When people say, “2016 sucked!” and I say, “Yeah, fuck 2016, I hated it, too,” I am of course referring to hating how many people died and how shittily my country fucked its election into the poisoned, crumbling ground, but I’m also talking about the cancellation of ABC’s Galavant.
Now, let it be known from the start that I have never trusted ABC to make a good decision since I started watching television. Sure, they’ve got hits, but it’s their misses that define them in my pessimistic little heart. They let Steve Urkel become the focus of Family Matters and ruined the whole damn show (which was supposed to be about Harriet Winslow. Remember Harriet Winslow?). They cancelled Covington Cross, a medieval version of Bonanza that could have been great if they’d given it more of a shot and not sold its time slot to Ross Perrot (this is a true story). But their most recent egregious sin is the cancellation of its medieval musical sitcom epic.
Galavant is what would have happened if Mel Brooks had directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It’s packed to the brim with favorite medieval spoof conventions; peasants sing about coughing up blood, an evil king fantasizes about all the ways he’ll murder his sworn enemy, and a valiant hero who thinks way, way too much of himself sets off on a quest to save a damsel who isn’t all that interested in being saved, after all. Each episode is only a half-hour long, but they manage to pack them with enough story, silliness, and self-awareness for a full-length feature film.
But the best part of the show is the music. The condensed, snappy numbers are fully acknowledged in-universe; Galavant is set in a world where people sing their problems, arguments, and even passionate recaps of stuff that happened last week, and no one thinks it’s out of place. The songs are written by legendary Disney composer Alan Menken and Tangled lyricist Glenn Slater (whom I guess I now have to forgive for Love Never Dies), and while every single one of them is an irreplaceable gem, some are a little bit gemmy-er than others. So here, ranked low to high (from Madalena’s earrings to the Jewel of Valencia), is every musical number in Galavant.
Let it be known, however, that even though this list includes criticisms of the songs, in context they all work together to make pure, snarky, delightful magic. If you haven’t watched the show yet, put it on your to-watch list.
49. “Different Kind of Princess” A rock-and-roll princess who sings about not liking pink? This is a boring anthem for the Not-Like-Other-Girls girls out there. Plus, who puts in a line about unshaven armpits if the show isn’t willing to put an unshaven armpit on screen? It’s all or nothing, Galavant.
48. “Hey, Hey, We’re the Monks” (and its reprise) You’re going to write a song about monks who take a vow of singing and who are basically a boy band, but not write that number like a boy band song? Missed opportunity, Menken. Unless they were going for a Monkees joke that just didn’t translate due to not sounding anything like the Monkees at all. Guest star “Weird” Al tries to sell it, but I’m not buying.
47. “Comedy Gold” You’d think a song about teaching an unfunny person how to be funny would be, well, funnier. It’s basically a more murdery version of “Funny/The Duck Joke” from My Favorite Year.
46. “Stand Up” Musical criticism of action movie training sequence montages and their bombastic rock songs was funnier when Trey Parker and Matt Stone did it.
45. “Oy! What a Knight” Sung by Sid’s entire village, this is a standard Mel Brooks pastiche, complete with a tired joke about circumcision. Because you can’t have a comedy song sung by Jewish characters without mentioning the removal of foreskin, right?
44. “My Moment In The Sun” parts 1, 2, 3, 4 The running joke here is that the hero can never get to the last line of the song. Which is kind of a meh gag, considering how getting interrupted while singing is kind of Sid the squire’s thing. But hey, at least we get to hear Anthony Head sing.
43. “Goodnight My Friend” Musically similar to the superior “Goodbye”, this is your standard slow number that drags the end of the first act down. It’s still sweet, though.
42. “He Was There” and its reprise It’s really hard to make a tense relationship with a neglectful parent into a show-stopper, but bless them, they tried. Of course, I could be biased. Not because of my daddy issues, but because the role of Galavant’s father, originally played by my beloved Anthony Head, was recast for season two. And okay, maybe because of my daddy issues.
41. “Dance Until You Die” If Galavant had an equivalent to the Harry Potter franchise’s Wizard Rock, it would be this.
40. “A Real Life, Happily Ever After” For a romance as epic and satirical as the one between Galavant and Princess Isabella, this is oddly straightforward. It feels out of place with the other, less sentimental love songs we’ve grown to expect by the show’s end.
39. “A Day In Richard’s Life” After taking a potion from spiritual guide (and “herb” dealer) Xanax, King Richard is transported back to the day he became king. Though Ricky Gervais isn’t a great singer, it’s fun to watch a notorious skeptic sing about magic and mystical journeys.
38. “Time Is Of The Essence” Even though Galavant’s life hangs in the balance, healer Neo of Sporin takes his time in singing this frantic number. The rhythm of the vocal line recalls Alice In Wonderland‘s “I’m Late” and Company‘s “Not Getting Married Today.” Rapid fire, frantic lyrics are always a crowd pleaser in musical theatre.
