“And so begins our plot/Of which there’s quite a lot,” boasts a lyric halfway through ABC’s new “Comedy Extravaganza” Galavant, a half-hour sitcom-of-sorts presented by the network in four one-hour stretches over the next few weeks. It details the misadventures of Galavant, a strapping thirteenth-century knight who loses his girlfriend to an evil king and must adventure far and wide to get her back. Okay, so most of that earlier lyric is hyperbole, but the surprising thing about Galavant is that, thanks to a surprising amount of bawdy humor and frothy music, it kind of works.
Created by a few of the minds that have worked on a Disney Princess flick or two (Dan Fogelman, Alan Menken, Glenn Slater), the show’s unexpected dose of adult-for-the-network humor is perhaps one of its most winning aspects. Opening with a whirlwind romance amongst Galavant and his love, Madalena, the show immediately embraces the clichés and tropes of the genre with wild abandon, putting its own spin on them in a Frozen-esque sort of way. But, instead of subverting decades-old clichés, there’s lyrics like this: “Yes he loved her to excess/Twice daily more or less/And she’d be screaming Galavant.” There’s nothing scathing or too risqué as to appear graphic here, but it’s subtle enough to undoubtedly provide parents watching with young ones an awkward glance or two.
The first episode is mainly flashbacks, detailing Madalena’s betrayal of Galavant – who chooses fame and fortune over his love – and his resulting yearlong downward spiral of alcohol and depression. When a mysterious foreigner shows up with a crown jewel and a hefty dose of flashbacks, and her own plot twist halfway through the hour, Gal (as his friends call him) is spurred back into action.
Joshua Sasse plays the titular hero with a doofy swagger that endlessly entertains, and perhaps the hour’s most enjoyable element is that – on a show that unquestionably names its characters just to rhyme with words like “Nymphomania” – not a single actor looks embarrassed. Timothy Omundson as the evil King Richard chews things up, and the first of the show’s “Holy Grail of guest stars,” found in John Stamos as the terrifically named Jean Hamm, gets one of the second episode’s best, gender-skewering lines.