Why Do TV Shows Have Musical Episodes?

The CW’s Supergirl and The Flash musically crossed over this season in “Duet,” their tuneful two-part crossover. And the characters of ABC’s Once Upon a Time are set to break out in song on May 7, when Emma Swan and Captain Hook finally tie the knot in “The Song in Your Heart.” Love them or hate them, musical episodes are a TV tradition that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So, let’s talk about why TV shows have musical episodes.

Why do TV shows have musical episodes?

Musical episodes most often happen a few seasons into a TV series after the show has established itself. Maybe the show’s is in need of a ratings-boosting stunt. Fans who may have tuned out of a series are more likely to tune back in for something as outlandish as a heavily-promoted musical episode.

Musical episodes are a fun way to shake things up on a show that’s gotten creatively stagnant. If a TV series has sort of run out of tricks, a dramatized song and dance episode is a whimsical way to bring new life to the story. But musical episodes aren’t always a sign of creative struggle or ratings decline.

Sometimes musical TV show episodes are just a fun creative diversion. Many TV shows have cast members who are triple threats — they can act, sing, and dance — who come from a musical theater background. And it’s not uncommon for creative talent on popular series to have the same areas of interest. So, it’s a natural thing that develops over for no other reason than the people involved in making the show think it’d be something fun to do.

Are musical TV episodes a good thing?

Opinions vary, but while musical episodes are a departure from the norm of any (non-musical) series they may still become fan favorites. The “Once More, With Feeling” episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a revered classic. It’s a self-aware send-up of the musical genre and the series itself.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Community, and Scrubs also had musical episodes that were very well received by the show’s fans. But musical episodes of drama series like Grey’s Anatomy and Chicago Hope have proven cringe-worthy.

If they’re well-written, have good songs, and fun performances, musical episodes are generally adored by fans of a show. And although they’re definitely a gimmick, they almost always give the audience a fun moment or two with characters they love.

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