Sometimes something appeals to your sensibility. It's a piece of art or entrainment that's aimed right between your eyes, and it doesn't happen that often, so you want to jump on the opportunity when it arises.
Such it was with me and Galavant.
This combination swashbuckler/farce/musical/spoof/dessert topping was promoted as a "four-week event," which got me excited. For once, a television comedy miniseries. Something different that TV has been needing for a long time: A finite story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. When the reviews (in advance) indicated it had a "Mel Brooks-Meets-Monty Python sensibility," I settled in sure that the experience would be an enjoyable one.
For the most part, it was. Shot in eight half-hour segments, the story (with crazy musical numbers, asides to the camera, characters commenting on the plot) was presented two episodes at a time for four weeks. It started out promisingly and built nicely, giving the characters time to settle in and interact with each other.
Were the jokes often obvious? Sure. Like the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles was subtle. Did they all hit the target? Of course not. I can think of some clunkers in A Night at the Opera, too.
The songs? Usually clever. Sometimes a little overcooked, sometimes appearing a bit rushed. Alan Menken, who did the music for countless Disney movies starting with The Little Mermaid, was in charge there, alas without the genius Howard Ashman, who died of AIDS when Aladdin was being prepared. It was, as with all of Galavant, fun to see TV try to stretch a little. And most of the time it worked.
So when the last two episodes were about to air, I had a rush of anticipation. The ending would wrap up the story and provide a coda. It would be nice to see the experiment come to its logical, satisfying conclusion.
Then it didn't.
Apparently believing there would be a Season 2, the producers left any number of cliffhangers in place as the story evolved. All the characters were scattered to the four winds, quick changes in status and standing were made, and a final song indicated that you should tune in at some unnamed point to find out how this all plays out.
What a disappointment.
Just when you (or in this case, I) think someone's taking a chance on television and breaking the rules, the rules come and smack you in the face again. Convention rears its ugly head no doubt in anticipation of increased profits, Blu-ray sales and syndication deals.
The weird part is that if it hadn't done what it did so well, I wouldn't have cared. Well, it was conventional from the outset and remained conventional. That wouldn't have been so bad. But Galavant had actually exceeded my expectations, so its late decision to think inside the box was a let-down.
The audience is always secondary to what can be earned by networks and studios. Yes, there were risks taken with music and comedy in a Get Smart sort of sensibility. That's not to be discounted. But where there was the opportunity to do something really special, to do comedy for comedy's sake and show what a singular, joyful art form it can be, business won out over show.
It wasn't a huge surprise, but the specter of what could have been did loom. Well, I still hope to see you again sometime, Galavant. Good luck in your travels. Hope enough people watched you to encourage others to try and stretch the medium.
P.S. You might have noticed that I didn't mention the Super Bowl. That is because there are only four things I care about less than the Super Bowl, and I care about them so little I can't remember what they are.
What is important: Pitchers and catchers report in 18 days.