Often, when the plots for sitcoms start to run out of ideas, suddenly a musical episode appears and is unrelated to whatever happened previously on the show. But “Galavant” changes the recipe. Instead, it’s a musical show built into a serialized plot from the get-go. And boy, does it go.

The legendary knight Galavant is the classic hero from your fairytales. His ladylove Madalena is stolen away one day by Kind Richard, fueling Galavant’s heroic nature. As the introductory song recants, Galavant goes to rescue her, only to discover that she is fond of being the queen and has little to no desire to return to her former life.

With a heartbroken Galavant, here is where the story and the fun begin.

Medieval Humor: It Never Gets Old

The setting for “Galavant” is ripe for riffing off old jokes about damsels in distress and foolish squires. However, those jokes haven’t aged well, mostly because society’s general views on people have changed. The jokes must adjust with the times.

The creators of “Galavant” got creative, and the humor changed with the time. The damsels and squires play different roles, as do the king and the hero, and the drastic personality differences make them new species of funny.

There’s still plenty of dark humor. King Richard is usually the darkest, often singing about murdering Galavant and suggesting “better” jokes to the royal jester about poor serfs being poor and knock-knock jokes that end in blood. The fact that nobody finds him funny but that they must give him pity laughs is very humorous.

The other side of the dark humor is the royal chef, Vincenzo, who presents comedy from the side of the poverty-stricken. His jokes aren’t meant to be jokes — he’s quite serious much of the time — but the content is weirdly similar to King Richard’s jokes. Because he’s not meaning to be funny, he is funny.

In the song “If I Could Share My Life With You,” the chef and his love sing about all the nastiness that comes with poverty while maintaining that it would be the greatest life because they have each other. The sentiment is borderline adorable, but they’re glossing over the hazardous conditions like it’s no biggie. That weird joking about life’s bad moments is the basis of the character’s humor, and it works wonderfully.

The Power of Song and Dance

Alan Menken and Glenn Slater wrote the music for “Galavant,” which explains why the show retains that Disney magic in the musical parts. The music, the colors, the dancing — it looks like a ride!

The heart of “Galavant” is within the musical numbers as it presents the exposition and characterization. The tunes are catchy, and the lyrics are witty, but the show doesn’t abuse its musical powers. Each song has a specific fit, presenting the characters in specific lights as the show progresses.

British actor Joshua Sasse starred as the title character in the TV series. (Image via Nerdstock)

What the audience learns about each character through the songs helps them understand why each character moves forward in the plot in the manner that they do. Sid’s snide remarks in some of the earlier songs toward Galavant explain why he would tell his hometown a different version of Galavant’s heroic deeds. Galavant constantly ignores Sid, so Sid loves the attention his village gives him when they stroll into town.

In the overarching plotlines, the characters’ songs morph as they figure out their desires, thus pushing the plot in different directions. When I was listening to the songs over again, I caught some lyrics that hinted toward later events in the series.

How to Hilariously Destroy Tropes: a Guide

The medieval backdrop in “Galavant” allows for the usage of every feudalistic trope used in fantasy series since the beginning of fantasy itself. The heroic knight, the loyal squire, the damsel in distress and the evil king are all exploited repeatedly.

But with those tropes come the battering rams. The heroic knight is arrogant and a drunk when the audience first meets him. The loyal squire, Sidney, is constantly making underhanded comments toward Galavant. The two damsels in distress can defend themselves and are more stable than their male counterparts. And King Richard is the biggest pushover in the land.

Much of the hilarity comes from these characters acting opposite their tropes. King Richard asks his main hand, Gareth, for advice with Madalena, and he tries to teach the king how to “be a man.” Of course, this goes horribly, and King Richard comes off as gross instead, and Madalena brushes him aside once again to nobody’s surprise

The song “Jackass in a Can” emerges when Sidney brings Galavant and Isabella, the princess they are assisting, through Sid’s childhood town. The problem is that Sid told the whole town that all Galavant’s deeds are his own and that Galavant is his squire. Galavant talks to the other squires in the town who lead him in song and dance through the medieval jackassery of knights, and Galavant at the end exclaims, “Oh my god, that’s me!”

The characters’ self-awareness in “Galavant” is heartwarming as well as hysterical. The audience thinks their flaws are painfully obvious, and even other characters comment on one another’s stupidity in songs. The heartwarming parts come from their growth beyond that foolish behavior.

Medieval tomfoolery, classic musical mayhem and destroying tropes are the show’s hallmarks, though it offers much more. Although “Galavant” is only two seasons long with no hopes for another, this wildly inventive show is worth your love and time.

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Allison Kestler

Augustana College

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