youngblood (Pop, pop!) as Sid, a young squire, and Vinnie Jones as effortlessly masculine bodyguard Gareth.
While the show could benefit from more world-building and a bit more of a visual flourish, Galavant is certainly a charming antidote to other, more cynical sitcoms. Give it a watch or, at the very least, behold the first five minutes (link down below). Although it’s difficult to imagine that ABC will give it a second season, I’d very much like to see more of Galavant and company doing what they do best: making complete asses out of themselves.