Play My Favorite Musical Episode Once More With Feeling
The song in your heart could be a bitter suite or put a little love in your heart. I've heard it both ways.
Admittedly and unashamedly, I’m a huge Broadway dork. I was raised on Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Disney soundtracks, and many other musicals as well. Some favorites, other than those aforementioned, would be: Chess, Jekyll and Hyde, Beauty and the Beast (the stage musical version, please!), Annie, Evita, Guys and Dolls, The Secret Garden, and more. I could go on. I really could. I have every word memorized from a LOT of musicals. Current musical theatre obsession? Hamilton. Currently unable to hear anyone ask, “What time is it?” without wanting to respond with, “Showtime!” Incidentally, I replied to a person who told me to “smile more” at a recent vending event by saying, “Talk less.” Turns out he wasn’t familiar with Hamilton and I just basically sounded like a jerk. Oops.
So since I’ve established my musical nerd cred and a history of my love for musicals, it should be clear that this carries over into my taste for television entertainment as well. The first live-action “musical episode” I ever saw and fell in love with was probably the Buffy musical, even though a few on this list definitely pre-date it. I was tardy in my media consumption in a lot of cases and watched a lot of shows many years after they originally aired. Now, I wish to share some of my favorite musical episodes and songs, in no particular order. Let me know some of your favorites in the comments!
1.) Scrubs: My Musical (2007)
It takes a particular sort of show and humor to make me watch a medical show. Seriously—not my usual genre. The lack of dragons, princesses, pirates, spaceships, and superheroes stacks the deck against it, but with Scrubs‘ good writing and characters—plus the fact that my mom was really into it and kept telling me specifics about why I would like it too brought me around. They had me at “musical episode,” and the fact that there was a whole song devoted to poo meant that I was sold.
There are some really fun songs in this musical. “Guy Love” cracks me up, and the “Everything Comes Down to Poo” song appeals to my forever-twelve-year-old sense of humor. However, possibly the best one is the Finale, where the cast starts out doing a Grease sendup, and then things get serious at around the :48 mark. This song represents the general feel of the show in its unique blend of the ridiculous and the serious.
2.) The Simpsons: Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious (1997)
The “Shary Bobbins” episode of The Simpsons is definitely one of my favorites, not even a little bit because the voice actor sounds so much like Julie Andrews. Already being very familiar with the music of Mary Poppins, I was extraordinarily amused by “Cut Every Corner.” Not just because that’s actually how I clean anything ever, but also because it’s just so full of unfortunate truth. The “it’s the American way,” line … wow. And this was from 1997!
I remember watching this when it first came out and thinking that Barney the Boozehound was actually a very good singer as he belted out the “Feed the Birds” parody, “Buy Me a Beer.” Honestly, as much as I love Mary Poppins, the old bird lady terrified me as a kid. It wasn’t because she was scary or old or anything like that. No, she scared me because she was covered in birds and bird poo, and I had an irrational fear that if I were to meet the bird lady and she wanted me to feed the birds, I’d be more likely to run screaming than give up my tuppence, and then Mary Poppins would be disappointed in me. Sadly, I couldn’t find a decent quality clip of that song to share here.
3.) Xena: Warrior Princess: The Bitter Suite (1998)
So it turns out that Lucy Lawless is actually a singer as well as an actor. She has albums out and everything. While I watched some Xena when it first came out, I didn’t finish until years later. Listening to “Hearts Are Hurting” STILL makes my heart hurt! Hearing Xena and Gabrielle blame each other and fight was such a far cry from their usual strong bond that it was kind of like the TV musical version of watching your two best friends argue and break up, knowing that you’ll have to choose to hang out with them one at a time forever or until they get it together.
Just like when friends argue, my inner diplomat was screaming, “Nooo! You LOVE each other! You’ve known each other forever! This is ridiculous. Just stop.” The version in the clip above is, I think, parts one and two run together, so there’s the fight, and then them climbing out of their hate pit and fixing their relationship. Whew!
