Theatre Thursdays: Musical TV Show Episodes

HL_02501123Chances are if you’re a fan of musicals, then you’re a fan of musical TV show episodes. Musical episodes tend to be either totally awesome or pretty damn bad, which explains why many writers and producers are hesitant to step into the musical episode arena. I think it’s really a matter of knowing your audience and having some decent songs and singers. So for this post I’m going to talk about two of my favorite musical episodes and two TV shows that I think should do a musical episode.

On with the show!

“Once More with Feeling”—Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

Buffy-Once-More-With-FeelingWhen people talk about musical TV show episodes, this is usually the first one everyone thinks of—and that’s because it’s freaking awesome! In the episode “Once More with Feeling”, a demon shows up in Sunnydale and causes Buffy and the gang to sing and generally act like they are in a musical. But the episode is so much more than just a filler musical episode—it actually was crucial to the plot. In this episode Buffy reveals to her friends that when she died she went to Heaven and her friends pulled her away from there, which caused most of her turmoil throughout the season. It is also the episode where Spuffy, Spike/Buffy shippers, got their first kissing scene. Yay!

Other than being more than a filler episode, the whole cast actually sang all their parts, though two cast members did request minimal singing parts. Joss Whedon wrote and composed everything himself, and confessed he had wanted to do a musical since the first episode of Buffy. And thank God he did.

“My Musical”—Scrubs:

Probably one of the other greatest musical episodes was Scrubs’s “My Musical.” Scrubs 012107writer Bill Lawrence, like Joss Whedon, wanted to do a musical episode almost from the beginning of the show and jumped at the chance to finally do one. The episode featured Stephanie D’Abruzzo of Avenue Q fame as the character Patti Miller, who collapses in the park and then mysteriously begins to hear everyone around her singing. Though she supposedly only hears people sing, the episode is also filled with quite a few dance numbers. That part is never really explained, but we don’t care because Dr. Cox and Carla are singing, so really, who gives a damn.

Debra Fordham wrote the lyrics of each of the songs and composed much of the musical. The show also received plenty of help from Scrubs’s resident composer Jan Stevens, and even had assistance from Doug Bersterman, a Tony Award winning orchestrator, and Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez, the writers from Avenue Q. While some songs where entirely original, others were meant to parody other musicals. For example, Dr. Cox’s “The Rant Song” is supposed to parody “Major-General’s Song” from The Pirates of Penzance, and the famous song “Guy Love” song by JD and Turk was supposed to parody pretty much all of the dramatic love songs on modern Broadway.

The key, I think, for a good musical episode is basically a love for musical theatre. If the writers and producers aren’t already into musicals, then chances are they will misrepresent musicals and the whole thing will turn out poorly. Another factor in a good musical episode is definitely parody. Joss Whedon took a real risk by having a somewhat serious musical episode, though all Buffy episodes lay somewhere in between being funny and serious, but for viewers who aren’t used to musicals, taking a musical episode too seriously could be a mistake. A parody is the safest route, but like any parody the episode must show love and respect for its subject matter. Just straight up making fun of musicals could ruin a musical episode as well.

So without further ado, here are two TV shows that I think should have a musical episode:

Supernatural: How, with a character like Gabriel on the show, have we never gotten a musical episode before? Now, even though Gabriel is dead, it is not outside of the realm of possibility for Sam and Dean to be hit with a spell from a witch, or sent to an alternate universe where everyone has to sing. On a show that recently had Dean talking and acting like a dog, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to have a musical episode. Supernatural has done Tyler-Posey-sighting-with-his-band-in-Petaluma-14almost every other themed episode from western, to sitcoms, to parodying their own show. There really needs to be a musical episode, especially since we already know that several members of the cast can sing. This just seems like the next logical step for Supernatural to go.

Teen Wolf: I didn’t want to pick Teen Wolf as my number two. It just seems really obvious and typical of me, but despite being on MTV, Teen Wolf‘s soundtrack is so bad I almost feel like they owe me a musical episode. And with the crazy things that already happen in Beacon Hills, it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch for everyone to start singing and dancing. Also Tyler Posey, who plays our lead Scott McCall, is the lead singer and guitarist of a band so we know are lead at least can sing. Get it done, Jeff Davis!

So what are your favorite musical TV show episodes? And what TV show do you wish would do a musical episode? Let me know in the comments.

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