37. “A Dark Season” Songs are often used to recap important exposition from past episodes, but “A Dark Season” prepares viewers for what’s to come in a bleak reprise of the season’s theme. It’s not really needed, though. It sets up a few visual gags, but on its own it’s really just telling us everything we already saw, much of it in the same episode.
36. “Will My Day Ever Come” A much better version of “Moment In The Sun.” Young King Richard duets with his disappointing older self in a pre-battle moment of doubt.
35. “Let’s Agree To Disagree” Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire’s famous “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” can hardly be improved, but “Let’s Agree To Disagree” comes close. All you have to do is swap out the dapper dancers for a crude, violent king and a vain, greedy queen and you’ve got a song that’s less about the pronunciation of “tomato” and more about crushing enemies and indulging in luxuries.
34. “Goodbye” If A Chorus Line and This Is Your Life abandoned their baby in a graveyard, it would grow up and write this near-death experience number.
33. “Togetherness (Reprise)” A more sincere ode to teamwork than the song it reprises, it makes up for its earnestness with the liberal application of pirates.
32. “Togetherness” Working together, wanting to kill each other, being friends, and falling in love don’t have to be mutually exclusive. By episode four, our heroic trio of Galavant, Sid, and Isabella are already tired of each other and we reap all the benefits in a catchy group number.
31. “If I Were A Jolly Blacksmith” This could either be a song about the simple life, or someone bullshitting his way through a job interview.
30. “Dwarves vs. Giants” In a fully ridiculous version of West Side Story‘s “Tonight Quintet,” rival gangs of short giants and tall dwarves prepare for battle. Cheeky nods to Stephen Sondheim’s influence on musical theatre are all over this series, but this is perhaps the most obvious (and hilarious) instance.
29. “Secret Mission” Sworn enemies endeavor to pull off a secret plot while trying to stay as quiet as possible. The fact that they’re drunk and singing loudly should be an obvious punchline, but it works, damnit, carried mostly by the chemistry between the actors.
28. “Lords of the Sea” I’ll admit it. This song is only this high on the list because it’s sung by Lord Grantham in an ankh earring and eyeliner. That alone is worth the price of my Netflix subscription.
27. “Galavant Recap” Just in case you forgot what happened in season two, the court jester belts out crucial exposition to patiently waiting warring armies in the middle of a dusty battlefield. It’s a much-welcomed reprise of the show’s stellar theme, which this viewer was missing terribly.
26. “Jackass In A Can” I feel like Menken can’t resist tavern scenes, and he plays to that strength here. Galavant learns through song what squires really think about their knights in a rousing number reminiscent of the Tangled duo’s “I’ve Got A Dream.”
25. “Finally” If I tried to quote just one lyric from this zombie-infused parody of Grease‘s “Summer Nights,” it would be…no, I can’t. Catchy pop numbers enthusiastically recounting tragically bad sex simply can’t be dissected so neatly.
24. “Love Is Strange” Everything that annoys you about the person you love, tallied up and sung in a heartfelt, somehow sweet duet.
23. “A Good Day To Die” and its reprise Things look bleak for our heroes, who prepare for battle not once, but twice, to this theme. The characters point out that it’s unlikely they’ll actually die since there’s a whole episode left to go (and they’re not on Game of Thrones), and it’s this self-awareness that pulls off the song and reels the audience in for the series finale.
22. “The Happiest Day of Your Life” Faced with an arranged marriage and an overzealous wedding planner, Princess Isabella mopes through this up-tempo rumba, until some dark magic turns her into the bridezilla you’ve always dreaded.
21. “What Am I Feeling?” Madalena’s cruel, cold-heart gets a shock when she realizes that she actually cares about something, and that’s the perfect time for a ballad about how shitty it is to have to care about things.
20. “I Don’t Like You” Is there anything more satisfying than two women singing bitchily at each other? In a non-Celine Dion/Barbara Streisand trying to out-sing each other way? On top of the clever lyrics, it sounds like a Spice Girls song, which is a double-checkmark in the “Pro” column.
19. “Season 2 Finale” “Weird” Al Yankovic returns to wrap up what will certainly be the end of the series, while leaving the door open for more plot, just in case. Since the fandom had a inkling that cancellation loomed, this song felt like a joyous celebration. “Look how far we came, being weird together,” it seemed to say, and cemented Galavant’s legacy as the absurd little show that could(ish).
18. “A New Season” It would have been easy enough to rehash the theme song from the first season, but the characters are far sicker of it than the audience could ever possibly be. When the title number causes pirates to voluntarily walk the plank, a change is in order. What better way for the cast to show their gratitude at the show’s surprise renewal than to give them a brand new opener to set the tone for their last, miraculous season? Bonus: The episode is titled “Suck It, Cancellation Bear.”
