“Suddenly” still fails to reconcile the show’s human drama with its send-up of musicals.
This recap of Schmigadoon! season 1, episode 4, “Suddenly”, contains spoilers.
I’ve seen enough TV to know I’m supposed to care about what’s going on in Schmigadoon!, but I must admit that it’s difficult to meet the show halfway. I know what it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a cutesy, real-world romance set against the backdrop of Old Hollywood musicals. It’s supposed to juxtapose earnest human connection with artificiality. But I think that’s the problem. The triteness of the musical numbers and the archness of the characters makes everything feel fake; humanity gets lost in the machinery. It might work as a joke, but not one that’s six episodes long.
Schmigadoon season 1, episode 4 recap
To be fair, though, the problems run deeper than that, since I don’t care about Melissa and Josh, either. I didn’t buy into their relationship at the start and no matter how many flashbacks these episodes open with, I’m still not there. Maybe that’s why I’m not connecting with the show overall. Josh’s cynicism and intolerance for the simple pleasures of musicals fulfils an important narrative function, but making him that cynical about everything just makes his presence tedious. He didn’t seem happy in his relationship even when it was ostensibly working, so if we’re looping back around to the idea that these two were perfect for each other all along, I’m not sure whether that’ll take. In “Suddenly”, he finds himself matched up with schoolteacher Emma Tate (Ariana DeBose), who immediately becomes the most interesting person in the show, only making him more annoying.
Melissa fares better, but not romantically. Her new suitor, Doc Lopez, revealed as a kind of cliff-hanger last week, turns out to be awful, which inspires her to deliver some medical progressivism to Schmigadoon by treating patients he won’t and refusing to uphold archaic, stereotypical ideas about women and society. This primarily manifests as Melissa treating a young pregnant woman whose baby was conceived out of wedlock, but it amounts in large part to a childish song about sex for the oblivious parents that can’t really escape the fact that it’s operating at a juvenile level of humour.
One of the most interesting ideas in Schmigadoon! is how Josh and Melissa’s sex-positive meddling is sending the whole community spiralling into chaos, resulting in the death of Doc Lopez’s father and Mayor Menlove coming out to the entire town, including his wife. Interesting though it might be, it’s hard to say where the show is going with this, and what it’s actually trying to say. There’s such a clear consideration for contemporary points of view that it’s clear the show is trying to rectify the ills of a historically racist and sexist genre – so why the pushback from the townsfolk? Wouldn’t it be more fitting for the show’s utopian ideals that everyone was uplifted by the injection of modern morality? Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy to completely alter how an entire community thinks, it but isn’t like Schmigadoon! has cared much about believability until now, and the fact that both Josh and Doc Lopez simultaneously soften suggest that the upsides of the approach outweigh the downs.
I get it – I’m not supposed to care about any of this. And maybe if the show had better drama I wouldn’t. But Schmigadoon season 1, episode 4 proves what previous episodes have already suggested – this show is so pleased with itself that it expects us to care without putting in the work to make us. I hate to identify with Josh in any situation, but his problem with musicals are a lot of my problems with this entire show.