With the introduction of Galavant and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, there are now two musical television shows that feature original music.
Both of these shows were quietly marketed and stuck in less-popular Monday/Sunday night slots, but are still some of the most enjoyable shows on a regular network. Both bring a specific angle to the musical format with infectiously catchy music, humor, and a little social awareness thrown into the mix.
The first season of Galavant begins with our clichéd titular hero rushing off to rescue his true love from marrying an evil king. The first musical number delightfully embraces all the typical clichés of a medieval romance, then immediately turns them on their head as Galavant crashes the royal wedding.
Galavant’s “true love,” Madalena, doesn’t actually want to be saved. The first episode starts with our hero falling into a downward spiral before he’s called back into action by Princess Isabella to help rescue her kingdom from King Richard.
Why you should watch it:
Galavant is a cheeky fairy tale that retains its optimism without claiming that a happy ending is easy or even the one we’d expect. Season One of Galavant was enjoyable in its own right, but Season Two knocks it out of the park. The songs are even better this time around, characters are more developed, and the meta-awareness is off the charts, which plays to the show’s strengths. Galavant never takes itself seriously; it’s just plain FUN.
Alan Menken (who wrote The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Little Shop of Horrors and loads of other well-recognized music) and Glenn Slater team up for Galavant’s soundtrack, which not only weaves perfectly into the show and moves the plot along, it also effectively spoofs famous musical numbers, like West Side Story, Les Mis, Oliver! and Grease in ways that are still fun without understanding the reference to the source material, but is extra enjoyable for those who are in on the joke.
Here’s Galavant’s take on West Side Story:
I thought I would absolutely hate this show. The title and first poster that features lead character Rebecca looking creepily into the viewer’s eyes were a red flag for me – I thought this would be another show that focused the entire story around who was dating who and depict women in a less-than-kind light.
I watched the first episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on a whim and was pleasantly surprised, not to mention blown away by the level of detail and love put into the first musical number, which sings the praises of a small California town and its selling points (it’s only two hours from the beach!)
What it’s about:
Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) is a rich lawyer in New York who has everything she could ever want. However, she suffers from insomnia, depression and general unhappiness. She’s walking through the world in a fog. She runs into her childhood sweetheart, Josh Chan, who tells her he’s moving to a magical place called West Covina, California. Desperate to reclaim the happiness she last felt during her summer with Josh, Rebecca drops everything and moves to West Covina in a huge musical number. This would normally be the part where her grand gesture of affection pays off, but then strokes of realism start to bleed through.
Why you should watch it:
This show is deeper than it initially lets on. Not only do the people who make the show appear to have an enormous respect for movie musicals of yore, this show is actually…thoughtful? Rather than letting itself fall prey to stereotypes like its title might suggest, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend exhibits a certain intelligence as it explores American society.
Instead of painting Rebecca as just a “crazy” person, this show is a genuine exploration of Rebecca’s flawed humanity, including her loneliness, depression, alienation, self-doubt and ultimately, her denial. Like Rebecca, the show is open, earnest, sometimes optimistic, but also forced to occasionally reconcile with reality.
6 Similarities Between Modern Television Musicals
Both Galavant and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend illustrate a very specific way that the musical has evolved for modern audiences in recent years. While the content and settings of these shows are very different, there are some undeniable differences:
They Debunk the True Love Trope
Both shows begin at what would have usually been the end of a romantic comedy, with a final grand gesture that unites the two main characters at the end of the movie. Rebecca follows Josh to California, and Galavant interrupts Madalena’s wedding to King Richard. However, both these shows take the unexpected route to use as the basis for the show – Josh turns out to be in a long-term relationship with another woman and Madalena spurns Galavant.
They Build on Past Musicals
These shows might poke fun at some musical tropes, but it always feels like it’s coming from a place of love. The people in charge of Galavant and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend not only appear to respect all the musicals that came before it, but build on them and use these various formats to better inform the characters. Both shows favor different genres, with Galavant having more fun with classical musical send-ups and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend borrowing heavily from a wider variety of musical selections, including modern music videos, but also dipping their toes into classic Astaire and Rogers movies.
The Musical Styles Vary (And Have a Purpose!)
Not only do these shows understand the source material they’re referencing, they also use the musical styles to forward a certain character’s perspective or evoke a certain emotion from the audience. Both shows use a particular musical format to reflect the main character’s emotional state and perception of the world in order to show how this emotion fits into recognizable cultural music. The lyrics take this one step further:
The Lyrics are Self-Aware (and Funny!)
The lyrics invite deeper thought of the musical era or style they’re referencing. For example, Galavant explores some of the downfalls of modern democracy in Season 2’s “Build A New Tomorrow,” and also constantly acknowledges that the characters are on a television show in other musical numbers:
With Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, this means deconstructing the myths of romantic comedies and expectations of both genders in these relationships:
They Switch Up the Status Quo
Neither of these shows allow their characters to remain stagnant for long. Both shows change drastically throughout the course of a few episodes. For instance, King Richard starts off in Galavant as a villain, but come the second season, he’s become a somewhat unexpected, childlike hero. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is only halfway through its first season, but has already taken some risks that are usually saved for a season or series finale.
The Name Valencia
For some reason, both of these shows have a person or a place named Valencia. Make of that what you will.
A New Era of Musicals
These shows both bring a certain emotional quality with their musical scenes that sets them both apart from other television shows. Music has the potential to inspire, to move, and tweak your heartstrings by incorporating music into its plot and the characters emotions.
A musical is a difficult format to sustain on television without sacrificing quality. While Galavant was always an enjoyable show, it took nearly an entire season for it to find its groove. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is only halfway through its first season, but is still offering up something new every week. No matter where these shows’ paths take them, they have both carved their own little niche into the musical television genre, making for enjoyable and sometimes poignant television.