Way back in days of old, there was a … wait, we’re just copying one of “Galavant’s” own bits. There has to be a better way to start this article, right?
We choose to start this CarterMatt Extended in a silly way on purpose, given that thinking about the reality for the ABC series is quite sad and it is nice smile, even for a second. We are writing this at a time when poor ratings are dragging the show closely to the guillotine, and we are starting to worry about whether or not the network will air this out as opposed to just putting more repeats for other, more-promoted, shows on the air instead. (“Quantico” especially has had a golden opportunity with repeat viewings.)
More than likely the prognosis for “Galavant” is that it plays out its second season, is incredibly entertaining, and the show is quietly canceled before May rolls around. While it received a welcome reprieve for a second season, it came at a time when the series premiere at least drew a 2.0 rating in the 18-49 demographic, the likes of which have never been seen again with this show. That was a hopeful sign that maybe someone at the network thought could be recreated.
The idea of losing this show, if you cannot tell, is greatly distressing from a quality standpoint that we’re choosing to spend more than a thousand-plus words on it today. It’s hilarious, heartfelt, and one of the few comedies out there that can attract a wide array of people. The problem is, for now, that it’s not able to capitalize on its viewers potential. Why is that? We do we blame? We want to put on a detective cap and begin our investigation.
Idea #1 – Blame ABC
Before we get too far down this rabbit hole (yes, we know that analogy is more sensible for “Once Upon a Time” than “Galavant”), allow us to first praise the network for greenlighting the show and then giving it a second season. Yes, this is effectively just the network doing its job of finding and airing great content, but at the same time, they could have put on some formulaic garbage instead of taking a chance on a medieval spoof-musical with a cast of Vinnie Jones, Timothy Omundson of “Psych” fame, and a series of other cast members most Americans have never heard of.
Still, we do blame ABC for not really taking that much of a chance with it. Season 1 aired over a stretch of four weeks in January, one that forced the show to compete against everything from the Golden Globes to the NFL playoffs. While there was some promotion, there was hardly an avalanche, and the lack of a competent lead-in did not help. Rather than the show being placed alongside a comedy block with “Modern Family,” “The Middle,” or even with a newcomer like “Fresh Off the Boat,” it was wedged on its own on Sunday nights during a “Once Upon a Time” hiatus. Airing for a handful of weeks is not altogether conducive to success. You have to hope that almost everyone who watches the finale of one season will tune in to the premiere of the next; luckily, “Galavant” kept most of its audience from the season 1 finale until season 2; that wasn’t the problem. The issue was more instead that the season 1 finale was low-rated to begin with, and season 2 went off a cliff one week after its premiere.
ABC could have done so much more in support of this show, whether that meant placing it on a better night to putting in on a different time with a lead-in to even finding a better streaming home for it. This show would have been perfect for discovery and binge-watching on Netflix, but seems to be relying on Hulu more for its streaming. We do think that Netflix still holds the primary market-share when it comes to streaming providers actually helping to improve a show’s fortune. While there is no statistical data to back this up (Netflix is coy on such matters), “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” remain prime examples of shows that have benefited.
Idea #2 – Blame the music … or at least a perception of music
By this, we don’t mean blame specifically the fact that “Galavant” is a musical. The Alan Menken compositions are for the most part hilarious, glorious, and sometimes even meaningful in between the occasional obscene joke. The problem may be that there is this belief among many that musicals are cheesy, unbelievable, and a waste of time. The moment that someone heard singing during a promo for the show, they may have decided to not even give a show a passing glance.
There have been successful musicals on in the past. “Glee” obviously did a tremendous job for many seasons, and while two out of three of NBC’s live musical presentations (“The Sound of Music,” “Peter Pan,” and “The Wiz”) have been poorly-reviewed, all generated at least good ratings. “Empire” has musical numbers, and was the #1 show on network TV when it comes to the 18-49 demographic for 2015.
What are these shows / musicals doing that “Galavant” is not? The first strike against it is probably the lack of star power; “Empire” had Taraji P. Henson and Terence Howard in the cast, while “Glee” had the luxury of performing songs that millions of people already know. They were able to turn ratings plus song sales into an empire of their own (just one without Cookie Lyon). The situation for “Galavant” is similar to The CW’s “Crazy Ex Girlfriend”; both are positively-received by critics for the most part, both contain lesser-known casts and original numbers (even if “Galavant” gets great guest stars), but both are sadly ignored by critics. It’s a shame that “Galavant” couldn’t get similar Golden Globe love to what “Crazy Ex Girlfriend” did with Rachel Bloom, since that is always a bump for networks who are starving for awards-show attention.
Ultimately, it seems like if you are in the musical genre, you need at least one of three things going for you to appeal to non-musical fans: Extremely familiar faces, familiar songs, or some sort of gimmick like a live airing. Otherwise, you have a hard time convincing the audience that your shows is actually amazing and not what they expect … even when it is.
Idea #3 – Blame the setting
For one reason or another, the general sentiment as of right now seems to be that the average television viewer is just not that into medieval entertainment. FX greenlit “The Bastard Executioner” expecting it to be a ratings hit and a worthy successor to Kurt Sutter’s “Sons of Anarchy”; instead, it failed to get much ratings traction and the network / Sutter decided to end it a day after the season 1 finale aired in America. Other time periods have prevailed as settings; just look at “Penny Dreadful,” “Mad Men,” “Hell on Wheels,” or even “The Goldbergs” if you want an example that is a comedy. However, for some reason dipping back past the 18th century seems to be an issue for many viewers, especially those who are looking to laugh. All of television’s top-rated comedies are ones that are set in the present, whether it be “The Big Bang Theory,” “Modern Family,” “Silicon Valley,” or even Netflix offerings like pseudo-comedy “Orange is the New Black” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Sure, “The Goldbergs” is an exception, but it’s going back to a time period where many viewers were still alive and they can capitalize on nostalgia.
Is there a bias among modern viewers that a “period” comedy would contain jokes that they would not get, and they therefore do not watch out of fear of appearing stupid? We do wonder that, but the hilarious reality is that “Galavant” probably is more modern than many comedies set in present-day, and it uses its medieval setting as fantastic juxtaposition the majority of the time. Its characters are easily-relatable, and the situations excellent plays off of things that any viewer would have experienced at some point in their lives. It is just hard to convince these casual TV-watchers, someone who looks for something easily-digestible in a comedy, to understand that without sitting through an episode.
Is there a way to turn the singing “Galavant” ship around? Anything is possible in theory, but it would require a colossal effort that included not only recommending the show to all of your friends / family, but also ensuring that you watch live yourself. Forget football, the Critics’ Choice Awards, or anything else that could be a possible deterrent. This show is a delightful gem, and something that is a nice bit of whimsy and escapism in a world of TV that is often a little too real. It’d take generating social-media buzz, watching ABC’s videos online, and screaming to the masses (ideally from the window of your nearest tower like Madalena in the opening sequence from the pilot) about how much you love the show.
Don’t give up, keep fighting the good fight, and keep a song in your heart the whole time. We’d hate to see “Galavant” or its fans without it.
CarterMatt Extended is a feature, comprising of in-depth articles on various TV topics posted every Wednesday night. If you want to sign up for news sent to you every week, you can do so on our Newsletter page.