Throwback Thursday
Musical Episodes Of TV

TV's 15 Best Musical Episodes, Ranked (Plus the One Absolute Worst)

“Musical episode.” No two words strike fear in the hearts of network executives — and snark in the minds of critics — with greater expedience. But when done right, the result can be a beautiful thing.

With two big-ticket musical episodes on the horizon — the Supergirl/Flash crossover airs Tuesday (The CW, 8/7c), while Once Upon a Time‘s song-and-dance hour will air later this season — TVLine decided to take a look back at some of our favorites from days (and shows) gone by.

Before you start whining about your favorites being omitted, take our criteria into consideration:
* The show must be non-musical. (Sorry, Glee!)
* The episode must have multiple musical numbers, rather than just a one-off song. (Sorry, How I Met Your Mother!)
* The songs must come about spontaneously, rather than being part of — let’s say — a play within the show. (Sorry, Supernatural!)

OK, time to get things started…

15. Psych: “Psych: The Musical” (Season 7, Episodes 15 and 16)
I’m docking points for the episode’s unnecessary length — 90 minutes? Seriously?! — but Psych‘s brief foray into the musical world is still a relative success.

14. Passions: “Spellbinding” (2008)
Michael Ausiello hates when I bring up Passions, so just know that I’m literally risking my job by singing (teehee) this episode’s praises. A hilariously shameless Wicked rip-off homage, “Spellbinding” takes us back to Tabitha’s early days as a magical student, where she and her black hat eventually abandon the side of good in favor of a self-serving future of evil. The lyrics are kind of meh, but I’m giving extra points to Kim Huber (aka “Young Tabitha”) for singing her damn face off in the episode’s title number:

13. Batman: The Brave and the Bold: “Mayhem of the Music Meister!” (Season 1, Episode 25)
Here’s something you won’t see on the upcoming Supergirl/Flash musical crossover episode: a love ballad between Black Canary and Green Arrow. (Sigh.)

12. Clone High: “Raisin the Stakes: A Rock Opera in Three Acts” (Season 1, Episode 9)
Everything about this short-lived Phil Lord/Christopher Miller/Bill Lawrence comedy — set at a high school populated by teenage clones of historical figures, including emo Abe Lincoln (voiced by Will Forte) — is pure brilliance. So, yeah, why not throw in a rock opera about the entire school becoming addicted to hallucinogens?

11. Community: “Regional Holiday Music” (Season 3, Episode 10)
An instant Christmas classic, this wacky little departure — from Community‘s already wacky little world — features Taran Killam as a deranged glee club instructor. (Wait, is that redundant?)

10. Fringe: “Brown Betty” (Season 2, Episode 20)
Of all the worlds explored during the Fox drama’s five-season run, why are we not surprised that one of the weirdest — and definitely the most musical — comes courtesy of Walter’s special strain of weed for which the episode is named?

9. Futurama: “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings” (Season 4, Episode 18)
Fry’s desire to master a complicated instrument — all part of a ploy to impress Leela, naturally — leads him to make a deal with the Robot Devil, triggering a series of unfortunate appendage-swaps. Fortunately, it all culminates in a wonderfully weird opera chronicling Leela’s past… as well as her future with Fry.

8. Daria: “Daria!” (Season 3, Episode 7)
Unlike the ominous storm approaching the town of Lawndale, this episode definitely does not blow.

7. Even Stevens: “Influenza: The Musical” (Season 2, Episode 21)
Four years before High School Musical bopped its way into our hearts, Disney Channel gifted us with this toe-tapping tale of angst, revenge and — most importantly — America’s history of interstellar travel. (Bonus points for #BabyShiaLaBeouf!)

6. Scrubs: “My Musical” (Season 6, Episode 6)
“Doctors! Nurses! Patients! Dead guys!” No one at Sacred Heart Hospital can, ahem, refrain from bursting into song during this Emmy Award-winning episode. And with music from the likes of Jeff Marx (Avenue Q) and Robert Lopez (The Book of MormonFrozen), who could blame them?

5. Grey’s Anatomy: “Song Beneath the Song” (Season 7, Episode 18)
First of all, stop rolling your eyes. This is a gut-wrenching hour of television, anchored by powerful performances from Sara Ramirez — whose character’s life remains in limbo after a near-fatal car accident — and solid support from the rest of the cast. If it doesn’t get you weepy, your pulse is even weaker than Callie’s.

