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Stream This: Galavant's magical musical romp will make you believe in Tad Cooper
Far back in days of old, there was a show quite bold, a singing series known as Galavant.
Great actors in joyous roles, musically lifting souls, there was no series quite like Galavant.
Tough, because not many people watched it, I myself near slept right on it, but!
Streaming has come along, so join in this merry song, and stream yourself some Gal-a-vant!
The fantasy/fairy tale/medieval musical comedy called Galavant debuted on ABC in early 2015. I didn't watch it then, a shortfall that will forever fill me with shame. I'd heard that it was kind of like Monty Python mixed with The Princess Bride, with a dash of Robin Hood: Men in Tights and a pinch of the wit of Sir Terry Pratchett sprinkled in. For whatever reason, I had no time for it. The series lasted two seasons (something the characters themselves sing about being surprised by), and that was that. I never gave it any attention.
I was so very wrong. Thanks to Netflix, the two seasons that were made of this glorious show are now available to stream at your leisure, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
The aforementioned references of what kind of hybrid this show is are apt, but it also has things in common with both Disenchantment and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. In both of those cases, Galavant got there first. This musical tale breaks the fourth wall so often that the wall is left in ruins, and it openly makes plenty of references to other fantasy movies and shows. All of this is fun, but Galavant isn't all pastiche — it does its own thing more often than not, and all of the comparisons in the world can't quite pin down what this thing is.
Created and written by Dan Fogelman, Galavant works because though the story it tells is slightly derivative (something true of almost any and all fantasy stories), it hooks you. There's enough subversion of familiar fantasy tropes going on that it keeps re-inventing itself into something interesting, and the fourth-wall breakage never becomes cloying. Instead, it's charming.
Greatly helping the charm of Galavant is the fact that every half-hour installment functions as a fantastic musical. The songs by Glenn Slater and Broadway/Disney legend Alan Menken are rich and lyrically interesting, they move the stories and characters forward, and they can stand toe to toe with any new Broadway score out there right now. This isn't Sondheim, but it doesn't want to be.
Watch just one (or two, or seven) episodes and just try to walk around not humming something from the series. You will fail in this endeavor. It's hard to pick a favorite number, but the title song is a winner, as is "A New Season." Another early favorite is "She'll Be Mine," and though copying the styles of other famous musicals isn't something the show does all the time, "A Good Day to Die" gives you a hearty Les Miserables feeling, while "Finally" is unabashedly a Grease reference (but ends up being better than what it is referencing).
The show is funny (duh), with sharp comedic timing, but it also has a huge amount of heart. The quality of the songs (and the writing in general) help it to gain this, but there's one not-so-secret weapon that this show wields that gives it heart for days: the cast.
We'll start with the guest stars, as almost every episode features a pop-up appearance from someone fantastic. The roster includes: the dearly departed Rutger Hauer, John Stamos, Hugh Bonneville, Simon Callow, Faith Prince, Nick Frost, Matt Lucas, Ricky Gervais, Kylie Minogue, Reece Shearsmith, Anthony Head, and "Weird Al" Yankovic. Eddie Marsan jumps in for an episode proving his insane versatility, and Robert Lindsay (I think you're gonna notice Robert Lindsay in a room!) makes several appearances as a dark wizard/wedding planner who takes both jobs equally seriously.
Then there's the main cast, which includes the always welcome Sophie McShera (who sadly doesn't have a scene with Bonneville, but you can't have everything), Clare Foster (only in Season 2, but still beloved), Luke Youngblood as the hapless squire Sid, and Ben Presley as the Jester, who routinely shows off his fantastic singing chops. Vinnie Jones is a series regular, constantly sending up his tough-guy image, and ... actually singing himself more than a few times. It's incredible. Karen David is the fantastic, damsel-in-no-distress Isabella, and Joshua Sasse gives great, blustery life to Galavant himself, the noble knight renowned (and then not renowned) throughout the land.
I'd seen Mallory Jansen in Season 4 of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and loved her work there as Aida. Here, she proved that there was so much more to her before the Agents came calling. As Queen Magdalena, Jansen rips up the screen in fury and hilarity, and is one of the pettiest characters streaming right now. In lesser hands, that pettiness would be annoying, but once again, Jansen (and the show) makes it charming and fun.
There's one actor that I haven't mentioned yet, so clear some room. My raging river of gushing is about to blow the bloody dams down. If I had to give one singular reason to watch this show, that reason would be a name. That name would be Timothy Omundson.
As King Richard, Omundson owns all. He's hilarious then heartbreaking, villainous then heroic. His arc has him playing every note in the book (and singing every note on the scale), and Omundson utterly kills it. In the beginning, you're laughing at him, and then slowly you're laughing with him. By the end, you're ready to murder anyone who would dare not to show him the proper respect. Richard is a boy in a man's body, he says decidedly non-medieval things like "for realsies" with conviction, and he ultimately just wants a friend. In a just and righteous world, Omundson would have won multiple Emmys for this performance. Forget that, he would have won the Nobel Peace Prize.
I'm not kidding, or joking in any way — Timothy Omundson proves that he's the one true king to rule them all with this performance. He is the lord of my heart, and his King Richard will make you believe in Tad Cooper. True believers will understand that reference. For everyone else, the television is right there ... and the door's on the wall.
The most apt description that I can think of for this short-lived series weirdly comes from Star Trek: Generations. In that film, Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) describes her time within a space phenomenon called "The Nexus" as such: "It was like being inside joy … as if it were something tangible you could wrap yourself in like a blanket."
That is what it feels like to watch Timothy Omundson. That is what it feels like to watch Galavant.
You know what? Forget "streaming recommendations." This article is now a plea for the show to make a gallant return. The television landscape is much different than it was in 2015, and though many people (myself included) didn't appreciate this gem when it came out, people are more primed to go for it now.
No reboots, no remakes, no, no, no. Revive this. Resurrect this. By the flames of Tad Cooper himself, bring Galavant back. Don't put it on a network, streaming suits this show very well. The genius of this is that the resurrected series can begin with the characters themselves singing about how the show was unexpectedly brought back. They did it at the top of Season 2, and that was for just a renewal.
Bringing back Galavant won't save the world, but it definitely wouldn't hurt. In the meantime, wrap yourself up in this warm blanket. Revel in the music, the performances, and bring some joy into your life. You'll come out the other side feeling ten years younger, with a song in your heart. You will believe in Tad Cooper.