I’ve been looking over the year in TV to pick out favorites for my Top 10, and I’m using this column to highlight those 2021 series that I liked but don’t plan to put on the list. Today’s pick: the six-episode musical comedy “Schmigadoon!” on Apple TV+, starring Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key.
What surprised me about the show was its underlying affection for musical theater. Yes, every song is a goof on the clichés of the likes of “The Music Man,” “The Sound of Music,” and “Brigadoon.” They make ruthless fun of the conventions of show tunes, most obviously the sexism and vapidity, and there are many jokes that arrive at the expense of jazz hands, merry townsfolk, and couples falling in love at first sight. There is plenty of snark afoot. But the songs are also wittily written, and catchy. The choreography is top-notch and well-shot. And the cast members — including Fred Armisen, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Aaron Tveit, and Jane Krakowski (as the Baroness) — have an infectious enthusiasm.
Strong and Key play Melissa and Josh, married New York doctors who’ve been taking each other for granted. Out hiking, they get stuck in Schmigadoon, a pastel-colored town where everything and everyone is a musical cliché. It’s like the couple are trapped in a Broadway version of “The Truman Show.” They’re not able to leave until they find “true love,” which they learn from Martin Short’s leprechaun — true love with each other, or with one of the locals. Ultimately, Melissa and Josh have some things to learn from the townspeople, with their happy, storybook approach to life. And the townspeople have some things to learn from the cynical New Yorkers, particularly when it comes to diversity.
Obviously you have to have a taste for musicals to enjoy this spoof of them. But you certainly don’t need to be a student of the genre to understand the jokes, which occasionally miss, but more often hit.