“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.
On the heels of The Magicians conjuring its latest (and final) musical offering and with Riverdale ready to size up Hedwig and the Angry Inch, TVLine decided to take a look back at some of our favorites from days (and shows) gone by. (Updated from Spring 2017.)
Now, before you start claiming that a favorite was omitted, take careful note of our criteria!
* The show must be non-musical. (Sorry, Glee!)
* 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!)
Now, time to get things started….
20. 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.
19. One Life to Live, “Babes Behind Bars” (July 2002)
What do you get when you put Lindsay Rappaport in Statesville? (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” (below).
18. 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.)
17. American Housewife: “A Mom’s Parade” (Season 3, Episode 23)
Rather than grumble about the way her family takes her for granted, Katie sings about it — spectacularly, we might add — in an installment energized by four original songs by The Greatest Showman‘s Justin Paul. We’d no more play favorites with them than Katie would her kids… Wait, she’s always playing favorites, so we will, too. The number that it took us the longest to get out of our heads — and the one we missed most when it was gone — was “You Can Do You,” Cooper’s One Direction-al earworm about the upside to a lack of parental supervision.
16. 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.
15. Passions: “Spellbinding” (2008)
A hilariously shameless Wicked
rip-off homage, “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:
14. 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?
13. 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.
12. 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?)
11. 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” and one outright, sexy banger (below):