17. “She’ll Be Mine” This could have been a number cut from Monty Python’s Spamalot!. And I’m fine with that.
16. “Do the D’Dew” Even an angelic, pixie-cut-sporting Julie Andrews could have taught the Von Trapp children the Dark, Dark Evil Way with this one. The fact that it’s performed in part by stage legend Robert Lindsay doesn’t hurt, either.
15. “Off With His Shirt” Queer icon Kylie Minogue as the “Queen of all queens.” The tyrannical ruler of a gay bar takes our heroes captive in this season two disco number. You had me at “Kylie Minogue is the queen of a gay bar.” (Side note: after meeting while filming this scene, Kylie and Joshua Sasse are now engaged. Get it, Kylie.)
14. “Hero’s Journey” For a show as sarcastic and mocking as this one, “Hero’s Journey” is…well, it’s still sarcastic and mocking, but still oddly inspiring.
13. “As Good As It Gets” I could watch an entire show of just Gwendolyn and Chef. While the rest of the cast seems to be living in a Robin Hood: Men In Tights parody middle ages, this couple is surviving a Game of Thrones-esque feudal nightmare. This duet about their newly “upper-lower class” status includes nods to their lengthening tapeworms and a fancier way to cough up blood, yet somehow is still cheerful enough that you think their lot might not be so bad.
12. “I Love You (As Much As Someone Like Me Can Love Anyone) Sure, Queen Madalena is a malignant narcissist with sociopathic tendencies, but at least she owns it. Is there a better way to ask your ex to stay on as your boy toy than in a rousing tango number? If there is, I just won’t know what to believe in anymore.
11. “Build A New Tomorrow Here Today” Democracy laid painfully bare in under two-minutes, complete with up-tempo oppression of cheerfully marginalized citizens. It’s a toe-tappingly bleak earworm.
10. “No One But You” Queen Madalena’s ode to herself, sung to herself as she’s accompanied by a veritable choir of herself is Menken’s made-for-TV redo of “Gaston,” but somehow more egotistical.
9. “A Happy Ending For Us” Peasants plotting all the ways they could murder the upper class in a cheerful, Cole Porter-style duet probably wouldn’t work for any other musical, but here it fits in just right.
8. “Today We Rise” How “Do You Hear The People Sing” should have gone if Enjolras was being brutally honest with everyone.
7. “If I Could Share My Life With You” Basically “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” but about misery, plague, and infant mortality. A+
6. “The World’s Best Kiss” and its reprise If Galavant gets one thing right (shut your blasphemous mouth, it gets everything right), it’s the realistic expectations it sets for romance. Even though their first and only kiss was gross, awkward, and way too yeasty-tasting, it was at least memorable, if bittersweet.
5. “Love Makes The World Brand New” Love, as described by someone who’s never had a tender feeling a day in his life, sung in the voice of that guy at the bar who may or may not have killed somebody in the past and who may or may not kill again. Probably for fun.
4. “Maybe You’re Not the Worst Thing Ever” A quartet about not loving someone, not really liking them, either, but accepting that sometimes you just have to find something good about a seemingly irredeemable person, this is another Bizzaro love song from a romantically pessimistic fairytale.
3. “Serenade (Maybe You Won’t Die Alone)” This is what The Little Mermaid‘s Sebastian was really thinking while singing the sweet lyrics to “Kiss The Girl.” Menken pokes fun at his own work throughout the series, but this Mariachi matchmaking number is the most obvious and delightful instance.
2. “Galavant” (and all of its subsequent season one reprises) From the opening number of the entire series to a framing device utterly rejected after wearing out its welcome by season two, the first performance of the song lets viewers know exactly what they’re in for: a hero who’s a “fairytale cliche,” his fair maiden who has “cleavage you could throw a whole parade in,” and an evil king’s plot to marry her. The show is immediately self-aware in this audience-finding opener; by the end of the song, you’re either in or you’re out.
1. “My Dragon Pal and Me” Have you ever felt like the world was ganging up on you, and you needed someone to super believe in you? This is the song for you. Whenever you’re having a bad day, remember that if you have faith in yourself, you’ll one day watch your enemies writhe in pain, disemboweled by a dragon. In the end, isn’t that what we’re all really hoping for? The titular dragon, Tad Cooper, became a rallying symbol for fans who super believed in the show in the face of seemingly insurmountable ratings odds. And you know what? We all still super believe.
You can watch Galavant on Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and Amazon Video, and I highly suggest you do so. Alan Menken has said he’d like to see a stage version in the future, so keep your fingers crossed and always, always super believe in Tad Cooper.