Galavant: “Oh, great, another musical number!”

Galavant was back again this weekend opposite the Golden Globes with two new episodes, “Two Balls” and “Comedy Gold”. Somehow, I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Last week I said that Alan Menken and Glen Slater’s musical work for this show is reminiscent of Mel Brooks, though far less pointed and raunchy. But I still didn’t expect the show to go for the full Catskill the way it does in the third episode, “Two Balls.”

We get our first supporting character story in this episode, as the trio arrives in Sid’s hometown: a standard medieval village that at some point was rechristened “Sidneyland.” Sid explains that he was adopted by a couple with high expectations, so he’s been exaggerating the truth of his exploits. Only a tiny bit, though. He’s just telling everyone that he is the legendary knight who’s been rescuing maidens and fighting tyrants all up and down the land. Which leaves Galavant to play the part of his squire, and Princess Isabella to enthusiastically take the role of admiring fiancĂ©e. (Valencia’s favorite pastime is amateur theatrics, after all.) It’s fun to see Isabella really lean into it, but I kept wondering why no one seems to be in any real hurry to rescue her besieged country.

And then we learn that Sid’s demanding parents are a stereotypical Jewish couple straight out of a Billy Crystal stand-up special. They break into song, accompanied by the rest of the village, dropping Yiddish left and right: a schtick so specific to 20th century New York that it’s often jarring to see it in other contexts. Which is the point, because if you remove the “Ha ha, look, Jews in the middle ages” of it all, there isn’t much to it. Without it, there’s nothing particularly specific about these parents and this village, or in their reaction to Sid.

Except, Sid is a black man and the village looks totally devoid of people of color. The show brazenly lampshades Sid’s Other-ness–aside from Isabella, who is played by a South Asian actress, the rest of the cast is pretty uniformly white–while subverting the typical adopted-child story by giving us an over-the-top celebration of his adored hero status. It’s a little bit delightful, if I’m honest, and it adds a complexity to Sid that he otherwise lacks.

The flip side of the A-plot is seeing Galavant halfheartedly and unconvincingly pretend to be Sid’s servant. He dons a cap, plucks a chicken, and generally hates everything about the wonderful world of Sidneyland. But, it turns out this is another stop along the Galavant Rehabilitation Tour. He bonds with his fellow squires, who give him a crash course in how awful it is to work for knights, and eventually advises Sid to be himself–even with his parents.

Probably my favorite part of this plot is that we leave Sid to come clean to his family in private. The fallout and the consequences of his lies aren’t important, only that he learns to be proud of what he’s actually accomplished.

All that aside, the show really fell flat for me in two ways this week. First, although I love Tim Omundson and the goofy menace he brings to the character, King Richard’s storylines in both episodes are little more than retreads of what we’ve already seen: he’s a man-child; he wants to woo a woman who doesn’t want him; he’s really good at acting the petty tyrant and not understanding the consequences. We’re halfway through the show’s run, and he hasn’t shown much character development. With any luck, we’ll see some in the next few weeks.

The second is almost the entire fourth episode, “Comedy Gold.” Richard is finally clued in to his wife’s affair with the jester, which he takes completely the wrong way and forces the jester to teach him to be funny. Surely that’s the way to his lady’s heart/bed! Meanwhile, Galavant, Isabella, and Sid finally reach that point of every road trip where you want to murder your fellow travellers, and are subsequently kidnapped by (land) pirates who teach them the value of respecting and tolerating your friends. It’s a nothing of an episode, which is doubly frustrating in such a short run. The only scene of real value involves Isabella unburdening herself to Galavant, who takes her revelation in such a way that it actually turns the scene into a nothing as well.

I’m still enjoying the show–though oddly none of the songs stick in my head longer past the next commercial break. But I’m starting to see why ABC chose to burn the episodes double-time before sweeps. Galavant makes for a pleasant diversion, but as a long-term property there’s still something missing.

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