Listed: Favorite Musical TV Moments, 1980s-Present

Sometimes FOX likes to do really super cheesy things, like forcing all of its shows to produce episodes that conform to a theme as promotion tool (I would argue that is actually less cheesy and ineffective than NBC’s lame attempts at environment promotion, “green weeks”). This is one of those times. Specifically, this entire week has been dubbed Fox Rocks Week by the Powers that Be, and all your favorite shows are falling in line. House may be cheating by airing a repeat of the season premiere, in which Hugh Laurie raps alongside guest star Lin-Manuel Miranda, but plenty of forced musical weirdness is coming your way from Family Guy (the show’s 150th episode), Bones (Boreanaz and Deschanel are set to perform a duet), Fringe (which is giving us the first entirely musical episode since Scrubs‘s largely ineffectual “My Musical” and of course, Buffy’s superb granddaddy, “Once More, With Feeling”), along with several others.

2X19 -- "Brown Betty"

So in honor of this week’s episode of Fringe (for which I am almost completely unspoiled, and which I hope ends up as awesome as it sounds), I thought I’d make you a list of my favorite musical TV moments. As a clarification, I’m not talking about music that is non-diegetic, i.e. music that doesn’t exist in the world that the characters inhabit, like score or superimposed songs from outside artists. I’m talking about actual music that the characters acknowledge and interact with. If I widened the scope of this list to every awesome musical moment, then it would be practically endless. As it was, I had a hard enough time narrowing it down if a particular show had more than one moment. The following list is arranged chronologically by airdate, from oldest to newest. Enjoy.

– – –

Estelle Getty and Bea Arthur Sing “I’ve Got You, Babe” While Dressed as Sonny & Cher
“An Illegitimate Concern,” The Golden Girls

Everything about this is awesome. The fact that Estelle Getty is so very short, and Bea Arthur is so very tall. The way Bea Arthur’s voice is deeper than my father’s. The way Bea Arthur flaps her hair. Betty White’s face. Even the laugh of the studio audience is infectious.

– – –

Uncle Jesse Sings “Forever” to Becky at Their Wedding, with Gospel Back-Up
“The Wedding,” Full House

The best part about this whole situation is that it was made in deadly earnest back in 1991, and it gets even better if you watch the music video, which features John Stamos rolling around half naked in a 90’s bed of angst with his fake twin sons. But honestly, Full House was a huge part of my childhood, and a part of me still really, really likes this song.

– – –

The Friends Sing “Smelly Cat” in Central Perk
“The One Where Eddie Moves In,” Friends

There were many, many musical Friends moments to choose from, but the most classic choice could only be “Smelly Cat.”

– – –

The Incestuous Peacock Family Commit Foul Deeds to the Tune of Johnny Mathis’s “Wonderful! Wonderful!”
“Home,” The X-Files

The X-Files did many, many things very well, among which was great integration of diegetic music in unusual and interesting ways. Runners up included Mulder and Scully taking the monster to see Cher in concert in “The Post-Modern Prometheus”, where they dance to “Walking in Memphis,” and the gospel choir rendition of “Come and Go With Me to That Land” sung by Jesse L. Martin as the alien turned ballplayer Josh Exley in “The Unnatural.” But ultimately, the number one spot had to go to the episode that was banned from television. “Wonderful! Wonderful!” is a terminally upbeat song, so there is something very wrong (and right) about it being loved by these extremely inbred and violent brothers. Not to mention the blatant juxtaposition of the word “wonderful” being intoned over and over as people’s brains are beaten in. They just don’t make TV like this anymore.

– – –

Niles Sets the Couch on Fire While Listening to The Marriage of Figaro
“Three Valentines,” Frasier

Back when it premiered, NBC advertised the opening of the episode as the “funniest ten minutes” of Frasier ever. It has since been described as the funniest ten minutes to air on television ever, and eleven years later, it is still just as funny as it was then. And while David Hyde Pierce’s physical comedy is the main attraction, I can’t help but feel that it wouldn’t have gone over quite as well without the opera music playing in the background.

– – –

Nick Serenades Lindsay with Styx’s “Lady”
“Boyfriends and Girlfriends,” Freaks and Geeks

He likes her so very much, she is so very tolerant, and he is so, so clueless. Also of note, Nick’s original song about Lindsay: “Lady L.”

– – –

Ed Makes a Music Video for Carol
“Just Friends,” Ed

I was in love with this show from the very first episode, and I’m still waiting for the DVDs. This scene showcases perfectly the character of Ed Stevens. The choice of “You’re the Inspiration” gives the perfect mix of earnestness, cheese, romance, and tongue-in-cheek self awareness.

