“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 Mormon, Frozen), 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.