4. Dexter’s Laboratory: “LABretto” (Season 2, Episode 38)
This operatic retelling of Dexter’s birth — as well as the birth of his rivalry with Dee Dee, his destructive older sister — earned the Cartoon Network staple a Primetime Emmy Award nomination in 1998.

3. The Simpsons: “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious” (Season 8, Episode 13)
Remembered fondly as one of the series’ finest, this episode introduces Sharry Bobbins, a delightful British nanny who — after spending just a few days with the Simpson family — is driven to alcoholism. (Sadly, given the nature of Sharry’s exit, I doubt we’ll ever get a sequel in the vein of Mary Poppins Returns.)

2. Xena: Warrior Princess: “The Bitter Suite” (Season 3, Episode 12)
How do you mend a broken friendship between two women when each believe the other is responsible for her child’s death? Xena goes the non-Jerry Springer route, sending its characters to the land of Illusia, where their hatred is manifested into a nightmarish enemy that can only be defeated with the power of forgiveness — and song, of course. (If I’m being totally honest, a part of me really wanted to make this my No. 1 pick, but I didn’t feel like getting buried alive by the internet.)

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Once More, With Feeling” (Season 6, Episode 7)
Sorry for ending on such an anticlimactic note, but did you really expect another episode to snag the top spot on this list? Nearly every song in this hour-long masterpiece is an earworm, courtesy of series creator Joss Whedon, performed flawlessly — or at least with a lot of enthusiasm — by the cast. (Plus, it blessed us with “I think this line’s mostly filler,” something I’ve since quoted too many times to count.)

There you have it, folks — TVLine’s top 15 musical episodes of all time.

And as a special thank-you for making it this far into the post, here’s our No. 1 worst pick: 7th Heaven‘s inexplicably heinous “Red Socks” (Season 9, Episode 15). Tone-deaf, both literally and figuratively, this 60-minute torture session finds the Camdens bursting into off-key song, complete with awkward choreography that screams “We’re all doing this against our will!” Unfortunately, the worst number isn’t available on YouTube, so you’ll have to settle for this pretty terrible one:

What’s your favorite musical episode? Any we missed? Drop a comment with your picks — as well as your complaints about our order — below.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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88 Comments
  1. Keden says:

    I’m a little disappointed Pepper Ann’s “You Oughta Be in Musicals” isn’t on here, but I guess it’s a good list overall.

    • Andy Swift says:

      Just as Pepper Ann was too cool for 7th grade, that episode was apparently too cool for this list. (No, in all seriousness, there were definitely a few I missed along the way… including my sweet, sweet Pepper Ann.)

  2. Angela says:

    Yes to the “Community” and “Daria” episdoes. Love them. And I completely forgot about the “Even Stevens” episode. That one was cute, too.
    .
    I also like the episode of “Rocko’s Modern Life” that spoofed the whole musical setup. “R-E-C-Y-C-L-E, recycle…” :D.

  3. Christy says:

    Moonlighting

  4. Rob says:

    Andy, which song from 7th Heaven is the worst one?

  5. Dick Whitman says:

    Grey’s Anatomy? Really?

    • Thisismenow says:

      Sara Ramirez singing The Story with such passion left me sobbing. It wasn’t the best musical episode but that moment more than earned the episode a spot on the list IMHO

    • Jamie says:

      Agreed. I love musicals, but that episode reeked of gimmick, especially with the major medical crisis going on with Callie. That episode was such a fail.

    • EM says:

      I couldn’t stop laughing when Owen started singing when Callie was brought in. I didn’t think anything could top it. But Talk Soup with Joel McHale did. The satire was perfection. I hope it is still on Youtube. I don’t blame for Rhimes for showcasing Ramirez’s acting and vocals, but that was a travesty. Yes. I did the eye roll Andy.

  6. Brigid says:

    You were correct with #1. BTVS was so good, I bought the soundtrack! My favorite episode and the climactic kiss at the end, just magical! Everything about this episode was perfect. It advanced the story line and made it believable that this could happen in this fantastical world!!!! The standard to which no one has come close to reaching.