4.) Community: Regional Holiday Musical (2011)
“Glee! It’s a feeling you get when your brain finally lets your heart get in its pants … ” Oh, wait. Hang on. I think I’ve been infected with … “Glee! It’s like a drug that you use that turns pain into shoes and your shoes into dance!”
Oh, no. What has happened to me? I must have the Glee virus! I just want to sing in the car and watch musicals, and … yeah, I think I was already infected. Like, well before I ever saw this episode of Community. I can’t even hear the opening notes of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” without going full theatrical on the character of Ursula the Sea Witch, so I’m pretty sure they’re singing and dancing to the intended audience here. So, as a total Community fan with an unreasonable crush on fictional character Jeff Winger, I have to say that the look on his face when Annie sings her hilariously horrifying parody of sexpot holiday songs, “Teach Me How to Understand Christmas,” is priceless. If you’ve not seen the show, Annie is a very serious student. This behavior is not in any way typical of her character and Jeff’s shocked expression makes sense.
This episode also contains one of my favorite lines in the history of entertainment, fandom, and the Internet. Before the music starts in “Troy and Abed’s Christmas Rap,” Troy is critical of Abed’s interest in the glee club, and Abed replies with, “Yeah, I guess I just like liking things.” Me too, Abed. Me too!
5.) Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling (2001)
This is the musical episode that started me thinking about musical episodes. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of my first real fandoms, and I’ll always love it for that. One of my favorite moments in the musical comes near the beginning, when Buffy is patrolling the graveyard with Mr. Pointy. She sings the line, “Nothing seems to penetrate my heart” right as she drives her stake into the heart of a charging vampire. The moment is at about the 1:35 mark in the clip above. There are a ton of hilarious and dramatic moments in the musical, just like in the actual show. Emma Caulfield as Anya remains my favorite actor and character in the series, and her impassioned expression of her strained feelings regarding bunnies at the :35 mark in “I’ve Got a Theory” is pretty much my favorite thing ever.
6.) Supernatural: Fan Fiction (2014)
Remember when Supernatural went meta and made it canon and it was amazing and bizarre and should not have worked but kind of did? Yeah. Dean and Sam are aware of The Fan Fiction. Because their exploits are chronicled by a deity/writer and fans found it and obsessed over it and made a surprisingly heartrending musical about it.
I’ll just leave this right here and scuttle back into the darkness from whence I came, okay?
7.) Once Upon a Time: The Song in Your Heart (2017)
If ever any TV show cried out for a musical episode, it would be Once Upon a Time. I mean, it’s kind of like Disney fanfiction played out on the small screen, and songs have long been an important part of Disney movies and characters. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was hoping for some musical outbreaks.
Some of the highlights would have to be the opening song with Snow and Charming waking up to discover that their every word comes out in the form of a song. I mean, didn’t Charming sing in the old animated Snow White movie about having only one song, that his heart was singing one song only for her? That’s loosely referenced here in this song from the OUAT musical when they state that there is powerful magic in love expressed via song.
But, any good Disney fan knows that the villain songs are the most fun, and Regina does not disappoint in her raging villain rant. Snow and Charming may sound sweet, but the Evil Queen’s number is a lot more fun to watch.
I can’t leave out good old Killian Jones. Not just because he’s very, very handsome (although that is a definite factor), but because his pirate song is way too much fun to leave out.
And, for those goofy softhearted Disney dorks like me, Emma’s song about defeating the powers of evil was a lot more uplifting than it should have been. Guess I’m a sucker for a reasonably good, musically fueled ending.
8.) The Flash/Supergirl Musical Crossover: Duet (2017)
I knew that Supergirl actor Melissa Benoist could sing from her days on Glee, but I was pretty excited to hear her do it again for the musical crossover between Supergirl and The Flash. Her Moon River is lovely, but my favorite is the silly, goofy “Super Friend” song between Barry and Kara, where she bounces back and forth between singing, dancing, and comedy. The bit of banter about her famous cousin is kind of my favorite.
