When I want sophisticated, challenging, moving entertainment that explores the human condition, I look to my fellow critics and to the history of cinema for recommendations. When I want something campy, hilarious, and utterly entertaining, I look to my sister. She's my primary source for movies so bad I can't believe they exist, especially since the rest of the world doesn't seem to know about them. I'm fairly convinced she pulls them in from another dimension. But she's also my source for divinely insane things like the under-rated, underwatched ABC series Galavant, a gleefully ridiculous fantasy series I'd never heard of, but which is about to launch its second season.
Somewhere between Disney and Monty Python
Imagine a musical version of The Princess Bride, in which the characters have all been briefed on the genre conventions and are competing to play to the fourth wall. That's Galavant. Created by Tangled screenwriter Dan Fogelman, with music by Disney stalwart Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin) and lyrics by Tangled songwriter Glenn Slater, the series finds the sweet spot between the swoony, sincere romanticism of a Disney fable and the absurdism of Monty Python And The Holy Grail. The actors (including Psych's Timothy Omundson, Community's Luke Youngblood, and beloved tough-guy ham Vinnie Jones) camp it up with a supreme lack of self-consciousness. But the songs are actually catchy and hummable. The choreography alternates between ambitious and goofy. And the first season, which premiered at this time last year, is fresh in its comedic upending of fairy-tale conventions.
The show's entire first season (eight half-hour episodes, a manageable amount even for TV commitment-phobes) is available for free streaming at ABC's website for at least the next week. The first episode — really, the first 15 minutes of the first episode — is the perfect acid test for whether this kind of wide-eyed but arch faux-earnestness is your thing. (If you loved the modern-meets-medieval elements of Tangled, and you like extraordinarily pretty people cavorting around extraordinarily pretty settings, it probably is.) But another decent test is this second-season teaser, which has the whole cast updating viewers on their status in song, complete with bouncing-ball sing-along lyrics onscreen. Warm up your vocal chords in time for the second-season premiere on January 3, 2016.