Once upon a time, there was a brave horseman living in a magic kingdom. One day, an evil king kidnapped his fiancé. After a long series of obstacles, he finally got to free her and they lived happily ever after.

That would be a great resume of a classic fairy tale, but Galavant is everything but classic. Created by Dan Fogelman and aired by ABC in 2015, this series is a comical musical that discredits every fairy tale cliché. Galavant himself (Joshua Sasse) is a charming and brave rider, but he’s also a drunk and fallen man. And the world the story is settled in, despite fantasy inspired, mixes totally illogical elements with references to historical truth.

A disrespectful chivalric poem

There’s a reason if Galavant is an epic hero no more. After the wicked King Richard (Timothy Omundson) kidnaps his fiancé Madalena (Mallory Jansen), he fights to save her. But when he finally gets to the castle, he finds out Madalena decided to marry the king to have a well-established life as queen. After he loses “his only true love”, he spends a demeaning life, spending all his money on alcohol.

This until he receives a visit from Princess Isabella of Valencia (Karen David), who needs his help to save her parent’s kingdom from King Richard. She pushes him to leave and challenge their common enemy, accompanied by Sid (Luke Youngblood), Galavant’s squire. They’ll go through difficult and funny situations, meeting absurd characters, with only one goal: winning back his honor and his lady, and finally living happily ever after.

Taking the musical onto the small screen

As observed by Neil Genzlinger in The New York Times, during each episode there’s more than one Broadway-style song. Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater created a compelling soundtrack by mixing ballads and other traditional structures with modern rhythms and discrediting lyrics. Thanks to this “Broadway atmosphere” all the illogical facts do not feel quite so strange, after all. Sophisticated choreographies involving the whole cast stop the action, sometimes talking directly to the audience. There are some innovative meta-narrative songs, too.

Not only does the protagonist and music turn the rules of epic poems upside down, though. Madalena is the exact opposite of a fairy tale princess: she’s basically an opportunist and abandons her “true love” for money. Isabella, far from being a harmless princess, is more like a warrior. Sid, despite being only a squire, has much more chivalric values than the real horseman. Even King Richard turns out to be not evil, but just an unprepared fool in Madalena’s hands. And if you look for a couple who can be said to represent pure love, then that’s the servants, not the classical noble people. The series chooses an incredibly realistic and at the same time satirical point of view, exalting Middle Ages’ issues and superstition. Such a look recalls Goya’s Charles IV of Spain and His Family, within which the painter pointed out the royals’ flaws. In the same way, Galavant makes fun of every cliché and cleverly upsets the structures of chivalrous poetry. It makes it possible to believe there’s not just one way to live happily ever after.