Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set

Three college friends out in the world, filling the void with television…and loving it.

List: Best Musical TV Episodes

Posted by Mr. Feeny on August 27, 2009

As an obsessed fan of Broadway music, I’m always hoping characters will just break into song…in pretty much every show I watch. For me, it’s the highlight of a series. My favorite episodes of one of my top shows, Quantum Leap, were usually when Scott Bakula sang. The parody songs in Family Guy are always entertaining. Who doesn’t love Kristin Chenoweth singing in Pushing Daisies? (She should have done it in The West Wing) But those are just incidentals. Episodes completely filled with music…amazing. Except for shows like 24 or Dexter, I think every show could use a musical episode. Picture Hugh Laurie dancing around with his cane. Or the Big Bang gang praising science through song. It’d be splendid.

I’ve always heard that Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s musical episode was the best ever. Bar none. But since I had never seen the show, I had no idea. Until today. I finally got to Season 6, Episode 7: “Once More with Feeling.” It motivated me to put together a list of the best musical episodes of television. Doing some research, I realized there are a lot that I haven’t seen. So this list needs your help to complete!  Special credit goes to this blog for compiling what seems like a complete list of every musical episode ever. Well done. I really want to see Northern Exposure’s episode since John Cullum is one of my favorite Broadway stars. But here are my best…and a dishonorable mention for the worst.

1) Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Once More with Feeling” — Absolutely incredible. Joss Whedon put together a full-length musical crammed into 50 minutes…but it never seemed less than gigantic. Every aspect of this episode made it seem that way. It was shot letterbox, with classic musical camera angles and pans. Real choreography, harmonies, incredible attention to detail. And yet it also kept true to the show with its humor. (Two from Anya: “it was like we were being watched. Like there were only 3 walls and not a 4th wall”… “clearly our number was a retro pastiche, it will never be a breakaway pop hit”) And it kept the story arcs moving. All sorts of important secrets and plot points came to light. An astounding mix of something fresh and an homage to great musicals of the past. And then the real key…almost everyone is a great singer. Except for Alyson Hanigan, every girl’s voice was pristine…and they purposely left Hanigan out of most songs. I can’t say enough…so I’ll just stop here. Sadly, this is the best video I could find…


2) Scrubs: “My Musical” — I didn’t think anything could beat “My Musical”. Like Buffy, this episode kept with the show’s same format and moved the story along. There were still three plots, three lessons. You can’t skip this episode and follow the story perfectly. The songs were a natural fit in the context of each scene. And all the songs were set-up as seen only through a patient’s mind (that patient happened to be NU alum and Broadway star Stephanie D’Abruzzo). The best part was that pretty much every actor could carry a tune. I love “I’m Dominican,” as Carla chews out Turk for calling her Puerto Rican, and the Les-Mis style Act I finale, “When the Truth Comes Out,” which combines elements of other songs from the episode. But, without a doubt, the best and most well known is this Zach Braff (also NU) and Donald Faison duet, “Guy Love”:

3) Even Stevens: “Influenza: The Musical” — I know, I’m showing my age. At least I didn’t include the Fairly Oddparents episode. But this really was a fantastic one, despite it being on the Disney Channel. Or maybe because it was on Disney. As is often the reason for these episodes, Ren had an illness that caused her to imagine singing. That allowed Christy Carlson Romano to be the featured singer and she has a lovely voice along with some Broadway cred. The songs were simple but catchy and an all-around good time. And yes, Shia LeBeouf sings too (Check out “I Always Find a Way”). I encourage you to watch all the songs, but here’s are two highlights.


4) The Simpsons: “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious” — The Simpsons actually break out into song much more than the Griffins do. Plus they’ve come out with two CDs filled with songs from the show. Several episodes feature musical montages such as “A Streetcar Named Desire” or “Planet of the Apes.” So sing-along-able. But only “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious” wove songs together with dialogue to create a purely musical episode. I think I actually know the lyrics to Sherry Bobbins’ songs better than I do Mary Poppins’.

5) I Love Lucy: “Lucy Goes to Scotland” — “I Love Lucy” often featured musical selections. Pretty much every episode had Ricky singing a tune in the nightclub (I love me some “Babaloo” or “Cuban Pete”). So those episodes don’t count. Neither does the episode where Lucy composes a musical. This list isn’t about shows within a show. But “Lucy Goes to Scotland” does count. During the European tour season, Lucy has a dream about the McGillicutty clan hundreds of years ago. The music is perfect for a 50s musical, with fun lyrics and even a chorus. Of course, it is a spoof of “Brigadoon.” Plus, all four main characters sing well. OK, not Lucy, but in reality Lucille Ball actually did have a decent voice. And despite her always trying to ham it up, you can actually tell that in this episode, which, you can see by this clip, was the first to be colorized.

6) Chicago Hope: “Brain Salad Surgery” — I had high hopes (pun intended) for this episode, since one of my favorite Broadway actors, Mandy Patinkin, would presumably be highlighted. After all, he regularly sang on the show anyway. But, unfortunately, Mandy had left the show by then. Although he did guest star in “Brain Salad Surgery,” he wasn’t the focus. And the singing by the others left much to be desired. But it’s quite fun to watch Hector Elizondo, Adam Arkin and Mark Harmon dancing around. Unfortunately, I can’t find a video for it.

DHM) 7th Heaven: “Red Socks” — This could be the worst musical episode in history. I still remember setting aside time to watch it…and being utterly disappointed. They mostly just reused songs from other sources, the dance routines were cheesy and seemed to be there just to be there…and the vocal talents of most of the cast left everything to be desired. I couldn’t believe they actually went through with it after hearing how it would sound. Just skip to 5:00 in this clip for an example of all this.

As a parting note, How I Met Your Mother needs to do one of these. Alyson Hanigan might not want to. But Neil Patrick Harris is a fantastic singer, was in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog, and it just fits the personality of the show perfectly. Oh, and look at this. It seems that Megan Mullally has already set the stage…


7 Responses to “List: Best Musical TV Episodes”

  1. Andrew Jorczak said

    My brother and I used to sing the Confrontation song as well. Really, really cool.

    • Mr. Feeny said

      I love it. It was the only song left out of the Les Mis we did at my high school. I was furious, but our director wouldn’t add it in for whatever reason.

      HIMYM seriously needs to do this.

  2. Blu said

    I guess you and Cop Rock just weren’t meant to be:(

  3. CJ Cregg said

    Mr. Feeny, you can make fun of my tastes in TV all you want, but I will get your back on Influenza: The Musical. I still get those songs stuck in my head. Particularly “we went to the moon in 1969…”

    I’m not going to watch the Buffy links because I don’t want to give it away for when I get there!

  4. CJ Cregg said

    And wow, Mr. Feeny, how are you already halfway through season 6 of Buffy? You’re cruising through the seasons!

  5. […] you in the show. Two episodes from the later seasons — “The Body” and “Once More with Feeling” — are two of the greatest episodes of television ever created. And, my favorite part, […]

  6. […] perform on stage. I enjoy both tremendously. It’s no coincidence that I created a list of the Best Musical Episodes and also am a loyal viewer of Frasier and NewsRadio. Sunny‘s radio plot wasn’t as good […]

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