There is no better way to add a little fun to a TV show than throwing in a musical episode. Because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love some song and dance once in a while? While there are plenty of shows on TV that do the whole song-and-dance thing every week (Glee, we miss you), most do not. So it’s always fun when a regularly serious show throws in some catchy songs and flashy dance numbers. And it’s even better when a comedy does the same!
Many shows have opted for musical bottle episodes over the years, giving their multi-talented casts their time to shine. You’d be surprised how many TV stars are also amazing singers! Musical episodes of non-musical shows are always a fun escape from the regular format of the show. Here are some of the best musical TV episodes of all time!
16. Community, “Regional Holiday Music”
Community was always a very meta show, so it’s no surprise they took that meta viewpoint out on actual musical shows. The plot is simple: the community college gang has to get ready for “regionals” (despite no one knowing the actual hierarchy of competition) and they’re reluctant until they’re sung into it by their peers. It’s full of silly songs that poke fun at the format while also totally getting stuck in your head. And fun fact: Ludwig Göransson, the composer for this episode as well as other songs Community did over the years, also composed the score for Black Panther. That gives this episode some serious musical cred!
15. Xena: Warrior Princess, “The Bitter Suite”
After Xena’s (Lucy Lawless) son is killed by her BFF and partner Gabrielle’s (Renee O’Connor) daughter, the two aren’t exactly on the best of terms. But when they are transported to the Land of Illusia, they must work out their differences and sing a lot. The musical episode is surprisingly excellent due to Lawless’s voice and the combination of humor, drama, and razzle-dazzle. The episode and several of the songs in it were Emmy nominated and highly praised. We wouldn’t have thought this show would be a likely contender for a musical episode, but we’re sure glad they tried it out!
14. Fringe, “Brown Betty”
This is one of the more inventive musical episodes since it all happens because a character is smoking his own strain of pot. After Walter (John Noble) learns his son is missing, he turns to his marijuana strain “Brown Betty,” and song, to deal with it. The show uses the musical elements as a narrative device to show different sides to the characters, and give it a little dash of The Princess Bride. Walter sobers up and the world stops singing, but he comes a little closer to dealing with his emotions.
13. The Simpsons, “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpialla(Annoyed Grunt)cious”
It took The Simpsons eight seasons to finally do a musical episode, and they definitely delivered. In the episode, Marge (Julie Kavner) gets stressed out and hires a Mary Poppins-type nanny to take care of the family. Her upbeat persona takes over the family — as does her penchant for song and dance. Eventually, though, the Simpsons dysfunction seeps back in. There are still songs, but they’re a little sadder at this point. The nanny eventually leaves and the Simpsons go back to hating and loving each other in equal measure. Many of the songs in the episode are direct parodies of those in Mary Poppins, making it perfect for comedy and musical theater fans alike!
12. That ’70s Show, “That ’70s Musical”
When your show is set in the ’70s, you have a lot of opportunity for rockin’ musical numbers in your sing-songy episode. When Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) gets a role in the school musical, he’s worried his friends won’t show up and see it. So naturally, he daydreams them all belting musical numbers themselves! The episode features the gang singing songs from The Turtles, The Ramones, Steve Miller Band, and more. It doesn’t get much better than good old-fashioned rock ‘n roll during your musical TV episode!
11. The Flash, “Duet”
Musical and superhero show may not seem like two things that mix, but The Flash did it just right. When the Music Meister (lol), played by none other than Darren Criss, traps Barry (Grant Gustin) and Kara (Melissa Benoist) in a musical world. They must follow the script and sing the songs to make it out alive. It’s some pretty high stakes musical theater. They obviously make it out alive and learn about friendship and love and all that fun superhero stuff in the process. Plus, it was a mini Glee reunion, as Grant, Melissa, and Darren all appeared on the FOX show back in the day. Brb, picking up the episode’s soundtrack right now.
10. Daria, “Daria! The Musical!”
Everyone’s favorite misanthrope gets musical in this very special episode. When a massive storm threatens the high school, everyone just has to sing and dance. Even Daria (Tracy Grandstaff) herself! Well, sort of. She kind of speaks to a beat, but still, it’s better than nothing from the girl who hates everything. Daria may seem an unlikely choice for a musical episode, but the MTV dramedy pulls it off well and adds a bit of glee to the sometimes dour series.
