Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, the creators of Schmigadoon!, are best known as writers of inoffensive family-friendly fare. Some of these efforts (the Despicable Me series) delighted children and parents alike, whereas others (The Santa Clause Two) perhaps had parents wishing they’d snuck a bottle of wine into the cinema. Have they been able to calibrate their approach to create something that appeals to grownups? Apparently not. In fact, it’s difficult to say just who the intended audience of this Apple TV+ show actually is.
Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) are two doctors who meet and enjoy four years together before their relationship runs out of momentum (all of which unfolds in around five minutes of screen time). During a hike as part of a couple’s retreat, the pair unwittingly stumble into the town of Schmigadoon, where everything is like a 1940s musical. Suitably amused and baffled, they stay overnight, only to find themselves unable to leave as they haven’t yet found true love and it seems that their feelings for each other aren’t as secure as they thought (gasp!).
The premise sounds utterly charming and the talent on both sides of the camera is undeniably impressive. Along with Strong (who is also a producer) and Key, the cast is rounded out by Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Fred Armisen and Jane Krakowski – who appears in later episodes. The series is executive produced by Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, and all six episodes are directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, with the show’s hyperreal aesthetics reminiscent of his Addams Family films. All these creatives worked on the same project, yet nobody noticed they had forgotten to add humour to their musical comedy. The most disheartening thing about it is just how good it could have been.
It’s all very twee and earnest. It might be hoped that the songs could offer an amusing edge, providing an opportunity for subversion and slyness, but they’re frustratingly unmemorable, with uninspired staging. There’s no bite because Schmigadoon! is toothless. The entire tone of the production feels miscalculated and despite a few mild profanities flung around, the wholesomeness of the entire affair begins to chafe. Musical theatre aficionados may well be enthralled, but anyone who is watching for the comedic credentials of the cast and crew might be bewildered… briefly before they switch off.
Schmigadoon! is released on Apple TV+ on 16th July 2021.
Watch the trailer for Schmigadoon! here: