Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy's musical episode is still the one by which all others are judged. In it, the gang – under the spell of a cheeky demon – keep bursting into song to reveal their innermost secrets. Spectacular and often raunchy, it's like a golden age Hollywood musical, albeit with demons (which naturally makes it waaaay better).
One snag with a musical episode is explaining why everyone's suddenly gone all Fred Astaire. In Scrubs, the excuse is a loopy patient who interprets normal speech as show tunes. This resulted in such masterworks as The Rant Song (by Dr Cox) and Everything Comes Down to Poo, which sounds exactly as you imagine it does.
How do you combine musicals and hospital drama? Easy! Take one Callie Torres, give her a head injury, and enjoy a medley of musical hallucinations. With heartrending (and seriously soppy) tracks by The Fray, Snow Patrol and KT Tunstall all featuring, it's a wonder she survived the head injury at all…
'I'm gonna go home and kill myself' is Cartman's reaction to seeing High School Musical. Unfortunately for him, the whole of South Park is soon singing and dancing in this gleeful parody. Best of all is the Zac Efron stand-in whose dad is a mindlessly violent musical fan who thinks sport is for sissies. Brilliant!
How I Met Your Mother
The hit sitcom celebrated its 100th episode in style, with Barney (aka Doogie Howser MD) leading a show stopping musical number all about his love for suits. The rest of the cast got stuck in too, but it's definitely Barney's moment, confirming him as the biggest character of the show. He later went to star in another musical, Doctor Horrible, which is quite possibly our favourite thing (not just musical) of all time.
Sitting down to watch Paint Your Wagon, Homer is horrified to discover it's a musical. Cue loads of clips of The Simpsons' best ever musical moments, held together by a sing-song story which sees the family held hostage by Snake. Part clip show, part actual musical, the episode bagged an Emmy nomination. It also had Mr Burns singing about his vest. Just the best.
Xena: Warrior Princess
As if Xena wasn't camp enough to begin with! Another one of our faves, the musical episode of Xena gave us a song-filled show which saw the princess herself hang out with Gabrielle in the magical land of Illusia. Like the Buffy musical, it contained key plot points for the series as a whole, often hidden in super catchy songs.
The series which made a star of Bruce Willis, Moonlighting loved a bit of trickery now and again. In one classic episode, Willis and co-star Cybill Shepherd delve into a 1940s murder, at which point things go beautifully black-and-white and Cybill gets to show off her singing voice as a nightclub siren. Liza Minnelli, eat your heart out.
Ally McBeal, despite being about lawyers, was set in a kind of fairytale world of happy people being all adorable and daffy all the time. So a musical episode was inevitable, and it pulled out all the stops, from the whole cast singing the Searchin' My Soul theme song to a whole restaurant bursting into song. Heaven for us Ally fans, horrible for everyone else...
Prison drama series Oz already had a reputation for being surreal before it went all-out with its own musical episode. It saw the hard-bitten inmates expressing their rampant emotions through madcap interpretations of Tori Amos, The Monkees and, um, Barry Manilow. We can’t help but wonder if a real prison has ever burst into musical improvisations… We can only hope!
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