9. South Park, “Elementary School Musical”
Of course South Park was going to make fun of High School Musical. This episode lambasts the song-and-dance culture that teens fell for after the hit Disney Channel Original Movie and it’s hilarious. The trend sweeps through South Park Elementary but the gang resists it completely, making them fall deep into unpopularity. In true South Park fashion, it completely rips apart the silliness of kids singing and dancing during the school day — or basketball games. It’s hilarious, and some of the songs are pretty catchy!
8. Scrubs, “My Musical”
When a patient named Patti (Stephanie D’Abruzzo) comes in complaining of hearing nonstop music, suddenly the hospital breaks out into song-and-dance. Patti can hear the staff singing about their deepest fears and secrets, despite them actually just talking. It’s a creative way to add a bit of music to the show without it feeling a bit too out of place. Though considering the regular craziness of the show, it’s never that strange to think everyone would be singing!
7. Futurama, “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings”
Fry (Billy West) makes a deal with the Robot Devil to trade hands so he can become a skilled musician and woo his love Leela (Katey Sagal). Got all that? The futuristic rock-opera episode finds Fry churning out operatic hits for Leela. The Robot Devil gets pretty miffed he got the raw end of the deal and, eventually, gets his hands back. In a romantic twist, Leela has Fry finish his opera for her, though now it’s crude and sophomoric. Leela doesn’t care, though, and kisses fry finally. It’s a sweet little musical episode that takes all the zany futuristic hijinks and simplifies them into one thing: love.
6. Once Upon a Time, “The Song in Your Heart”
How did it take so long for Once Upon a Time to do a musical episode?! The show is literally about fairytale stories! It’s a true fairytale through and through in this special wedding episode. There are upbeat musical numbers, and dark Disney villain diddies galore. The cast absolutely kills the musical elements of the episode, bringing the magic of the subject material to life. How can you have fairytales without music?! Turns out, you really can’t. And now we’re imagining a world where Once Upon a Time was a full-on musical TV show all along.
5. Psych, “Psych: The Musical”
Psych fans waited forever to get a musical episode. And when the time came they didn’t get one — they got two! The two-hour special, spread over two episodes, focuses on an insane playwright named Z (Anthony Rapp) and the gang’s quests to stop him. The episodes have over a dozen original songs spread between the cast. And they’re all amazing. Psych writers brought their A-game when it came to the original music and lyrics — and, in true Psych fashion, all the pop culture references.
4. Grey’s Anatomy, “Song Beneath the Song”
Callie (Sara Ramirez) is in a horrific car accident that leaves her in limbo between life and death. As she straddles the line, she begins hallucinating the hospital staff singing and dancing as they work on saving her life. The unique thing here was that the show used songs that were made iconic from the show itself. Songs like “How to Save a Life” by The Fray and “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol were just two of the popular songs covered. For a show so centered on music, from the episode titles to the closing montages, it was a fitting way to inject some tunes into the dramatic series.
3. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “The Nightman Cometh”
Of all the shows on TV, the cynical It’s Always Sunny doesn’t seem a likely candidate for a musical episode. But they did it, and they did it in a way that was completely their own. Charlie (Charlie Day) decides to write a rock opera to win over the girl of his dreams (who, vehemently, does not care btw). The songs are ridiculous, Frank (Danny DeVitto) plays a troll, and there are tight body suits as far ass the eye can see. It’s a total spectacle and makes for one of the funniest episodes ever of the hilarious series.
2. Even Stevens, “Influenza The Musical”
Everyone born in the ’90s or early ’00s knows the lyrics “we went to the moon in 1969, not 1968 but the year after.” When Ren (Christy Carlson Romano) gets the flu while trying to write a paper on the moon landing, she gets so sick she begins hallucinating everyone singing and dancing. Her research doesn’t get her too far, and as the catchy song suggests, she basically only knows the year the moon landing took place. But it gave us one of the most memorable Disney Channel episodes of all time. Bonus: baby Shia LaBeouf singing “I Always Find a Way” with his on-screen BFFs!
1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Once More, With Feeling”
The mantle of greatest TV musical episode of all time obviously goes to Buffy. “Once More, With Feeling” is a masterpiece through and through. Joss Whedon’s original soundtrack is catchy, heartfelt, and full of fun. Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) grapples with being brought back from the dead through song and it’s equal parts entertaining and devastating. The episode uses music to force the characters to bare their souls, giving a convenient reason for dark secrets to be drudged up and propel the plot forward. When it comes to musical episodes of TV, no one has done it better than Buffy the Vampire Slayer!