  7. Chris says:

    I was about to be sad that It’s Always Sunny’s “The Nightman Cometh” wasn’t on the list but that technically was a planned ruse so it doesn’t count. However “The Gang Turns Black” not sure if that would violate the same rule, but I still can’t watch that episode without going full cringe.

  8. J.B. says:

    HBO’s OZ shouldn’t be excluded because not all of the musical numbers were from the actual variety show. In fact most weren’t. They were from the “Glass Box Monologues” sections of the show.

  9. Aly says:

    Fun list! I personally would have put Xena at number 1 too. I love Bitter Suite, and airing right at the start of 1998, I’m pretty sure it was one of very first musical episodes of a TV drama, arguably paving the way for most of the others on the list. It was nominated for two Emmy Awards as well, if I recall correctly.
    I know everyone loves Once More, With Feeling, and it IS an extremely good episode. But so is Bitter Suite, and I think people overlook it sometimes. Has great music, a wonderful (and weird) setting, and it’s pretty pivotal for the plot of season three and the relationship between Gabrielle and Xena.

  10. J.B. says:

    BtVS is by far the best around. Xena’s is a little cringe worthy at times but it has some really good moments. Grey’s Anatomy is my second favorite despite people unjustly hating it.
    I’m on the fence when it comes to cartoon shows though. A lot (not all) have musical numbers on a regular basis so I kind of don’t see how they can have “a” musical episode.

  11. ZisforZombie says:

    Oh great, now I’m going to have “We went to the moon, in 1969…” stuck in my head all day!

  12. Cate says:

    I was expecting a Xena:Warrior Princess snub so very happy to see The Bitter Suite so high. The other Xena musical episode – Lyre, Lyre, Hearts on Fire was less successful, but Bitter Suite was clever and brilliantly staged. Both that and One More with Feeling were not just gimmicks, but a way to reveal or resolve season long crises.
    I’d give the Xena cast the edge on singing, but they did have a couple of ‘ghost’ voices for Gabrielle and Callisto whereas the Buffy cast either opted out mostly (Willow) or showed more enthusiasm than actual talent(Xander)

    • Agent 86 says:

      Grr argh! You mentioned the dreaded Lyre, Lyre. If only they’d had a chance to redeem themselves in season 6 with the musica, episode “Last Chance”. The script was a little corny, but the song lost was excellent and Xena and Gabrielle saving the day through the power of love (by finally sharing an openly romantic kiss) would have been great to see.

  13. J.B. says:

    What about the “I Love Lucy” episode “Lucy Goes to Scotland”?

  14. Chris says:

    Thank the Gods they got Number 1 right. I stil listen to ripped versions of those songs sometimes.

  15. MB says:

    I know it’s an obscure and virtually forgotten show, but I still think it’s a travesty that the musical episode of Lexx, “Brigadoom,” is missing from this list. It had good songs, generally good performances, and did an excellent job of providing background for one of the main characters while motivating the others to action.

  16. Rosie says:

    That 70s Show’s musical was also really great. I am surprised it isn’t on hear.

  17. Vicky says:

    Totally LOVE Once more with feeling! It’s my best of all time. My second best is Supernatural’s Fan Fiction (10 x 5 – 200th episode)

  18. English says:

    The Raising Hope Musical one is hysterical. I forgot they even did it until I was rewatching them.

  19. The closer I got to the end of the list the more sure I was that The Bitter Suite wasn’t going to be included and was getting angry on it’s behalf.

    Apologies for my lack of faith.

  20. NO. Just no. The Grey’s Anatomy one made me cringe so hard, I had to have my ears surgically removed from my shoulders. I loathe musical episodes in any case but that one – the shark was jumped ore than once. Awful.

  21. Jason says:

    Nobody has even come remotely close to “Once More With Feeling” yet. Funny and heartbreaking in equal measure.

  22. Drew says:

    Oh, Andy, Andy, Andy. Passions killed Another World. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

    • Christian says:

      I think Passions replaced Sunset Beach, which replaced Another World. Leave my Passions alone!

