Galavant Review: "Pilot" And "Joust Friends"

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Galvant proves in its hour-long premier special that it may just have what it takes to bring a successful musical comedy to network television. This first night combines two episodes, the pilot and one titled “Joust Friends,” featuring a cameo appearance from John Stamos. Like any show’s pilot, Galavant’s opening episode is considerably rougher than “Joust Friends,” but it still has enough laughs to not turn you off before you get to the good parts.
The plot of these two episodes is pretty simple, but it is obviously intended to be. Galavant, a legendary knight, loses the love of his life when she is kidnapped by a ruthless king. There’s some time shifting around and the episode gets into the show’s current time where Galavant is now a drunkard living in his own filth. A mysterious princess Isabella comes to him, bidding him to come to the castle where King Richard is as he is killing all of her family. Thinking that his love is calling for him from the castle, he agrees to join Isabella and the show kicks off from there.
Despite the inherent sillyness of the whole thing and complete lack of taking itself seriously, there is a definite sense of adventure going on. The show could easily ditch plot and just spew jokes in every direction, but it actually takes a fair bit of effort to drop some plot intrigue, which is appreciated. Primarily, the motives of Isabella are obviously in question, and the way this is presented – by having her and the king’s monologues interchanging – is engaging.
Galvant’s writer, Dan Fogelman, is a Disney veteran and it shows in the characters. There are clear hints of Gaston in Galavant himself, and Isabella has the standard toughness-without-over-doing-it mentality of a modern day Disney princess. A lot of characterization is done for the characters naturally in scenes or how they react to situations without unnecessary expository dialogue, which is important considering Galavant episodes are only 30-minutes long.
Spoken word jokes in the pilot are predictable and delivered with an eyeroll inducing level of cheekiness, but every single song is solid if not downright funny, outside of Isabella and Galavant’s first song together. It’s just a shame that the connecting parts between the excellent songs weren’t very good, and it was pretty concerning about halfway through the episode when no jokes were landing.
Timothy Omudson as King Richard (or King Dick as he is referred to frequently by Galavant) was the biggest bright spot in the pilot by far. He’s a character ripped straight from the pages of Monty Python; a vicious and murderous king wrapped up in an aloof, flamboyant exterior with a childlike innocence who would be nothing without his supporting chef appropriately named Chef, and guard, Gareth. Omudson plays the part with great physical comedy, especially during the songs, where is acting out the vicious things he wants to do Galavant.
Luckily, once Galavant gets out of the murky pilot episode, it really opens up into a great show with the second half of the hour-long premiere. John Stamos is great in his cameo appearance, and how his character (Jean Hamm) is written is even better. Seemingly everything the character does is written as “yes, this is John Stamos and yes he is singing” joke, and it always works. It’s a bit of slow burn once again to get to the real funny parts of the episode, but when they do it’s an excellent level of slapstick humor without the usual cheese of similar shows.
King Richard continues to be the most developed character in the second episode as well. Galavant’s lost love who the king stole, as Gareth so eloquently puts it, is a “bit of a bitch.” Gareth and Chef try to help Richard “man up” to actually win her heart and the comedy just hits perfectly. The juxtaposition between the goofy King Richard and the straight man Gareth is a classic comedy setup and it’s makes for a bunch of simple, yet effective, jokes.
It’s pretty clear between the first two episodes of Galavant that, once the show was officially ordered past the pilot and the writing crew didn’t have to shove jokes in every crevice possible, this team is more than capable of producing a good musical score, great comedy, and a solid enough story to tie it all together. So far it’s done a good job toeing the line between silly slapstick comedy but not tipping over into total stupidity. That may be a difficult balance to keep, but if it does manages it I’m extremely excited to see where this show goes.

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