Sooner or later, TV shows with a few seasons under their belts start running out of ideas to fill a 20-plus-episode season. While it’s easy to fall into classic TV tropes and clichés to keep things exciting for viewers, some shows resort to the musical episode to spice things up.
1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer // "Once More, With Feeling"
The seventh episode of the sixth season, “Once More, With Feeling” is considered one of the best episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Series creator Joss Whedon wrote and directed the episode and wrote all the musical numbers. He had conceived the episode after a night of drinking with the cast during a Shakespeare reading at his house.
“Once More, With Feeling” gained a small cult following when it started to be shown at special sing-a-long screenings in 2003. However, in 2007, a licensing dispute with Twentieth Century Fox and the Screen Actors Guild halted all special screenings of the episode.
2. Scrubs // "My Musical"
The Scrubs episode "My Musical"—in which J.D. and Elliot bring a patient who hears everything as a musical into Sacred Heart Hospital—originally aired during the series’ sixth season in 2007 and was one of its best-received episodes. “My Musical” was nominated for five Emmy Awards during the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics, and Outstanding Music Direction.
3. That '70s Show // “That '70s Musical”
“That ‘70s Musical,” the 100th episode of That ‘70s Show, aired during the comedy’s fourth season. It featured a series of musical fantasy sequences from the point of view of the character Fez, played by Wilmer Valderrama. “That ‘70s Musical” also featured music from Peaches & Herb, The Turtles, and The Carpenters.
4. Grey's Anatomy // “Song Beneath the Song”
In 2011, Grey’s Anatomy aired a musical episode titled “Song Beneath the Song” or "Grey's Anatomy: The Music Event." The episode was made up of the cast singing pop songs that were previously featured on the medical drama, including Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars,” The Fray’s “How to Save a Life,” and Brandi Carlile’s “The Story.” “Song Beneath the Song” comes from a song from singer-songwriter Maria Taylor’s 2005 record 11:11.
While the episode received mix reviews from TV critics, the soundtrack for “Song Beneath the Song” debuted at #24 on the Billboard 200.
5. 7th Heaven // “Red Socks”
The special Valentine’s Day episode of 7th Heaven’s ninth season, “Red Socks,” is considered one of the worst musical episodes in TV history. Although Stephen Collins, who played the series’ patriarch Reverend Eric Camden, has a musical theater background on Broadway, the rest of the cast couldn’t match his vocal talent and energy.
6. Ally McBeal // “The Musical, Almost”
Ally McBeal’s season three finale was called “The Musical, Almost.” The episode featured the series’ characters performing musical numbers of pop songs while in therapy and while highly medicated.
7. Oz // “Variety”
HBO's Oz was transformed from gritty prison drama to clever musical episode when the inmates of Oswald State Correctional Facility staged a variety show. While the episode still featured the show's trademark shocking violence and harsh language, it also featured a number of surprisingly sharp musical performances.
8. How I Met Your Mother // “Girls vs. Suits”
The 100th episode of How I Met Your Mother was a musical with guest stars Stacy Keibler and Tim Gunn, and also featured Neil Patrick Harris’ show-stopping performance of "Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit." The song was nominated for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics.
9. Northern Exposure // "Old Tree"
In 1993, Northern Exposure aired an unconventional musical episode as its fourth season finale. “Old Tree” featured the small town of Cicely, Alaska trying to save an old dying tree that is considered an historical landmark. Shelly Tambo, played by Cynthia Geary, wakes up unable to talk, but sings all of her dialogue throughout the entire episode.
10. Daria // "Daria!"
“Daria!,” the third season premiere of the animated MTV show, was a musical episode that featured nine songs in 21 minutes. Although the episode—which featured residents of Lawndale preparing for a hurricane—is considered controversial among hardcore Daria fans, “Daria!” is one of the most memorable episodes of the animated series.
11. Community // “Regional Holiday Music”
In Community's third season, creator Dan Harmon conceived an episode that was both a Christmas episode and a parody of the hit TV show Glee. "Regional Holiday Music" featured the cast joining Greendale Community College’s glee club and performing a number of original songs. SNL’s Taran Killam made a guest appearance as the glee club’s demented instructor, Cory Radison.