Stop acting like you hate it when characters randomly break into song.
There have been many TV shows to do musical episodes over the years. Some of them were hilarious and charming; they fit right in to the plot, and somehow it made sense that they exist in the first place. Some … some were nothing but regrettable.
It seems (though this was extremely hard to prove) that the first time a show had a musical episode, it was I Love Lucy, though Buffy’s musical episode may be the most well-known one, written roughly 45 years later.
Let’s take a look at some of the most well-done musical episodes – that is, the singing somehow makes sense, the songs are catchy and memorable, and we’re still singing them to this day.
5. Oz – “Variety”
This is one of those “so crazy it just might work” deals.
Oz is typically narrated by wheelchair-bound inmate Augustus Hill, but thanks to his actor’s schedule conflicts as he worked on The Matrix, his narrative duties had to be abandoned for an episode. What ended up happening is a variety show done by the inmates to help fill the gaps in narration.
Do note: these are all fantasy moments.
These songs, unlike the others on the list, are also all covers. Songs include “Days Like These”, “No World Order”, and “Leather”.
It’s weird. Really weird. Especially when the scarier prisoners start belting out songs like “The Last Duet”. But it worked. It was pretty interesting for fans of the show, and the songs were very well-chosen.
Everyone’s favourite song: Possibly “The Last Duet”
4. Community – “Regional Holiday Musical”
The Community writers decided to take a stab at Glee. And Christmas episodes. That’s the reason for this musical episode. As if Community wasn’t worth watching constantly in the first place.
As the characters slowly agree to be in the glee club, hilarious songs start up. It’s charming, it’s funny, and it’s sarcastic to boot.
And what don’t they poke fun at? Christmas music, rap, silly glee club numbers, Glee’s constantly shoving the importance of regionals down the audience’s throats — It’s all mocked.
You can really tell which actors have had previous training in song and dance, but that’s okay. It just adds to the campiness of the episode.
Everyone’s favourite song: They’re all so great … “Baby Boomer Santa”, maybe? Guys’ll like “Teach me How to Understand Christmas”
3. Clone High – “Raisin the Stakes: A Rock Opera in Three Acts”
In this case, everything that’s already known about the characters is just used to make a fun, silly musical episode. That certainly doesn’t make it bad, though. Just understated.
Not a lot of people talk about this episode; sometimes it feels like not a lot of people remember Clone High at all. That’s unfortunate, because this silly, weird episode fits seamlessly in with the vibe of the show, the songs are charming, and Jack Black guest stars. It’s not actually an opera, but it’s the thought that counts.
Oh, remember to keep your eyes open for subliminal messages while watching this episode.
It’s a clever parody of old rock operas like Tommy. What could be better?
Everyone’s favourite song: Probably “The Pusher”
2. Scrubs – “My Musical”
Anything you can do I can do better … That’s what Scrubs is saying to Grey’s Anatomy right now.
Everything about Scrubs makes a viewer wonder how it took them so long to write a musical episode into the show. Still, if the writers just randomly tossed one in, and said maybe it was one of JD’s day dreams, like “My Life in Four Cameras”, it still would have been a flop.
Show creator Bill Lawrence, who himself is a theatre geek, did everything right, though, luckily.
See, a patient who ends up having a brain tumour hears everyone’s words as song. It’s a great idea.
What’s also great is that the cast almost all have some sort of musical background: Donald Faison and Judy Reyes have both been on-stage; Bill Lawrence actually saw Ken Jenkins perform in a musical; Sarah Chalke has a background in dance, and, well, Zach Braff is just a lover of theatre. Plus the guest star, as well as the guest writers for the episode, are of Avenue Q fame! It’s a pretty big theatre-nerd-gasm, especially when there are homages to songs from Rent and Beauty and the Beast.
Everyone’s favourite song: “Everything Comes Down to Poo” or “Guy Love”.
1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – “Once More, With Feeling”
Joss Whedon’s a god. Okay? Okay.
And “Once More, With Feeling” just about steals the show. It’s by far the best musical episode out there. It furthers the plot of the show in a way no other musical episode does, the idea of a musical episode fits right into the world, and the songs actually let us see deeper into the characters’ minds than ever before. Plus some BIG stuff is revealed in this episode. All the songs are great, catchy, and enjoyable. Joss really understood his fans, his characters, and the art of writing a good musical when he put this glorious episode together, although this was his first attempt at writing music in such a way.
It was the most technically difficult episode of the show, as all the actors had to sing their own parts and learn to dance.
And yes, a demon makes everyone in Sunnydale sing their feelings, which is an entirely obvious idea. Writers are always taught to keep it simple, though. And if it works, it works. This episode certainly does.
Everyone’s favourite song: “I’ve Got a Theory”
Now you have a bunch of these songs stuck in your head. You’re welcome.