– – –

John Crichton Teaches a DRD to Play the 1812 Overture
“Crichton Kicks,” Farscape

Alone on a strange Leviathan and separated from all of his friends, Crichton teaches a random DRD to play the 1812 overture, just for kicks. Crichton is a nerd.

– – –

Buffy Confesses Her Secrets With Song and Dance
“Once More, With Feeling,” Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The whole fucking episode is epic, and even though “Walk Through the Fire” is my favorite, the most emotionally walloping and pivotal moment comes in the climactic “Something to Sing About,” in which Buffy finally reveals to her friends that they pulled her out of Heaven, not Hell. Giles’ meta comment “She needs back-up,” is brilliant as well for its use of double entendre, but I don’t want to just quote you the song. To date, this episode has made me feel the most feelings of any TV show ever, and this song in particular gave me a stabbing pain that I’ve only ever felt before in real life situations (i.e. ones not related to fiction). It is brilliant, and if you try to tell me otherwise, I will come find you and stab you in the face. Another musical moment from Buffy that I have to mention is one that probably gave Whedon the idea for a musical in the first place: Giles singing “Behind Blue Eyes” in “Fear Itself.”

– – –

In Which We Meet Desmond Hume
“Man of Science, Man of Faith,” Lost

One of the things that Lost does best (besides using music awesomely) is introducing new characters, and the introduction of Desmond is probably the best example. At the end of season one, we were left with a bunch of huge cliff-hangers related to hatches and such, so using this scene as the opening of season two was very ballsy and bizarre (also Lost traits), but I think it showcases perfectly that Lost isn’t really about the mystery and the weirdness, it’s about the people. A lot of people think the whole hatch storyline didn’t work, but it worked for me, and this scene illustrates why. Other cool Lost music moments (out of so, so many): Drive Shaft and “You All Everybody,” the introduction of Juliet at the beginning of season three using Petula Clark’s “Downtown” (very similar to the Desmond introduction), and Charlie busking in London with Oasis’s “Wonderwall” (which fit in perfectly with the themes of the story of not only that episode, but the whole back half of season three — “and maybe, you’re gonna be the one who saves me”).

– – –

J.D. Grows a Pair While Ted’s Band Sings the Underdog Theme-Song
“My Hero,” Scrubs

Scrubs is perhaps the most prolific diegetic music user ever to air on TV, mostly because of the ever-imaginative J.D., but also because even at its most real, Scrubs was at heart a fantasy. I picked this moment because it comes from one of my favorite episodes of all time, but there were literally hundreds to choose from. There’s even a ten-part series on YouTube documenting Scrubs musical moments. For example, Turk’s “Poison” Dance and “Guy Love,” the only good song from the Scrubs musical.

– – –

Eleven Year Old Girl Plays Matchmaker with Logan and Veronica Using Nick Lachey’s “What’s Left of Me”
“Postgame Mortem,” Veronica Mars

I couldn’t actually find the scene where Veronica hears the song on the radio, but it was just so perfect and hilarious that an eleven year old girl would think that song was romantic. I laughed for ten minutes. Also of note: Veronica singing Blondie at Karaoke in season one’s “Clash of the Tritons.” Kristen Bell can sing.

– – –

Lorelai Sings “I Will Always Love You” During Karaoke While Drunk
“Lorelai? Lorelai?,” Gilmore Girls

The first time this episode aired I had to run out of the room screaming because I was so embarrassed. To this day, I have yet to watch this scene all the way through. It is absolutely painful, and any show that can make me that embarrassed is doing something right, because it means I am empathizing with the characters. Plus, the fall-out from the whole incident, i.e. Luke and Lorelai getting back together, makes it all better.

– – –

Robin Scherbatsky was a Teenage Canadian Pop Star
“Slap Bet,” How I Met Your Mother

Vodpod videos no longer available.

So the whole plot of this episode Barney is convinced that Robin was in a porno, so he combs the internet and gets his guy who knows a guy or whatever to dig up the dirt. What dirt does he find? Not porn. BETTER than porn. He finds teenage pop stardom. Whoever thought up this storyline is a genius. HIMYM is generally great with music, though. Take for example the Slapsgiving Song, and the lavish production number produced for the 100th episode as an ode to Barney’s love for suits.

