Apple TV+’s newest show Schmigadoon! stars SNL alum Cecily Strong and comedy legend Keegan-Michael Key as Melissa and Josh, two doctors who found love under the glow of a vending machine. The series hinges on the two as they struggle to maintain their relationship and Melissa searches for ways to bring back the spark they seemingly lost.
She enrolls them in a couples' hiking trip of some sort, and while they trudge through pouring rain and engage in a bit of a spat, they stumble upon the magical town of Schmigadoon. The scenery is a stereotypical backlot set with saturated colors and flat skies. Oh, and the townspeople have a habit of breaking into song, leading Melissa and Josh — much to his dismay — to realize that they’ve been transported into a musical. Now, this isn’t some Teen Beach Movie — Josh and Mel aren’t unwillingly forced to sing with the other citizens. They participate as much or as little as they choose.
There are spoilers ahead as I break down what happens in the first episodes, so be warned. The first episode introduces us to Josh and Melissa, who are both doctors working the same arduous hours at a hospital. We see them meet when Mel struggles to get a snack from a vending machine — an event Josh references on their anniversary. We flash forward four years and see their relationship has hit a lull. This leads to the aforementioned couple's hike. They each receive a heart-shaped rock with their partner’s name on it, which Josh quickly loses. Here, we see their different personalities come to light, with Mel lamenting about their relationship falling apart and Josh asking, “Why does everything have to be perfect?”
They hear church bells ringing and wander through a dense fog to emerge at Schmigadoon. The townspeople welcome them with a song, of course, about how perfect their town is. We are introduced to Mayor Manlove (Alan Cumming), Mildred Layton (Kristin Chenoweth) and her husband Reverend Layton (Fred Armisen), and Betsy McDonough (Dove Cameron). The couple comments on the town’s “colorblind casting” and the hypocrisy that Mrs. Layton doesn’t seem to approve of their coupling. Nonetheless, Josh begrudgingly agrees to accept the Mayor’s offer to spend the night.
Danny Bailey (Aaron Tveit), the local “no-goodnik,” makes a move on Melissa, and personally, I felt poised to root for him that second (smarmy bad boys are very special to me). Mrs. Layton insists the couple get separate rooms and they make later plans to go on the Tunnel of Love. Josh falls asleep, leading Melissa to resentfully explore for herself. She encounters Danny, who serenades her with a song about how he can never be tamed, which he is seemingly unaware is being expressed through song; it seems that the townspeople don’t realize they’re singing all the time. Josh tries to make up for his mistake, but Melissa isn’t interested. He inadvertently charms Betsy, the waitress, who Melissa accidentally gets to launch the town into a song about corn pudding. Melissa even sings her own verse and seems to enjoy it. They never end up eating any corn pudding, which was disappointing after such a convincing song. The two set out to try and leave Schmigadoon and — surprise! — they can’t. Obviously, a leprechaun (Martin Short) appears and informs them that they can’t leave until they’ve found true love. Melissa and Josh proclaim their love for each other and try to cross the bridge again, only to find themselves back where they started.
Episode two flashed back to reveal more about the night Melissa and Josh met, simply smitten with each other. Back in the present day, Josh proposes a plan to try falling in love with other people in order to escape, which Melissa deserves to slap him for but doesn’t. The Schmigadoonians sing a song about lover’s spats that are inevitable but never ruin a relationship, during which Melissa and Josh break up. Again, the idea of “perfection” comes up as a point of tension between them. Melissa wanders into the woods crying and stumbles upon the Mayor, who is also having a moment. He comforts her with… a song! A song about a man, which the mayor seems to be singing to himself as well. “Are you gay?” Melissa asks, to which Mayor MANLOVE responds by explaining he tries to be “an example of joy and gaiety.” Stupid wordplay, but that’s right up my alley.
Melissa throws her rock with Josh’s name on it into the woods. As she does, we see Josh talking to Betsy, who informs him of the Annual Picnic Basket Auction, where men can bid on a basket of goods and dinner with the girl who made it. These baskets are supposed to be anonymous, but Betsy very flirtily informs Josh what hers will look like. Melissa gets pissed when she finds out he is attending, and he tells her she should try to make a basket of her own (I hate this guy). Josh wins Betsy’s basket by bidding twenty dollars (an outrageously large amount in comparison to the townspeople’s expectations), and Melissa, drunk on the “men’s” punch, tries to get them to bid on her. Nobody is interested (I would pay anything to go on a date with Cecily, but that’s just me). Just when it seems all hope is lost for her, Danny shows up and wins her for two dollars. She goes on a date with him. Innuendo, kissing, and singing ensue. Melissa comments on Danny's high-waisted pants, and, thank god she did, because it was all I could think about the whole time.
Josh and Betsy meet up on the hill, “Virginity Ruins,” where she makes vague comments about her age and the tree that was planted when she was born, which is dangerously small. She sings about how she’s intent on waiting until marriage all while engaging in obvious innuendo with various props. In the end, Melissa and Danny go on the Tunnel of Love while Betsy’s dad shows up to her and Josh’s date with a gun.
After watching the first two episodes, all I could think about was how fun it must have been to shoot on this set — pandemic aside. We all know Keegan and Cecily have the chops to be funny, but how well will their talents be fully utilized in a musical format? Who really cares, though? Being up to the challenge of something as weird and out-of-the-box as this is a credit to them already. After Cecily’s inspired performance of "My Way" as Jeanine Pirro on her last Weekend Update as an SNL cast member, it’s fitting that she would embark on a TV adventure where she can continue to stun the audience with her vocal prowess.
Fans of musicals will have a great time watching this show, but if you aren’t prepared to have a song about corn pudding stuck in your head or add another sleazy man to your thirst list like me, maybe you just aren’t strong enough to handle Schmhigadoon!
The first two episodes of Schmigadoon! are now streaming on Apple TV+ with new episodes premiering every Friday.