On paper, the TV musical episode almost always sounds like a bad idea. There are so many different ways that it can go wrong. The music might be bad, or the actors can't sing, or it doesn't feel in line with the show's normal tone. Still, a surprising amount of the time, it works out well. TV musical episodes can give shows a chance to exercise creative muscles that they don't often get the chance to use.
These musical episodes can come in a variety of forms. Sometimes, characters just burst into song to express how their feeling. Other times, there's a high school musical or some other event going on that gives characters the chance to sing. The music source also varies. Sometimes, it's written originally for the show. Other times, it comes from pre-existing material of one kind or another. With all that said, here are 15 of the best musical TV episodes on non-musical shows.
Scrubs is a great, inventive show that reached its creative zenith in "My Musical." In this episode, the doctors of Sacred Heart treat a patient with a neurological condition that makes it seem like everyone is singing. This gives all of the show's characters a chance to break into song, sometimes at random.
What really lifts this episode is the music itself, which is actually quite good. Whether it's "Everything Comes Down to Poo" or "Guy Love," these songs have a hilarious appeal even outside of the episode. Scrubs is a smart show about life inside a hospital, and its musical episode is no exception.
This may be the definitive musical episode. Coming during the show's controversial sixth season, "Once More With Feeling" proved that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was still firing on all cylinders. When a dancing demon comes to town, Buggy's entire gang — and all of Sunnydale — begins singing without warning.
The result is a musical episode filled with jokes, outstanding songs, and some real movement in the plot. Most shows use musical episodes as a kind of break from the ongoing actions in the story. Buffy took the opposite approach, ladeling in as many plot turns as possible while still delivering a satisfying episode that works on its own.
Like most things on the show, "Regional Holiday Music" is a send-up of the very idea of a musical TV episode. It follows the Community characters as they slowly become corrupted and begin bursting into song.
The episode is most directly a parody of Glee, and the creepy optimism that the show often trafficked in. Most of the time, musical episodes are meant to be fun diversions. In the case of Community, though, the very idea of the musical episode is examined critically. Whether you loved the show or hated it, it's hard to deny that the show knew how to send up musical television.
Superhero television isn't universally great, but the CW shows are among the very best. That's in part because they're very willing to be playful. The Flash works especially well because of the show's interest in and ability to enter parallel universes.
The episode also features Melissa Benoist's Supergirl, who, along with Grant Gustin, is a Glee alum. That means that they're both more than adequate singers, which is good because the world the two wake up in is one they have to sing and dance their way out of. Thankfully, they do, and they manage to have a really fun adventure along the way.
"Song Beneath the Song" is one of the weightiest musical episodes featured on this list. It follows the aftermath of a car crash involving Callie Torres as the rest of the hospital rallies to save her life. As they do this, Torres watches them sing songs that have already been featured on the show.
Grey's Anatomy is the kind of show that's deeply popular, and this musical episode was much hyped. It's much harder for dramas to pull off this kind of high-concept episode, because the show has to remain weighty and moving. Thankfully, Grey's manages to pull off that trick.
Pushing Daisies is one of the strangest, most underappreciated shows ever created. It was pretty unafraid of doing whatever it wanted to creatively which led to this episode. Although it's not a full-blown musical episode, it does feature Kristen Chenowith doing a song from Grease.
When you have a talent like her, you might as well make use of it. This musical interlude comes during the show's second episode, and it signaled that approach the show would take moving forward. Pushing Daisies was going to be as bold as it could for as long as it could. Unfortunately, that wasn't very long at all.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has always been one of the most sublimely stupid things on TV. In this episode, though, the show proves just how hilariously dumb it can be when Charlie stages a musical based on his song "The Nightman Cometh."
As you might expect, the results are not exactly great. What they are, though, is an example of how smart humor can still be wildly dumb. It may seem like anybody could have written the absurd songs featured in this episode, but that's not really the case. It takes a genius to write like an idiot.
Psych is exactly the kind of show that the musical episode was built for. It's always an absurd show, so the idea that every character would spontaneously burst into song seems totally normal. Though the songs in this episode aren't particularly memorable, and it takes place largely outside of the show's continuity, it nonetheless works perfectly.
As is normally the case, the episode features a crime that needs to be solved, and plenty of banter. The only element that's different this time is the singing, and that piece fits in perfectly with everything else. For a brief moment, you may wonder why Psych wasn't a musical every week.
Oz is one of the most underrated shows of the last 20 years, in part because it aired alongside The Sopranos. In its musical episode, the inmates at the show's prison prepare for a variety show. Naturally, this makes for a good backdrop for a musical episode.
Interestingly, the musical episode doesn't totally jive with Oz's normally dark tone. That's part of what makes the episode work so well, though. It gave the show a new window into each of its main characters and gave them a chance to express themselves in a new way. That's a valuable tool in all dramatic storytelling.
Fringe is another show where the creative possibilities were really limitless. In this episode, one of the show's main characters consoles himself by smoking a strain of marijuana called Brown Betty. The rest of the episode is told from his drug-addled perspective with highly entertaining results.
Not only is this episode a musical, but it's also a riff on the noir films of the 1940s. Because it's not strictly tied to the show's usual continuity, it's able to be incredibly playful even as it speaks to the events of the actual show. It's a diversion, for sure, but one well worth every Fringe fans' time.
At first blush, Riverdale may not seem like an obvious contender for a musical episode. It's set in a high school, though, and every high school worth its weight has at least one musical production a year. In this episode, we follow the show's characters as they prepare to perform Carrie: The Musical.
Every show handles musical episodes differently, and Riverdale chose to adapt pre-existing material so that it made sense in the context of the show's ongoing plotlines. In large part, this appproach worked. The episode coheres really well, and although the cast is not built with incredible singers, they perform their parts admirably.
This is another example of a high school show where part of the plot is focused on preparations for a musical production. The show's more fantastical musical numbers come as daydreams, which gives the cast to wear some ridiculous outfits and perform on outrageous sets. These music includes songs from The Turtles, the Steve Miller Band, the Ramones, and Peaches & Herb.
It's a great episode because it features this music, but also because it's such a good time. The episode is a chance for the cast to have fun, sing a few songs, and learn a simple lesson. It's the basic sitcom formula with a few extra songs thrown in.
This episode is a great example of the way a show can keep moving its story forward with music. In Ally McBeal's season three finale, it integrated music perfectly. It's a bold move for a plot-heavy dramedy to close its season with a musical episode.
Even so, Ally McBeal did it perfectly. It allowed the show's creators a chance to get more creative than they usually could and the episode gave its characters a platform for expression. That's one of the best things about musicals, even on television — they give us new insights into familiar characters.
Given the natural musical talent of star Neil Patrick Harris, a musical episode of How I Met Your Mother felt inevitable. Even so, the episode we got was particularly fantastic. This is also the show's 100th episode overall, so there's no wonder they wanted to make it special.
Although the episode only contains a single number, what a number it is. It gives Barney the conflict of his life. Will he keep his suits, or keep seeing the women he hooked up with? Ultimately, the choice is a fairly easy one. Barney is nothing without his suits, and he knows that better than anyone.
Music can bring with it a variety of heightened emotions. On The Fosters, we see two of the show's central characters fall for each other as they perform a musical version of Romeo and Juliet. It gives them a chance to express their developing feelings for one another in a new way.
What's more, it also makes the rest of the Fosters family more reflective. They come to think about their recent pasts differently, and can evolve as a result. Music can often offer that kind of catharsis. In this case, it does just that for all of the main characters on The Fosters.