– – –

Starbuck Plays Piano With Her Dead Father
“Someone To Watch Over Me,” Battlestar Galactica

I apologize for spoiling anyone, but I couldn’t think of a better way to phrase it. This scene remains one of my favorite moments period from the show, and it is largely because of the music. The preparation and emotional satisfaction gained in this one short scene boggles my mind. When it first aired, I burned a hole in my DVR from rewinding it so much. Also related to this moment is Bear McCreary’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” and the integration of the song’s lyrics into the plot of the show, and the use of that same melody to reveal that four of our favorite characters are actually Cylons. And for fun, here’s a video of Katee Sackhoff re-enacting the above scene with composer Bear McCreary at one of his Battlestar Galactica concerts last summer.

– – –

Tracy Jordan Sings “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah”
“Jack Gets in the Game,” 30 Rock

There are just no words to describe Tracy Jordan, and the absurd brilliance of the seventeen second clip.

– – –

Brennan Sings “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” Booth Takes a Bullet
“The Wannabe in the Weeds,” Bones

Everything about this scene makes me want to rip my hair out from emotion. Brennan is SO CUTE when she’s singing up there, and she actually has a good voice (I read that Emily Deschanel had to purposely make herself sound like more of an amateur than she really is), and Booth’s enjoyment of her being so unwound for once is absolutely adorable. And of course its the sheer happiness of the moment that makes Booth’s taking the bullet for Brennan that much more emotionally affecting. In particular, the part that always gets me when I rewatch this scene is when Fat Pam is pointing the gun at Brennan, but Brennan doesn’t see her. Just after Pam pulls the gun, the camera switches to Brennan, and you just see her up in the background bouncing around so joyfully. And then BOOM. It is fabulous. In close second comes the scene from season one’s “Two Bodies in the Lab” when we learn that Brennan appreciates music and the two dance and play air guitar to “Hot Blooded,” right before Booth gets blown up by the refrigerator. Man, what is it with this show and combining music, joy, and violence? As a point of trivia, [SPOILER!] I’ve heard that the Bones/Booth duet in this week’s episode will be a reprisal of their first song, “Hot Blooded.” Continuity is SO MUCH FUN.

– – –

Olive Snook Pines for the Piemaker After Hours
“Dummy,” Pushing Daisies

From the beginning of the Pilot, Pushing Daisies played fast and loose with the line between reality and fantasy, but it wasn’t until this scene that I really knew what I was dealing with. The world of Pushing Daisies is a truly magical place, and you should visit if you get a chance, i.e. watch it on DVD right now. I actually prefer Olive’s rendition of “Eternal Flame” from season two’s “Comfort Food,” but “Hopelessly Devoted to You” deserves a spot on this list solely for being the first.

– – –

Sam Gets Sent Back to 1977
“Out Here in the Fields,” Life on Mars (US)

After watching the pilot for the US version of Life on Mars, a show that is universally acclaimed in the UK, I was very hopeful that the show would succeed, and more importantly, that it should succeed. The pilot was chock full of clever moments and emotionally affecting music choices, the most important of which is the use of the titular “Life on Mars” as Sam is hit by a car and wakes up in 1977. The colors are different, everything feels off, and then as the camera pans up to a shot of the still-standing twin towers, the music absolutely soars. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get choked up. Unfortunately, the rest of the series never lived up to the potential it showed in that first episode. I should have expected that, though, as the series was helmed by the two very literal and unsubtle men who also brought us October Road.

– – –

The Glee Kids Sing “Don’t Stop Believin'” to Great Effect
“Pilot,” Glee

Love it or hate it, this song and this performance has made a huge impact. The only downside to having had this amazing showstopping song in the very first episode is that I’ve been waiting for them to top it ever since. They haven’t.

– – –

Jeffster! Stalls Ellie and Awesome’s Wedding
“Chuck Versus the Ring,” Chuck

“Why are you letting Sam Kineson and an Indian lesbian ruin your wedding?” Because Jeffster rules! I also love Jeffster’s first performance of Toto’s “Africa” from “Chuck Versus the Best Friend” In a non-Jeffster related musical moment (of which Chuck has had many), season two’s excellent use of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” also stands out.

– – –

Jim and Pam Get Married Twice
“The Wedding,” The Office

I did not care for Chris Brown’s “Forever” until I watched this episode, even though I, like all the characters in the show, had seen the JK Wedding Dance YouTube video and enjoyed it. But after this episode? I love this song. Now it makes me think about love and happy things and Jim and Pam standing on a boat with their arms around each other not saying a word. In ten years when people don’t even remember the YouTube video that spawned it, this scene will still be emotionally affecting.

