“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.
Now that Lucifer has literally sang and danced with the devil, and ahead of Dear White People‘s “’90s Musical Event,” TVLine decided to refresh as well as revisit our list of favorite musical episodes from days (and shows) gone by. We factored in our current editorial staff’s latest and greatest (and often quite passionate!) takes, as well as took into some consideration the resounding chorus of comments made last time by you, the readers.
Now, before you start claiming that a personal favorite was “forgotten,” take CAREFUL NOTE of our criteria!
* The show must be non-musical by nature. (Sorry, Glee and Zoey!)
* The episode must feature 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/confined to a play within the show. (Sorry, Supernatural!)
Let’s get things started….
GREY'S ANATOMY: 'Song Beneath the Song'
Season 7, Episode 18
Some of the cast members’ singing may be a little cringey, but Sara Ramirez’s powerhouse performances of songs like Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” redeem the medical drama’s otherwise uneven hour. Seriously, if that number doesn’t make you weep like a baby, your pulse is even weaker than Callie’s.
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?
ONE LIFE TO LIVE: 'Babes Behind Bars'
What do you get when you put Lindsay Rappaport in Statesville, in July 2002? (Besides custom, prison-themed opening credits?) You get an imagined cell block tango in which the likes of Blair, Roxy, a tarted-up Jessica and that pesky Allison Perkins croon tunes such as “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and, for the big finish, “Celebrate” (above).
Season 3, Episode 7
Unlike the ominous storm approaching the town of Lawndale, this episode definitely did not blow.
A hilariously shameless Wicked
rip-offhomage, 2008’s “Spellbinding” took 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 meh, but we’re giving extra points to Kim Huber (aka “Young Tabitha”) for singing her damn face off in the title number:
THE MAGICIANS: 'All That Hard, Glossy Armor'
Season 4, Episode 10
During its five-year run, the Syfy series had no shortage of musical episodes and isolated song numbers (such as when the gang marched into battle to the tune of Les Misérables‘ “One Day More”). But this Season 4 installment, in which Margo goes on a hallucinatory mind trip, stands above the rest for its excellent renditions of The Pretenders’ “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again,” Roy Orbison’s “Beautiful Dreamer” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Storm Coming.” Each song acts as the perfect accompaniment to badass Margo’s journey of empowerment.
THE FLASH: 'Duet'
Season 3, Episode 17
Thanks to the mischievous Music Meister, Barry Allen and Supergirl‘s Kara Danvers woke up in a musical — and in the midst of a gang war that had shades of Romeo & Juliet. In addition to standards such as “Moon River” and “More I Cannot Wish You” (above), this mini-crossover featured a contribution from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s own Rachel Bloom (the superbly silly “Super Friend”), while La La Land‘s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul had an ohhh-so-soft Barry “Runnin’ Home to You”/Iris.
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?)
LUCIFER: 'Bloody Celestial Karaoke Jam'
Season 5, Episode 10
For four-and-a-half seasons, Lucifer‘s friends danced with the devil. But in Season 5’s “Bloody Celestial Karaoke Jam,” they got to sing with him, too — thanks to the whim of a visiting God (played by Dennis Haysbert). The playlist kicked off with a cover of “Another One Bites the Dust,” followed by “Every Breath You Take” (featuring guest star Debbie Gibson!), Maze and Ella’s shteamy “Bad to the Bone”/”No Scrubs” mashup (above), Linda and Amenadiel’s delightful “Just the Two of Us,” Lucifer and Dad’s “I Dreamed a Dream,” and others.
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.
BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD: 'Mayhem of the Music Meister!'
Season 1, Episode 25
Here’s something you didn’t see in the Supergirl/Flash musical crossover episode (coming up later in this list): a love ballad between Black Canary and Green Arrow. (Sigh.)
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!)
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.
PSYCH: 'Psych: The Musical'
Season 7, Episodes 15 and 16
We’re docking points for the episode’s unnecessary length — 90 minutes? Seriously?! — but Psych‘s foray into the musical world is still a relative success.
ONCE UPON A TIME: 'The Song in Your Heart'
Season 6, Episode 20
The premise was wobbly (something about a curse in the past that also had present-day characters singing…?), but the octet of original tunes by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner was solid, including a love song (newlywed Emma and Hook’s “A Happy Beginning“), a jaunty pirate shanty (“Revenge Is Gonna Be Mine”), Zelena’s soaring “Wicked Always Wins” the Evil Queen’s sexy banger and the Charmings’ mood-setting duet (above).
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?
SCRUBS: 'My Musical'
“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? (Season 6, Episode 6)
THE SIMPSONS: 'Simpson-cali-fragilistic-expiala-(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.)
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.
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, and 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 we’ve since quoted too many times to count.)
That’s TVLine’s Top 20 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 found the Camdens bursting into off-key song, complete with awkward choreography that screamed, “We’re all doing this against our will!” Alas, 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.