TV: Schmigadoon!

August 15, 2021

Apple+’s Schmigadoon! begins with an appealing, wry mission: to both execute and subvert the tropes of the musical genre. Unfortunately, its modest six-episode run exhausts the premise well before the finale. Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) are doctors from New York City whose relationship has hit a bumpy patch. Together they go on couples retreat, where the starry-eyed Melissa attempts to wring more commitment from the more sarcastic, cynical Josh. But the retreat, which involves a hike and camping trip in the woods, is ill-fated. Indeed, it looks like it might be the end of things, until they stumble into a strange little village called Schmigadoon. Thinking they’ve encountered a performance-art tourist-trap, they quickly realize they’ve stepped out of contemporary reality into a stage-set musical — from which they can’t easily escape.

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, Schmigadoon! begins with a certain infectious √©lan, as Melissa and Josh react to — and ultimately perform in — the unlikely musical numbers that keep spontaneously happening to accentuate their relationship troubles. The early numbers are entertaining and funny, interrogating the more outdated, problematic elements of the traditional musical genre. The series is also a great showcase for Strong, who centers the proceedings nicely, establishing comedic headlining bona fides that will hopefully give her further opportunities to shine. Unfortunately, the returns diminish down the home stretch, when the satire falls away in favor of rather schmaltzy, expected outcomes. Having succeeded early in its mission of subverting the genre, it later settles on merely imitating it. Also disappointing is the way it underuses a talented cast; in particular, Jaime Camil, Kristen Chenoweth, and Jane Krakowski can be exceptional comic assets, but they aren’t effectively leveraged here. In the end, what starts as an appealing mash-up of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and The Good Place ends as an slightly over-baked SNL skit.