      • Drew says:

        Oh, you’re right! I forgot about Sunset Beach! Big mistake NBC made there. I think for the last decade I’ve been blaming the wrong soap for killing Another World…

      • Gospino says:

        Not true. Another World and Sunset Beach mostly ran at the same time. SUN was Jan 1997 to Dec. 1999. AW was 1964 until June 1999. Passions was July 1999 until 2008. Low ratings ultimately killed all three shows, of course. AW would have been cancelled even if Passions never existed. I ran a SUN fan site for years back when Geocities was still alive, but my heart was with AW because of its longevity. I became very fond of Passions as well.

        • Drew says:

          OK, thanks. Now I feel vindicated! Passions aired in place of Another World. We can quibble about timeslots and a month’s difference, but NBC took one soap off the air, Another World, and added one, Passions, so I stand by Passions killed Another World. “When I’m with you, you take me away … to Another World.” Doo do do doo do do doo…”

  23. Olly says:

    I’m happy to see the Grey’s Anatomy episode on here and so high! I didn’t realise it was so unpopular until recently, but I really enjoyed it. And obviously OMWF is first, as it should be. I’m surprised that Fringe’s “musical” episode wasn’t nearer the bottom, I found it pretty disappointing.

    I’m not really looking forward the the Flash/Supergirl and (apparently) OUAT’s musical episodes, since I feel like they’re doing musical episodes just because they can. Just because you can do one, doesn’t mean you should… At least with the Buffy and Grey’s musical episodes, they actually contributed something to the main plots of both shows.

    • AnnieM says:

      Well, look at it this way – the DC Universe has a legitimate villain in Music Meister – he already existed before either show. And, when you have, let’s see, at least 5 (more?) genuine actor/singers among your cast members, how could you NOT want to do a musical episode at some point? lol.

  24. Erica says:

    Yay! for including Daria! the musical. Everyone forgets about that one.

  25. tw says:

    Sorry, but Sara Ramirez’s performance alone should have earned the Grey’s Anatomy ep a place at the top.

  26. wgsecretary says:

    I knew Once More With Feeling was going to be number 1. It’s the best musical episode in the history of television. :) I haven’t seen that episode in years and I could sing every word along with the video clip.

  27. T.W.S.S. says:

    I still quote several of those Even Stevens’ songs. And that Grey’s entry can be moved down a place of three (looking at you, Owen).

  28. Pedro says:

    Grey’s Anatomy was terrible from every aspect. How did it make number 5?

    • Angela says:

      YES. Just because Sara is a talented singer does not mean the episode was good. So much cringe I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch it a second time. (I’ve tried many times, but I can’t make it more than 15 seconds into the episode.)

      With that said, yay for Scrubs and Community!

  29. Christian says:

    Everything about 7th Heaven was inexplicably heinous!

  30. Surly Mermaid says:

    Psych the musical should be ranked much much much much higher! Jamaican Inspector Man! I’ve Heard it Both Ways!

  31. Jamie says:

    Oh man, I forgot how much I loved the Scrubs and Even Stevens musical episodes.

  32. matty says:

    I cannot believe you mentioned “Passions” but failed to mention the superior musical episode from “One Life To Live” called “Babes Behind Bars” which was a fantastically written episode that featured some memorable episodes.

  33. Litz says:

    Hat off for including Xena in there. I was a little worried that the show that actually had -two- musical episodes (with a third one that, unfortunately, was never made) wouldn’t be included. But it was \o/

    • Agent 86 says:

      It’s such a shame that they couldn’t work out the licensing for Last Chance (or change the song selection). It would have helped to atone for the dreadful Lyre, Lyre from season 5.

  34. Jakay says:

    My favorite Simpsons musical episode was A Streetcar Named Marge. Sharry Bobbins got nuthin on “Streetcar!” Although maybe Streetcar and Krusty Gets Kanceled and Cape Feare (both fantastic) don’t count since they aren’t completely musical. All Singing, All Dancing? No? Elementary School Musical?

  35. Gospino says:

    Sara Ramirez sang beautifully, but the writing of that Grey’s episode just plain sucked.

    Once More, With Feeling deserves that top spot.

  36. keith loria says:

    How is Moonlighting not on this list? The Taming of the Shrew musical episode rivals Buffy’s musical episode as one of the best episodes ever (and I’m counting non-musicals too!)

    • K says:

      I love Atomic Shakespeare! (It even made me start reading Shakespeare.) But I don’t remember it being a musical episode. Did it have more than one song? I really need to rewatch it. Thanks for reminding me of its existence.

