Musical Episodes of TV: The Top Ten

by Hannah Harrison

I have an embarrassing relationship with musical theatre. I have to admit that I am a theatre person and I have a playlist with over two-hundred songs on it. Immediately after I’m done with my musical theatre listening session, I play a pop song so all my friends on Spotify cannot shame me. I feel like I revealed a lot about myself in this moment and we are now friends.

So whenever a television series that I watch comes around with a musical episode, I jump on it. Bonus points if the show writes their own songs for the episode! I will admit that sometimes musical episodes fail miserably; you will not be seeing any musical episode on Riverdale on this list. Those episodes were mistakes and you cannot change my mind.

However, when musical episodes are done well they provide a nice change of pace without disrupting the story. So here are some shows that provided us great bops alongside story arcs!

10. Once Upon a Time

The fact that I watch this show for as long as I did is a secret that only the people reading this get to know. Fans had been wanting a musical episode for a very long time when the writers finally gave in in season six. It was not the best musical episode I’ve seen but Hook and Emma finally get married and Lana Parrilla gives us musical theatre camp!

9. The Office

This musical episode doesn’t work in the way the others on this list work; meaning these songs don’t really aim to move the plot forward or convey the feelings of the characters. But I promise there is a really good reason: I really like Sweeney Todd. And the cold open is reason enough to put this great episode on the list.

8. Grey’s Anatomy

I will say that there are some slightly cringey moments in this episode. Not everyone is a singer, but we still love them. I’m talking to you, Owen Hunt. But, it is saved by Sara Ramirez and her incredible Julliard trained Tony-winning voice. Please come back to Broadway, we miss you.

7. Evens Stevens

Christy Carlson Romano should have won a Grammy for “We Went to the Moon in 1969” and I stand by that. Yes, it does end with the “it was all a dream” copout, but I’m giving it a break because it’s a kid’s show.

6. Bob’s Burgers

Bob’s Burgers usually throws in some musical episodes on the regular throughout their seasons. Including an episode in which Gene combines the school’s competing musicals Die Hard and Working Girl. But they have blessed up with the episode “The Bleakening” giving us seven songs in this episode featuring Todrick Hall and Adam Driver. And, it’s a Christmas episode which makes it 100 x better.

5. Documentary Now

This episode of Documentary Now! parodies the making of the original cast album of Company documentary. John Mulaney plays Stephen Sondheim of this universe and Richard Kind does a patter son and life is good for thirty minutes.

4. Psych

Unlike some shows, this is not a throwaway episode because it is a musical. The plot of the crime they are trying to solve is actually very interesting and keeps you engaged. The show does not stick to conventional rules on songs should be presented and doesn’t shy from being slapstick.

3. That ’70s Show

When my favorite character, Fez, is going to be in the school musical, here is excited for all his friends to come support but worries they won’t show up. The cast seems to have fun despite the fact that they aren’t trained singers. It gets bonus points because Red and Kitty singer together (although brief) is very sweet.

2. Scrubs

This musical episode is executed through the lense of a patient who hit her head. The episode will definitely make you laugh as it is co-written by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx who wrote Avenue Q ande Book of Mormon. So we have them to thank for the big show stopping numbers.

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This show drew the roadmap for how musical episodes should be done. They integrate the singing with the plot itself; the writing does not lose any of its humor and actually contributes to the plot by having characters address their scary feeling. It is not a filler episode like so many television shows make their musical episode. 11/10 points! Good job Joss Whedon!


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