If you want to get all teary-eyed, I recommend, “More I Cannot Wish You.” Sniff. Sneaky onion-cutters breaking in and cutting onions right by my face! How rude. Sniff.
And if you need a pick-me-up after that, I recommend, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”
9.) Psych: Santa Barbara Skies (2013)
Psych is probably one of my favorite shows of all time. Not exaggerating. Half the time, I can’t decide if my favorite character is Shawn, Gus, Lassiter, or some combination of all three. I think it’s Shawn. But … I like him best when he and Gus are playing off of each other and being ridiculous … but Detective Lassiter is played by Timothy Omundson, who I’ve been hoping would sing on the show since that one episode where he tap-danced, and … yeah, I clearly have a Psych problem. I’m also pretty much a giddy fool over the fact that there’s going to be a movie.
Oh, yeah. The music. There have been musical moments on this show in the past—a little singing here, a little tap-dancing there, just enough to make my jazz hands come out to play involuntarily—but the musical episode took things to exactly the place I wanted to be in: watching Shawn Spencer and Detective Lassiter dance an actual tango together while arguing in song about a case. Did some little entertainment fairy godperson extract this scenario from my little fangirl heart and cast it into being? Probably not. I mean, I guess they had writers and songwriters and practiced a lot and all that, so it’s more likely that more people than just me wanted the musical episode to happen.
One thing I love about the Psych musical episode is that everyone is still very much in character. Juliet’s lines are sung, but they’re very much the type of thing she would say, like, when she’s keeping them on track about the fact that there is a missing patient to be found. The “dance” between Shawn and Lassiter happens every time, just in the musical episode it’s an actual dance, just with ridiculously high kicks. Seriously. Check out the 2:52 mark of the song, “I’ve Heard It Both Ways.” The tango starts at 2:44, and the kicks are just a little later. This subtitled video is all I could find with the whole thing. Sorry if the subtitles are annoying!
10.) Galavant: The Entire Show (2015)
Well, at this point, one might make the case that I just like it when Timothy Omundson sings, and while that’s no lie, I loved Galavant for being a musical episode every single time. Karen David as Isabella is possibly my favorite TV princess of all time. The red outfit with the tall boots … if I had access to that, I’d probably wear it every day and go forth adventuring!
One of my favorite songs from the show is, “Maybe You’re Not The Worst Thing Ever,” which has insulting, backhanded compliments as the main lyrics, but sung to a very sweet, romantic-duet-y melody, plus it showcases my four favorite characters. Isabella and Galavant sing to each other while Madalena and Richard duet as well which makes it, I guess, a quartet in actuality?
Galavant wasn’t a particularly serious show, but it did occasionally offer up some very emotionally satisfying songs. Madalena, it turns out, skews a little bit into chaotic evil territory upon occasion (intentional understatement), but she’s not completely heartless. When she was small, some jerk princesses made fun of her for being poor and this event stayed with her. Gareth goes out and gets the earrings she admired from those royal jerks—with the ears still attached. He’s all like, “Oh, sorry. I left the ears on. I’ll remove them—” but Madalena appreciates the gift just as it is.
This concludes my top ten favorite musical episodes, but I know that there are more out there, and there are some shows that didn’t go full musical but had a song or two here and there. In the comments, feel free to share your favorite musical episodes and songs!
(image: 20th Century Fox)
Sara Goodwin has a B.A. in Classical Civilization and an M.A. in Library Science from Indiana University. Once she went on an archaeological dig and found awesome ancient stuff. Sara enjoys a smorgasbord of pan-nerd entertainment such as Renaissance faires, anime conventions, steampunk, and science fiction and fantasy conventions. In her free time, she writes things like fairy tale haiku, fantasy novels, and terrible poetry about being stalked by one-eyed opossums. In her other spare time, she sells nerdware as With a Grain of Salt Designs, Tweets, and Tumbls.
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