Two outsiders enter the town of Schmigadoon





Paul Asay

TV Series Review

It’s not really a place where the wind goes whipping down the plain, or where Old Man River just keeps rolling along. You never hear the clang, clang, clang of the trolley or follow the yellow brick road. But for afficianados of classic musicals, the quaint town of Schmigadoon just might feel, and sound, as though it’s made up of your favorite things.

Even so, you might want to leave at some point, be it at sunrise or sunset. But this is an awfully hard town to say so long, farewell to.

They Could’ve Danced All Night

Melissa and Josh know how difficult it is to walk away from Schmigadoon, much to their minor-chord sorrow. The couple got caught in the rain, traipsed across a picturesque bridge and found themselves smack-dab in a musical. And we’re not talking about a subtle, “let’s put on a show!” musical such as Pitch Perfect or whatnot. We’re talking about a production where townsfolk perform complex dance numbers and anyone—be it the librarian or the fireman or the preacher himself—might burst into a heartfelt solo at any moment.

Josh hates the place right away. “I just wish that all these people would die,” he tells Melissa. “Is that wrong?” Melissa has a higher tolerance for song-and-dance numbers than Josh, but even for her the place can be a bit taxing.

But they can’t leave. Or, at least, that’s what an honest-to-goodness leprachaun told them when they tried. No, they’re stuck in Schmigadoon until they find love; not just any love, but true love.

The inference? That what they have ain’t it.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Schmigadoon?

Schmigadoon!, a rollicking musical comedy on Apple TV+, does indeed sashe and twirl around one of American entertainment’s most treasured, and ticklish, of tropes: love. The batted eyelash; the stolen kiss; the wedding bells; the happily ever after. And musicals embrace true love more than anything. In fact, it’s a rare musical that’s dealt with anything else.

Mind you, anyone who’s been married a week or more knows that happily ever after is often hard earned. Josh wonders whether “true love” is even a thing. And that, of course, ticks off the more idealistic Melissa something fierce.

“Just because something’s hard doesn’t mean it’s unattainable,” she says. Love takes work, she insists. And that’s a great message, as far as it goes, and we may get other strong messages in the series, too. (And if I know my musicals at all, I have a sneaking suspicion that Josh and Melissa may discover that they’re right for each other after all.)

But while Schmigadoon! does more than deconstruct some lovey-dovey myths built by musicals. It rejects the classic values that many of those musicals embodied, as well.

The show’s prime villain is Mrs. Layton, wife of the local priest who always carries a Bible. She’s aghast that Melissa and Josh aren’t married, and she’s determined to snuff out the modern sensibilities they bring to town. Schmigadoon’s married mayor has a yen for pink ties and sings, rather too convincingly, of being held in a pair of strong, tan, masculine arms.

“Mr. Mayor,” Melissa asks him, picking up the clues, “are you gay?”

“I try to be,” he says, using the word in a more old-fashioned way. He wants to add joy and levity to the town. But he retreats to the forest when “I want to be gay, but can’t.” Wink-wink.

The show is a whole picnic basket of veiled sexual asides and double entendres—the shadow puppets that dance behind Schmigadoon!’s feigned 1940s innocence. And if the show also sometimes mocks present-day sexual sensibilities, it does little to distract our attention from the show’s real quarry. If Mrs. Layton tries to keep Schmigadoon pure and proper, the folks behind the curtain have other ideas. (You have a bit of more overt sexual content, along with some bad words here and there, to watch out for, too.)

Schmigadoon! is a clever, unique concept brought to life by a talented, committed cast. Which makes it so frustrating that the show seems committed, as well—to turning religion and tradition into its biggest bogeymen. When your whole show is predicated on the charm of that tradition—and when so many religious viewers love those old-timey musicals, too—it can often seem that Schmigadoon! has trapped itself in its own preening conceit.

Episode Reviews

July 16, 2021: “Schmigadoon!”

We’re treated to a flashback of how Melissa and Josh first met—one involving a quick and rewarding kick to a candy machine. Four years later, much of the sweetness in their own relationship is gone, and the two go on a couples’ hiking retreat to help rekindle their romance. But when the two get caught in a rainstorm and begin to fight, they try to find shelter across an old stone bridge—one that leads to the very strange town of Schmigadoon.

The town’s motto is, “We always strive for peace and happiness,” but one of its residents (we hear in song) does “unspeakable things to pigs.” We also briefly meet a fortune teller (with the requisite crystal ball), along with the mild preacher and his fierce, Bible-toting wife. She makes the unmarried couple take two rooms in the town’s hotel (which Josh is furious about), and it’s suggested that she’s racist, too. (While Melissa notes that the town (which she thinks is a colorful tourist trap at first) features “color-blind casting”, Josh notes that their own multiracial relationship seems to trigger the woman’s ire.) Mrs. Layton also declares the town’s single “rapscallion” (who’s casting a leering eye on Melissa) is “no goodnick,” asking people to “pardon my Jewish.”

We see Josh and Melissa entwined (albeit clothed) and kissing on a bed. We hear about the honeymoon of the Mayor Menlove and his wife; they didn’t get much sleep, the wife says, “on account of all the roosters out back.” There’s a reference to Thor, god of thunder. A father of a bevy of blond daughters shoots a gun, injuring someone off screen. Josh and Melissa drink champagne during a celebratory dinner.

Melissa, an obstetrician, helps deliver a baby in flashback. Some women display a bit of cleavage. Leaders of the couples’ hike give participants heart-shaped “sacred Chippewa” stones with their names carved in them. They also mentioned that a few people died during the last hike after they strayed from the trail. Josh mocks the idea of “going to hell” for sharing a hotel room with his girlfriend. We hear a few sexual allusions in superficially innocent songs and conversations. The word “p–sed” is heard, and God’s name is used inappropriately.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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