  37. Darrian says:

    What about that so raven how can you add even Stevens but not that’s a raven and that 70 show

  38. DAMN says:

    American Dad’s Trapped in the Locker should have been included. Classic.

  39. Elaine says:

    Yes! Buffy is the best!

  40. Lynnee says:

    BUFFY and SCRUBBS love them

  41. tjchurch2001 says:

    I agree especially about that line in the “Buffy” one (kind of hopes SMG would’ve done a musical episode of the show with Robin, who everyone remembers as the singing genie Shaq wanted to be).

    At the same time, however, I believe “Psych” should be far higher, ironically for the same reason I like “Scrubs”, but not as much: Most of the show’s greatest episodes were written &/or directed by Roday, Franks, etc… They hired a few from “Rent” to act in it, but they did the work on lyrics & things whereas Sacred Heart hired pros to do the job, & it still contained obvious ripoffs! (“…Truth Comes Out” can be done over “…People Sing” from “Les Mis” almost-perfectly.)

  42. fatalsin says:

    I can hear Spike singing in my head right now…
    Let me rest in peace
    Let me get some sleep
    Let me take my love and bury it
    In a hole six foot deep
    I can lay my body down
    But I can’t find my sweet release
    So, let me rest in peace

  43. jeanna says:

    Buffy – nothing will ever come close. Didn’t the Drew Carey Show do a musical episode?

    • tjchurch2001 says:

      More like a half-dozen.. There was “5 O’clock World”, the “Rocky Horror” war outside the theater, the “Full Monty”-inspired one I don’t think anyone actually sang on, one with Drew/Lewis/Oswald in a band that also (I think) featured “Weird Al” performing (on the show, not with Drew), one with Drew leading Mrs. Louder down stairs singing “Brotherhood Of Man”, & the last one I remember was a musical-based episode with I think Sugar Ray or Smash Mouth (maybe both) & Peter Frampton performing songs not related to the shows so much as the performers, & I think at least Frampton (again, maybe others too) spoke of having a restraining order against Mimi.

  44. Sarah says:

    Bummed that Drop Dead Diva’s Brooke Elliott didn’t get a shout out–at least one hysterical musical number included Paula Abdul and that girl can sing. I was never a Passions watcher, but it was a ground breaking soap parody, and deserves to be on the list. Find it odd so many of these musicals are animated–no actual dancing takes place!!

  45. Linda says:

    Where is the House MD musical episode? It really should have a spot at the top of this list.

  46. Tasha says:

    Thank you for including psych. That show in general does not get enough props. Surprised you groused about getting a longer episode runtime! Plus, how else to get Jamaican Inspector man in there! “Jamaiiiiiican… Jamaican Inspector man! Straight from Kingston to Londontown. We all gon’ party like it’s 1888 (skipping to fav part) Me no like this nonsense me hearin’ People slashed from necklace to earrin’ Ripper, leave them prostitutes alone… Ripper, stop it. Me not gon’ tell you again!” Hahaha and dule’s laugh. Such a perfect capper. Love that spotify has the ost for me to listen whenever I want. I especially love the tango infused i heard it both ways. (“The right way and then yours…”) plus it was a grand warm up for Tim to be King Richard in Galavant. :) Just sad Henry didn’t get a song. And of course loved all the musical refs in it.

    Also, liked being reminded of so many other musical eps! Am def going to have to look up xena again as i have not seen it since it first aired.

  47. tsevca says:

    Buffy deserves it if only for Rest in piece, which gave even us, non-pop fans, a musical hit.

  48. Becky says:

    Scrubs – Guy Love. Donald Faison and Zach Braff are perfection!

  49. Olivia says:

    OMWF is a precious piece of tv that I easily see myself still enjoying decades from now. I’ll be 80 and dramatically yelling “Bunnies! BUNNIES! IT MUST BE BUNNIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEES!”

    I love every single song from that ep, even the one-line jokes (they all went all-in for that ep haha! “They GOT. The mustaaaaard ouuuuuuuut”).

    The very mention of Grey’s episode still makes me cringe years later. Only Chyler’s parts are kinda ok — yeah sure Sara has a beautiful voice but man was this whole episode embarrassingly bad.

  50. Laurie Williams says:

    Chicago Hope “Brain Salad Surgery” !