Audiences adore singing cats, Founding Fathers and wicked witches — as long as you don't build a TV series around them. Yes, there have been successful musical-comedy series. But for every "Glee" success there are seven "Cop Rock" flops.
And yet, we keep getting song-and-dance acts like "Up Here," now streaming on Hulu, and Apple TV Plus' "Schmigadoon," which kicks off its second season Wednesday.
The attempts keep coming, in large part because Broadway's best are eager to make it big in the wider, more lucrative world of television. That's likely the motive for "Dear Evan Hansen" creator Steven Levenson and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the team behind the "Frozen" songs. Given their past work, it's no surprise that their collaboration, "Up Here," revolves around characters trying to break out of funks.
Lindsay (Mae Whitman) was bullied in school. Miguel (Carlos Valdes) got cheated on. Those "crises" cause the two lovebirds to lean on separate teams of imaginary counselors who whisper bad advice in their ears, sometimes with a full orchestra behind them.
The eight-part series wants us rooting for romance. But the writers keep finding ways to turn down the steam heat.
A sequence that nods to the lobster scene in "Annie Hall" gets icky when the couple accidentally bake a family of rats in the stove. Their steamiest encounter takes place in a public restroom. Lindsay visits a sex club with a circus theme.
There are a few musical numbers designed to get the libido going, such as Miguel's fantasy that he's starring in a "Jailhouse Rock"-like video. But Valdes doesn't have enough of Elvis' swagger.
More often than not, we're bombarded with power ballads that don't require the stars to master choreography.
The Lopezes seem determined to create a follow-up to "Let It Go," the "Frozen" favorite that 14-year-old girls know by heart. The only tune that comes close is "The Truth Is," a tearjerker delivered by Whitman.
It's puzzling that the former "Parenthood" actor ends up as the series standout. Her theater credentials are nowhere near as impressive as some of her co-stars, which include Tony winners Katie Finneran and Brian Stokes Mitchell. Both are woefully underused.
"Schmigadoon" takes better advantage of its Broadway veterans as well as Broadway's past.
In the first season, Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) got trapped in a town straight out of a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. Their new road trip in the second season takes them to a darker destination, one that could have been founded by Bob Fosse and Stephen Sondheim.
"Lots of sex and no romance," promises the creepy narrator played by Tituss Burgess. He ain't lyin'.
Over the course of six episodes, our heroes encounter the diabolical pair from "Sweeney Todd" (Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming), an attorney (Jane Krakowski) who apparently went to the same law school as "Chicago's" Billy Flynn, and a chandelier straight out of "The Phantom of the Opera."
Creators Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio may not be Broadway royalty but they have a deep appreciation for musicals. The stars take full advantage.
Chenoweth and Cumming give 'em the ol' razzle dazzle in "Good Enough to Eat," a naughty showstopper about turning "Annie"-like orphans into cold cuts. Dove Cameron, channeling "Cabaret's" Sally Bowles, leaves her Disney image in the dust with "Kaput," a number that'll remind you of Madeline Kahn's "I'm Tired" in "Blazing Saddles."
"I'm really into this," says Josh after Cameron's character takes a bow. True aficionados of musical comedies will be, too.