– – –

Troy and Abed Sing “Somewhere Out There” to Their Lab Rat
“Environmental Science,” Community

This was the moment I knew I loved Community. Any show that can successfully make me feel emotions using a 1980s old school Fievel callback is a great one. The whole sequence, regardless of any emotion you might feel related to childhood nostalgia, is perfectly edited together in this ridiculous rhythm that turns the ludicrous events happening on the screen (Troy and Abed singing to the rat, Shirley giving a speech about brownies, and Señor Chang wooing back his wife with dance) into something real and kinda powerful. Lesser comedies, take note. This is how it’s done.

– – –

Even though I feel that this list is pretty long as is, I know that I’ve missed things, both because I’ve forgotten them, and because I am not superhuman. I haven’t seen every TV show ever made. So, here’s my question for you: What are your favorite musical TV moments?


39 Responses to “Listed: Favorite Musical TV Moments, 1980s-Present”
  1. Jennie says:

    I love this! I wish I wasn’t at work so I could actually watch these videos. I have so many thoughts, I don’t know where to start.

    1. The Wonderful, Wonderful part of The X-Files still freaks me out. So. Creepy. And Come and Go With Me To That Land gives me goosebumps every time and makes me feel lots of feelings.
    2. I love you for including Freaks and Geeks, especially a clip of Nick. Oh, Nick.
    3. I just can’t even list anymore, so overwhelmed am I by the awesomeness of this list. TRUTH.

  2. Jennie says:

    I tried to leave an awesome comment but I don’t think it got posted. Now I am sad face.

  3. Joe G. says:

    A little sad that you left off C.J. Cregg’s incredibly entertaining lip-synching rendition of The Jackal. I also enjoy when Sam, C.J., Toby, and Josh sing Gilbert & Sullivan songs to Ainsley in season 2.

    Also, the use of “Tom Sawyer” on Chuck made me fall back in love with Rush.

  4. Jen says:

    Um, Boreanaz is going to sing? We know how well that usually goes.

    Love these musical moments.

    I’m going to have ‘Let’s go to the Mall’ stuck in my head, simply because I read this post. I don’t even need to watch the clip.

  5. Jen says:

    I really wish I could watch these clips right now. Boo to blocking.

    I know that the scrubs musical wasn’t stellar, but I love the episode where Ted & Carla sing Poison’s “Talk dirty to me” to the coma patient when Kelso won’t accommodate his wishes to have the song played in his room on a boom-box.

    Also, the scene where all the organ recipients are dying because the donor had rabies is especially poignant with the background of “How to save a life.” Makes me cry every time. In fact, that song makes me cry because it reminds me of this episode.

    I enjoyed Jeffster’s performance of “leaving on a jet plane” in the last episode of Chuck.

    I love that scene in Frasier – especially when Niles sees his own blood and passes out. I really love that show. I need to get it on DVD.

    The “I will always love you” serenade in Gilmore Girls freaked me out the first time. I totally get embarrassed when my favorite characters do embarrassing things.

    I know I have more top TV music moments but my brain is fried (plus you covered a lot of good ones).

    • Ashley says:

      I cried like a baby at the Scrubs finale with the musical montage of JD’s future life. That show wins at being the comedy most likely to make one burst into unexpected tears.

  6. Abigail says:


    1) Like always, I’ve only seen a few of these because I am only human whereas you are magnificent.

    2) Oh Luke and Lorelai. SIGHHHHHHHH. You know, I’m pretty sure they’re the first people I ever shipped. That video made me cry just now all over again. OH YOU GUYS.

    3) Robin Sparkles is so genius. I always forget how genius every little tweak of HIMYM is. Like later when they go to the Canada bar and Marshall knows Let’s Go to the Mall will be karaoke.

    4) Werewolf Bar Mitzvah will be in my head for the rest of the week. Thanks. (Spooky, scary.)

    5) I couldn’t finish the Booth and Brennan clip. I got too upset.

    6) Glee: I agree that that performance was genius. I agreed with you last year too when you said it was one of the top episodes of the year. And I think one of the reasons I hate the show now is because it isn’t that pilot (to me)(at ALL). I kind of wish that Glee was actually a feature length film based on the pilot.

    7) JEFFSTER. Did you read that interview with Vik Sahay about when the writers asked him if he could sing? It’s one of my favorite Chuck interviews ever and makes me love Jeffster even more.

    8) The Jim and Pam clip just made me cry too. Man, you are pulling all my strings. I mean, you are pushing all my buttons.

    9) You are awesome. I’m going to try to think of some stuff I would add to this list.

