Long running television series will sometimes air a special episode, like a clip show were the characters reminisce about past memorable moments. A similar device used by many shows is a musical episode. Although sometimes may seem a bit out of character for a show, the musical episodes have strong plot, but will use music as a way to tell the story. It also gives the cast of the particular show, a chance to display some of their other talents such as singing and dancing, that they otherwise don’t get to do. In most cases, the episodes are critically and commercially acclaimed and will lead to strong ratings, as well as awards. Here is a look at some of the most memorable musical episodes from TV.
6) The Simpsons “All Singing and Dancing” January 4, 1998
Fox Network’s, The Simpsons is one of the longest running television series ever, first premiering on December 17, 1989 and still airing today. The series was created by Matt Groening and features The Simpson family, Bart (voiced by Nancy Cartwright), Homer (voiced by Dan Castellenta), Lisa (voiced by Yeardley Smith), Marge (voice by Julie Kavner) and Maggie. The series has done several clip shows and wanted to try something different. Hence, a musical clip show. The plot revolves around Homer hating to sing and dance, and then the family shows him past music numbers in the series. The episode starts with Homer and Bart renting the Clint Eastwood film, Paint Your Wagon not knowing it was a country musical. The two are shocked when Client Eastwood doesn’t murder a whole bunch of people and instead, sings. It was written by Steve O’Donnell and featured a number of past musical numbers from the series including Baby On Board, Who Needs the Kwik – E Mart? and The Monorail Song. The episode received positive reviews from critics and fans that enjoyed the musical format for the clip show.
5) Grey’s Anatomy “Song beneath the Song” March 31, 2011
Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama on ABC that premiered on March 27, 2005 and will air its season ten finale, on May 15, 2014. The series follows interns and residents, as they grow into talented doctors who struggle sometimes with their personal life and relationships. Grey’s has been highly acclaimed and has been nominated for several Prime Time Emmy Awards. It also won the 2007 Golden Globe for Best Drama. The episode revolved around character Callie Torres, played by Sara Ramirez who won a Tony award for her role in the musical Spamalot, where she was involved in a car accident and goes into a coma endangering both her own life and that of her unborn baby. She then has an out of body experience and is witness to her friends and colleagues trying to save her life. At various points, the cast break into song but it is apparently as a result of the trauma that Callie suffers. Creator, Shonda Rhimes stated that she had wanted to do a musical episode while shooting the pilot, which was even before the series had its name. The series was known for its use of music, but it took her about seven years to get the all musical episode made. Sara Ramirez received praise for her performance, however, the episode itself has been met with mixed reviews with some critics’ feeling it wasn’t in tone with the series. Regardless, the episode had a high rating, only being beaten by American Idol that night. A soundtrack was also released, Grey’s Anatomy: The Musical Event, which charted on the Billboard 200 list and included covers of songs by Snow Patrol and Jesus Jackson.
4) That 70’s Show “That 70’s Musical” April 30, 2002
The series followed teenager Eric Forman (Topher Grace) and his friends Hyde (Danny Masterson), Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), Jackie (Mila Kunis), Fez (Wilmer Valderrama), the love of his life Donna (Laura Prepon) and his parents Red and Kitty (Kurtwood Smity and Debra Jo Rupp) dealing with life in the 1970’s. It was a highly successful sitcom that aired on Fox from August 23, 1998 to May 18, 2006. The musical episode occurred in season 4 and was about Fez performing in a school pageant, but worries his friends don’t care and won’t show up. Fez then daydreams and fantasizes through the musical, about how he imagines life and what he assumes his friends are doing, which is crying about their love life to the song, “Love Hurts”. The episode featured music from bands like, the Steve Miller Band, The Carpenters and Nazareth.
3) Community “Regional Holiday Music” December 8, 2011
Community was created by Dan Harmon and has aired on NBC since September 17, 2009. The series follows a group of students, Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), Annie (Alison Brie), Britta (Gillian Jacobs), Abed (Danny Pudi), Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) as well as Pierce (Chevy Chase) and Troy (Donald Glover), who both left the series in season 5, as they attended Greendale Community College and become close friends. It’s a well known fact that creator, Dan Harmon strongly dislikes the Fox series Glee and took this opportunity to do a parody of it. That leads us to the musical episode where Jeff and the gang must fill in for the Greendale Glee Club, which initially none of them want to do. The episode was written by writers making their debut, Steve Basilone and Annie Mebane. It was directed by Tristram Shapeero with the music composed by Ludwig Goransson and featured in the episode included original songs, “Teach Me How to Understand Christmas”, “Baby Boomer Santa” and “Glee”. The episode has been praised by critics for the story and humour.
2) Scrubs “My Musical” January 18, 2007
Scrubs was a highly successful medical comedy drama that aired from October 2, 2001 to March 17, 2010. The series was created by Bill Lawrence and starred a cast of doctors, nurses and employees of Sacred Heart Hospital. According to Bill Lawrence, it had long been his dream to do an all musical episode. The series was notable for its use of music and on occasion, big musical numbers but had never done a full out musical. Bill Lawrence was hesitant to do a musical out of fear that it would not be organic to the show. Finally, in season 6, the show decided to go ahead with a musical episode. The plot revolves around patient Pattie Miller, who suffers from a mysterious condition that when people talk to her she hears it as singing and the same when she talks. However, nobody is actually singing and the characters attempt to help her. The episode has been highly praised by critics and fans of the show; most notably the way the music was worked into the episode through Patti’s condition, was very well received. Not only was the episode written by Debra Fordham, but she also contributed to the lyrics. The episode was directed by Will Mackenzie and some of the original songs featured were, “Welcome to Sacred Heart”, “Everything Comes Down to Poo” and “Guy Love.” Actors Donald Faison and Judy Ryes received praise for their performances and the episode was nominated for Outstanding Directing, Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics, Outstanding Music Direction and tied with Entourage for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy Series at the 59th Prime Time Emmy Awards.
1) Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Once More, With Feeling” November 6, 2001
Buffy Summers, played by Sarah Michelle Geller, is a typical, ordinary teenage high school student…with the exception that she is a butt kicking vampire slayer. The very popular and critically acclaimed show was created by Joss Whedon and aired from March 10, 1997 to May 20, 2003. This is one of the most significant musical episodes, as its success would lead to other shows like Scrubs and Grey’s Anatomy also doing musical episodes. The plot revolved around a demon who puts the urge to break into song and dance into the people of Sunnydale, while revealing a hidden truth before eventually bursting into flames. Several of the characters in the show express annoyance over breaking into song and dance and wanting it to stop. Joss Whedon learned how to play the guitar in order to write the music for the episode and the cast has commented saying that, for some it was a very difficult experience. The cast had little to no experience in musicals and found the preparation grueling. The cast spent three months in voice training and two choreographers where brought in to help with the dancing. The episode received high praise from fans and critics who felt that the episode retained its humor, characters and tone, while finding a creative way to incorporate the musical aspect. The episode was nominated for Outstanding Musical Direction at the 2002 Prime Time Emmy Awards. It remains not only one of the best episodes of Buffy, but also one of the best musical episodes in television history. Songs included were, “Going through the Emotions”, “Under Your Spell” and “Rest in Peace”.