Every now and again, TV gives you something to sing about.
For May sweeps or special anniversaries or simply out of boredom, dozens of shows have tried their hands at musical episodes. Not musical shows like “Glee,” “Smash” or “Eli Stone,” or shows that include musicals like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” or “Supernatural,” but straight series that turn to song and dance. Some work better than others, but we took a look at the most memorable.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”
Look no further than “Once More, With Feeling” to see why showrunners keep trying to get lyrical: When it works, it really, really works.
The seventh episode of the sixth season found Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) miserable with how her second chance at life has gone so far. When a demon named Sweet kidnaps Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) and puts everyone in Sunnydale to music, the Scoobies (Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Anthony Stewart Head, Emma Caulfield and James Marsters) are left to decide if the Vampire Slayer really needs their help.
When a patient starts hearing everything in song, the staff at Sacred Heart deal with their issues lyrically, including Carla’s maternity leave and J.D. and Elliot’s future.
The episode was nominated for five Emmy Awards at the 2007 ceremony, marking it the most celebrated experiment on this list.
Shonda Rhimes can typically do no wrong, but “Song Beneath the Song” can go either way. As a gut-wrenching hour of heartbreak and sorrow, the episode pulls every heartstring: near-death in a car crash, a touch-and-go birth, several intra-hospital romances. As a song-and-dance, Sara Ramirez (Callie Torres) and Chyler Leigh (Lexie Grey) were the few highlights at Seattle Grace.
While the cast performance of “How to Save a Life” gets the most recognition, and rightly so, the full soundtrack, including Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars,” Anna Nalick’s “Breathe” and Jesus Jackson’s “Runnin’ on Sunshine,” do succeed in telling a lyrical story. They could have just done with some better singers.
“That ’70s Show”
Music played a huge role in the weed-infused sitcom, but the season 4 “That ‘70s Musical” took on a new tune when Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) dreams that his life is suddenly backed by The Turtles, the Steve Miller Band, Nazareth, the Ramones and Peaches & Herb.
When the Greendale glee club is unable to perform, the study group steps in during the holiday special. A sweet, lighthearted, fun episode reminded “Community” fans exactly what the show was: uproariously funny with a creativity that few sitcoms every exhibited. Anyway, the “Glee” parody was less than subtle in the best way.
Any show with “Glee” alums would be foolish to avoid its stars’ talents, so the CW crossover episode was a perfect chance to utilize Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist — plus Broadway star Victor Garber, who previously showed off his singing chops on “Eli Stone,” and “Smash” alum Jeremy Jordan.
“The Duet” reunited Gustin and Benoist with “Glee” co-star Darren Criss for a super-sized, adorably delightful episode with a mix of covers and original songs, including “Super Friend,” written by “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” star Rachel Bloom.
“Influenza” was not only a deliriously fun episode, but it was educational too! When Ren (Christy Carlson Romano) drags herself to school despite her flu, she discovers that her classmates are all trained singers and dancers now, which…totally made sense in this world.
Plus, “We Went to the Moon in 1969” saved kids in history class for years.
For a show as down-to-earth as “Daria,” a musical episode may have seemed out of place, but somehow it worked. It turned out that most of the voice actors could sing — or fake it well enough — which the producers weren’t sure about going into production, but it helps if you don’t take it too seriously.
A super-sized episode ran as a TV special after the seventh season, “Psych: The Musical” found Shawn and Gus tracking down a criminally insane playwright (Anthony Rapp, “Rent”). Ally Sheedy, Jimmi Simpson and Barry Bostwick also guest star in a bizarre episode that never quite fit in the “Psych” history.
Star Stephen Collins’ Broadway background didn’t help a truly terribly Valentine’s Day episode during the ninth season; in fact, it might have hurt the show with expectations the rest of the cast simply couldn’t live up to. The Hamptons, apparently so in love with various other characters, are compelled to sing their feelings in flat, stilted tones and dance them out in robotic choreography in a cringeworthy hour of television that would have been better off left on the cutting room floor.
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