No matter how beloved or acclaimed the movie, the self-proclaimed “Usual Gang of Idiots” at Mad Magazine always had a silly parody at the ready, whether it was “The Seven Itchy Years,” “The Sound of Money,” “The Oddfather,” “The Great Gasbag” “Harry Plodder and the Lamest of Sequels” or “The ScAvengers.”
If they had lampooned the Lerner and Loewe musical “Brigadoon,” they might well have called it “Schmigadoon!” Which is the corny/funny title of a six-episode musical comedy parody starring the eminently likable duo of Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong as a modern-day couple who find themselves trapped in an old-fashioned, early 20th century town where everything looks like a Broadway set, and the locals will break into song at the drop of a hat.
Series creators Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (“Despicable Me,” “The Secret Life of Pets”) have fashioned a slyly funny, sometimes sticky sweet and exceedingly charming endeavor that pokes fun at old-school musicals such as “Oklahoma!”, “The Music Man,” “Carousel” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” while also paying tribute to the genre. It’s reminiscent of Christopher Guest films such as “A Mighty Wind” and “Waiting for Guffman,” where there’s great affection for the very conventions that are being mined for comedy and social commentary.
Strong’s Melissa and Key’s Josh are woke, culturally sensitive, accomplished physicians who live in New York City and have reached that point in their relationship where one of them (Melissa) is ready for the next level of commitment, while the other (Josh) says things are just fine, and why don’t we just continue coasting along?
No chance. Melissa talks Josh into a couples retreat deep in the woods, where things go from unpromising to bad to worse as they bicker in the rain and get separated from the group and find themselves totally lost — at which point they stumble upon the town of Schmigadoon, a brightly colored, artificial-looking enclave where you can practically see the paint drying on the trees and the sky. Is this for real? Well, yes, in a “Pleasantville” kind of way.
The locals greet Melissa and Josh with a rousing, toe-tapping musical number, and Melissa voices her approval at the color-blind “casting.” (At this point, Melissa and Josh figure they’ve wandered into some sort of interactive-theater theme park attraction.)
Things get weirder when Melissa and Josh get to know the townsfolk, who certainly don’t seem to think they’re professional entertainers, and they start to wonder if they’ve passed through the portal into some sort of “Finian’s Rainbow” version of “The Twilight Zone” — but when they try to leave this cheerful but disturbingly odd place, they learn you can cross the bridge only with your one true love. When Josh and Melissa give it a go, they find themselves right back in the town of Schmigadoon.
Is it possible they’re not meant to be together? Can either or both find their one true love among the residents of this town?
And how long before somebody says something that acts as the cue for another musical number?
Melissa gets into the spirit and even does some dancing and singing of her own, while Josh practically injures himself rolling his eyes and represents those viewers who have little interest in musicals.
While Schmigadoon is indeed populated by a diverse group, there’s a not-so-subtle undercurrent of sexism, racism and homophobia permeating the town. Kristin Chenoweth is the powerful town prude, who heads a group of judgmental, conservative women. (Chenoweth’s “Trials and Tribulations” number is a fun takeoff on “Trouble in River City” from “The Music Man.”) Alan Cumming is Mayor Menlove, who is married but quite obviously gay. (That name might be a slight giveaway.)
Ariana DeBose is Emma Tate, a schoolteacher with a secret, while Dove Cameron is Betsy, an actual farmer’s daughter who pines for Josh even as her father skulks about while wielding his shotgun.
Oh, and here comes Jane Krakowski as the Countess, a character inspired by “The Sound of Music.”
Each episode begins with a flashback to New York City, filmed in more muted and realistic tones as learn more about the evolution of the relationship between Josh and Melissa. Then we’re once again plunged into the world of Schmigadoon, where Josh and Melissa each pursue possible new romances while wondering if they should get back together and try to figure their way out of this musical “Groundhog Day.”
Throughout the six episodes, Josh and Melissa come across as grounded characters who have no choice but to accept they’ve landed in this world of anachronistic artifice, and maybe the only way to escape is to really go with it and become part of the musical.
Cue the next number!