Ah, the dreaded musical episode. Many-long running shows have tried it, and with a few exceptions, they've failed quite miserably. Take last Thursday's musical Scrubs episode, aside from a couple of key songs (namely Dr. Cox's Musical Rant & Guy Love), I felt it fell way short of the usual high quality you see in a Scrubs episode. But not every musical episode needs to be a disaster, as here's 5 that actually work (with clips!):
Arguably the hardest setting to pull of an even halfway decent musical epsiode. Oz was pretty much known for being a serious, violent & harsh show. So this is the last place you'd expect a musical. I'd honestly expect one sooner out of 24 or Deadwood than Oz. Which makes the fact that it's actually good all the more surprising.
Chicago Hope: Brain Salad
Screw ER. Chicago hope was a much better show day in & day out. And a lot of that has to do with Mandy Patinkin (you can tell cause the show was almost cancelled when he left briefly). This has all the basic elements of a strong musical episode. It has strong character development, good acting, and good singing (even if the songs included weren't originals written for the episode).
Xena: Bitter Suite
Before Xena became a ridiculously campy show with ridiculously unsubtle lesbian overtones, it was a ridiculously campy show with slightly unsubtle lesbian undertones. Nevertheless, it's rather goofy format make it perfect for a musical, as this was the first of two actually pretty good episodes. It manages to be weird, play with the audiences expectations, satisfying finish off a long arc, and balance comedy & drama pretty well (and the effort didn't go unnoticed with 2 emmy nominations). Looking back it was fairly obvious the show could only go downhill after this, and boy did it ever...
Xena: Lyre, Lyre
But even in a downhill slope an occasional gem shows up in this much lighter 100th episode. This breaks a lot of the rules I have about really good musicals as the plot& characters don't develop, and it's essentially a completely stand alone episode apart from any storylines. And if you are going to do that, you'd better be extremely entertaining, which luckily Lyre Lyre happens to be.
Buffy: Once More with Feeling (all the songs!)
Easily the penultimate musical. It develops characters & storylines. Has fantastic singing by the actual cast members & great original songs, and manages to deftly blend comedy & drama masterfully. It should've been nominated for an emmy. Oh wait, it actually was supposed to be...
All right that's the list. I'll be back tomorrow with thoughts on the Crackdown demo and several other things. After all this musical stuff, I feel the need to do something a little more manly, like chainsaw someone in Gears of War....