Sometimes, emotions are so strong that the only way to accurately express them is through song. Hence, the TV musical—one of the best ways to get some laughs by completely embarrassing your actors.
"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" ended season four by setting the stage on fire with one of the greatest musicals the small screen has ever seen. And with a one-off musical episode of "Grey's Anatomy" airing March 31st, we're taking a gander at the great musicals that have made their way into episodes of our favorite shows.
From cops singing about their vulnerability, to men in animal costumes rolling around stage on roller skates, we've made a list of our favorite TV show musical parodies.
Have we forgotten your favorite musical parody? Leave a comment below and let us know!
10. ALF, "It Ain't Easy Being Green"
This one takes us back to the days when sitcoms had two important elements missing from many modern ones... namely, a plot and a message. When little Brian is nervous playing an asparagus in his school's production of Nutrition Follies, ALF and Willie come to his aid. ALF tries to give Brian a good luck charm, Willie teaches him that strength comes from within and kids teach us the value of eating our vegetables.
9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Once More with Feeling"
The best way to convince your actors they need to do a musical episode? Have an evil demon force the entire town to break out into song and sometimes dance themselves silly until they combust. But unlike many of the other shows, the songs sung have some true impact, forcing characters to reveal things they might not have revealed otherwise. This in turn strengthens a few and damages many of the relationships between our favorite characters.
8. South Park, "Helen Keller: The Musical"
This is a holiday treat, albeit a sometimes strange one. When Cartman goes to war with kindergarteners about who will put on the best Thanksgiving show, the pyrotechnics get bigger and the insanity lasts longer as he and the rest of the fourth grade reproduce The Miracle Worker. Throw in Cartman's crazy (but normal to him) visions, a disabled but lucky turkey and Timmy and you've got a great musical parody, cartoon style.
7. Mr. Show, "Rap: The Musical" and "Fuzz: The Musical"
These two sketches take an absurdist's view of the typical musical. Rap: The Musical (shown below) portrays the sometimes harsh rap lifestyle while forgoing using any rap music and having scenes take place in a 19th century England setting. It proves that it is, in fact, hard out here for a pimp. Fuzz takes us into the world of a Cops parody with the cops singing alongside the perps. Things don't go so well and the cast of Fuzz: The Musical end up making an appearance on Fuzz: The Show.
6. Cop Rock
This short-lived Steven Bochco series ("L.A. Law," "Hill Street Blues") hoped to show that cops and criminals have feelings, too. And sometimes they have to express it in song! Cops would bust down doors and then break into song, juries would sing out whether a man was guilty or innocent. Some of our personal favorites include "Don't Mess With My Pursuit of Happiness" in which wealthy cocaine buyers get busted, and the twangy "I Ache to Hear the Doggie Sing Again" when Chief Kendrick sings of his longing for his country home. And, of course, the slightly offensive "Lineup" (shown below) in which criminals complain about racial profiling. It was a brave and bold thing to do, combining a crime drama with show tunes. Sadly the show was a colossal failure and was cancelled after only 11 episodes.
5. Oz, "Variety"
In a gritty prison drama with a high body count and plenty of drugs you come to expect stabbing and snorting. But this episode has the inmates of Emerald City... performing in a variety show?! The little monologues typically orated by Harold Perrineau's ("Lost") character Augustus Hill are replaced by prisoners and staff doing musical numbers. What's best is seeing prisoner Omar White, who has no trouble stabbing correctional officers, getting stage fright.
4. Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog
This web-only three act musical was inspired by the writers' strike. It gave "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon a chance to make something great with a moderate budget and prove to the world that internet projects can be profitable. It also had Neil Patrick Harris playing wannabe villain Dr. Horrible and his secret identity, "Billy." Romance, fighting and plotting all set to a fantastic soundtrack make this one of our favorites.
3. Get a Life!, "Zoo Animals on Wheels"
The short lived cult classic starring Chris Elliott was memorable for its surreal nature. This was clearly apparent when Chris' character (also named Chris) gets a role in a community theatre musical with a production that's part "Cats," part "Starlight Express." The sight of grown adults singing and gliding around the stage on roller skates is only made more amusing by the on-the-fly critique of the play by Chris' father. But if we learned anything from this episode, it's that animals in the zoo don't like to be stared at. Remember that.
2. Home Movies, "Bye Bye Greasy"
Just like "South Park," this show features an animated class of elementary school students putting on a school play. And like the gang from "South Park," much of the action occurs behind the scenes. But instead of a crazed Cartman we get a bully who forces himself into the lead role, a great singer who's literally frozen by stage fright and a coach who loves the idea of driving his car onto the stage... but can't seem to be able to work his driver's side window.
1. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, "The Nightman Cometh"
In season three we got the legendary songs "Dayman" and "Nightman." And for the finale for season four we got the musical, "The Nightman Cometh." The sometimes not so subtle costumes and backstage drama are par for the course of all the shows. But it's the lyrics that truly make this episode stand out. "Dayman, fighter of the Nightman. Master of Karate and Friendship" is already a classic. Then there's the lyrics filled with innuendo ("If you want to get into that boy's hole, you've gotta pay the troll toll"). It's no wonder there are dozens of tribute videos of this musical showing up on YouTube. But will there be a sequel? We can only hope...