    • Ashley says:

      1. I’m not magnificent, I’m only semi-magnificent.
      2. I. cannot. watch. that. video. It gives me physical pain. PAIN. I have seen that episode at least four times but have yet to make it past the first two minutes of that song. I get SO EMBARRASSED.
      3. I forgot about the Canada karaoke!
      4. You’re welcome. (Boys becoming men, men becoming wolves.)
      5. I watched it fifteen times in a row yesterday. I could probably watch it forever. (But I always stop watching right after Brennan shoots Fat Pam. Bitch gets pwned in the throat.)
      6. Oh, Glee. The only performance that has come close for me is when they did “Imagine” with a bunch of deaf kids.
      7. I did not read that interview, I don’t think. Find it for me?
      9. I KNOW I missed something.

  7. Cassandra says:

    Aha! I knew the Starbuck-plays-the-piano moment would be on here; and how could it not be? Also, I was totally at that Bear McCreary concert last summer. One of the best moments of my life.

  8. Trevor says:

    I got admonished for NOT posting a comment here.

    I spent the whole morning yesterday, watching these videos, and then watching related videos — like all the COMMUNITY closers, 4 versions of “Eternal Flame”, a bunch of SCRUBS stuff, Garfunkel and Oates videos — tracing down the YouTube pathways.

    The COMMUNITY and OFFICE SPACE clips are two of the very best moments on TV I’ve seen in the past year. Sweet, earnest, and funny, all at once.

    • Trevor says:

      I KNEW I’d said OFFICE SPACE instead of THE OFFICE, and was going to change it. And then I didn’t. Oy.

    • Ashley says:

      You should never let me know you’ve read a post and not commented. I will attack you. Also, allow me to insert an evil laugh about the YouTube pathway situation: mwhahahah.

  9. heather anne says:

    This is, honest-to-Merlin, the most impressive thing I have ever seen.

    • Ashley says:

      Thank you. My goal in life is to get you to say that as many times as possible.

      Do you want to know how long it took me? How many things I didn’t do instead? That one of those YouTube videos was contributed by me because FOX is the absolute worst about letting its clips be all over YouTube, even though it’s good promotion (idiots)? Somebody should either take the internet away from me, or start paying me for it.

  10. Jennie says:

    I’m not spam! I’m not spam at all! I honestly can’t think of any that you missed. As I was reading it, I was all, “I hope Pushing Daisies is on here,” and then it was.

  11. Dan says:

    These are all awesome choices. (Obviously…do we expect anything other than awesome from you? Nay, I say. Nay.)

    Some of mine include “The Monorail Song” from The Simpsons, Joey singing “On My Own” from Dawson’s Creek (shut up), George’s version of the theme to The Greatest American Hero on his answering machine on Seinfeld, “You’re the One Who’s Out of This World” from ALF, and “The Bibby Bobka Song” from Perfect Strangers.

  12. myoctober says:

    1. It’s our song! That was fantastic.
    2. FULL HOUSE. That veil is hideous. But I love those two.
    3. Everything about Freaks and Geeks was amazing. I need to buy it. Marshall looks so young!!
    4. I think 1812 was one of my favorite moments of Farscape. “Then don’t make me say goodbye.” EFF YOU ASHLEY!
    5. Oh, the stabbing feelings I felt. My favorite is Walk Through the Fire, too! This might win over a DVRd American Idol tonight.
    6. I’m actually surprised you didn’t pick Kristen Bell singing, but this one’s fun, too. The girl is too cute.
    7. I cried SO HARD at that scene in GG. SO HARD. Oops, did it again.
    8. HIMYM is the best with music.
    9. WAIT. You like that scene in BSG? Like, I had no idea?! No clue you watched in a billion times. ;) Gah, that scene.
    10. I have watched that Girls Just Wanna Have fun clip a thousand times. The look of insane love on his face? Annie and I went CRAZY when he was shot.
    11. I cannot freaking wait for the Hot Blooded continuity. That was another favorite Bones moment.
    12. Poor Olive Snook. I was kind of rooting for you.
    13. Jeffster! Gah, it’s a favorite TV orgy. Although, I much prefer Africa. This week’s was fabulous as well.
    14. Office Wedding. One of my favorites in TV history. Thanks for making me cry again.

    Shit Ashley. That was amazing. Thanks for procrastinating for us!

  13. myoctober says:

    Can Abigail and I make you watch Dawson’s Creek?

  14. Ashley says:

    Whoops, just realized I left out a Jeffster! and I couldn’t do that with a clean conscience.

    The Buy More Employees Stage a Revolution, Jeffster! sings “Fortunate Son” (“So that’s the sound of liberty?”)

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