5 Questions And 500 Words: “Galavant”

Welcome to another installment of “5 Questions and 500 Words,” my approach to reviewing the crazy amount of shows that will be unspooling/returning over the course of the next few weeks. Given the glut of shows, and the glut of reviews that will be published for these shows, I’m keeping things short and sweet. This is for your convenience and my sanity.

“Galavant” premieres with two half-hour episodes this Sunday, January 4, on ABC

What was your reaction upon seeing a trailer for the first time?

“Oh man. That is the type of hot mess I have to livetweet.” It just looked so spectacularly bad, yet there was also a non-small sliver of hope that it realized how terrible it actually was. After all, it’s tough to tell from ABC promos: This is the same network that busted out, “Sometimes the best man for the job…is a woman!” for the “Agent Carter” spots, so beware all ye who rely on the network’s promo department to ascertain a show’s quality.

And what’s your reaction now that you’ve seen it?

Hold on, I need to get into my narrator voice for ESPN’s “30 For 30” series….just give me a minutes…

OK, ready: “What if I told you ‘Galavant’ was actually genuinely entertaining?”

Are you worried that you are blowing what little critical credit people still extend you by saying that?

Nah, I don’t think I have any left anyways. Regardless, while “Galavant” is neither an utter trainwreck nor the genuinely weird/bizarre/exciting metatheatrical excursion it occasionally threatens to be, there’s far more things working here than don’t.

Is there some metaphor from your own experience in amateur theatrical productions that could shine some light on why this program works?

Glad you asked! Back in my high school/college days, budgets (and let’s be frank, skill) were at a premium. Shows that tried to create “realistic” sets and costumes always showed their seams, which took me out of the plays. Those deploying stark sets and relying on audience imagination almost inevitably transported me more often. These shows understood exact what they were and executed on that level to the highest degree possible.

“Galavant” is the equivalent of those black box productions: It absolutely knows it’s a lightweight, frivolous piece of entertainment produced on what feels like $150 and help from the crews’ parents. But it owns that, and then quite often surprises with some truly hummable tunes (provided by Alan Menken/Glenn Slater), actors that perfectly understand the type of show they are producing, and writing that constantly gives characters more depth than was remotely necessary in order to make a solid piece of mid-season entertainment.

Will I know right away if this show is for me?

Most likely. If the first song (which takes up nearly an entire act) doesn’t hook you, you should probably bail. And that’s fine! I’m someone who loves musical theatre and loves the type of broad comedy this show wades in. But I also recognize that a lot of people will find this so offensively cheesy that they will sprain their shoulders while desperately reaching for the remote control in order to change the channel. As someone looking for moments of musical theatre magic in NBC’s last two live productions, I’ll say I found a half-dozen such moments in the four episodes made available for review, which is six more than I found in “The Sound Of Music” and “Peter Pan” combined.

This isn’t a perfect show by any means, and honestly I wish it were about fifteen times weirder than it actually is. (When it goes weird, it gets really, really, really good. But those moments are few and far between.) But as a four-week event in the dead of winter, I applaud ABC for taking a risk on a show clearly made and executed with love by all those participating in this strange but welcome TV experiment.