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Review: 'Galavant' is new on ABC, but may feel a bit familiar

Everyone likes Galavant.Nick Ray, ABC

"Galavant" tells the story of a knight named Galavant (Joshua Sasse), whose life is basically one long series of heroic adventures followed by hanging out with his lady friend Madalena (Mallory Jansen), at least until she ditches him for an evil king (Timothy Omundson). Can he win her back? Should he win her back?

That's a question it'll take at least a few weeks to answer. The story takes place in some mythical medieval time populated by a number of familiar faces, but it's also a musical, with songs by Alan Menken , who you might recall composed the music to "Aladdin," "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Little Mermaid." The music is, as expected, quite catchy (the lyrics are from "Tangled" songwriter Glenn Slater), though none of the songs quite live up to the title number.

The show, a multiweek miniseries on ABC beginning Sunday at 8 p.m., has a distinct (and generally entertaining) interest in the lowbrow, despite the fairy tale trappings and Disney home. The evil king spends an awful lot of time talking about how he's going to "do it" with Madalena, and before she's captured, it's clear that she and Galavant have a pretty healthy sex life. Why they're not married in the first place is a little less clear.

"Galavant" is the sort of show that goes for the "try anything that fits" method of humor. A good many of the jokes are painfully cheesy, and the characters generally don't rise beyond the level of silly archetypes. Some of them are introduced so briefly they're apparently only there to hit a punchlinebefore vanishing again. And yet, there are plenty of times when it's hard to resist laughing at the show's campy self-awareness. A training montage ends, for once, exactly how a training montage should end. But it's these moments of cleverness that make the two dimensional plotting somewhat harder to take, and some jokes fall painfully short, like a lengthy joke about Jewish parents that feels about a hundred years old. The show has to operate within the confines of a fairy tale, but Madalenais easily vilified and the king is a stereotype of mincing evildoing. He's somewhat redeemed by Omundson, who engages in some fairly intense scenery chewing, but seems to be having an awfully good time.

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Our hero is, of course, given an alternative love interest, the Princess Isabella (of Valencia, because she's either Spanish or a Decemberists fan), whose antagonistic nature makes it clear she's only moments from falling for the arrogant but handsome Galavant.

It's all a bit familiar, basically, but part of the charm of the familiar is that it often works. Later episodes do engage in a bit of wheel spinning — perhaps a more complicated quest next time would be wise?

 
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