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July 13 2005

The History of Television Musicals. Includes several mentions of Once More with Feeling.

A rather enlightening article on the history of TV musicals.

The two biggest hurdles are budget and believability. Musicals are expensive, which is why most series only take them on once or twice in their entire runs. But unless they cost more than shooting on location in Hawaii and having to blow things up every other episode (including characters), it's definitely feasible.

Hey, a "Lost" musical episode! can you imagine Locke singing about his legs? Or Hurley singing about numbers? Haha! Ok, I'm very sleep deprived and that probably sounds funnier in my head.
Hey, a "Lost" musical episode! can you imagine Locke singing about his legs? Or Hurley singing about numbers? Haha! Ok, I'm very sleep deprived and that probably sounds funnier in my head.


At what point does Jack sing "Wind Beneath my Wings" to Charlie? ;p
At what point does Jack sing "Wind Beneath my Wings" to Charlie? ;p


I don't know. Maybe at their wedding reception?
The 7th Heaven musical was so appallingly bad that all of my friends are sad they missed it. Alas, I can't find the episode online anywhere and doubt it will ever be rerun. It was that awful.

I generally think that television musicals are a very bad idea. Most shows just can't support the concept, and Buffy was a rare, wonderful exception. But still, I would love to see Cop Rock. DVD release petition, anyone?
They didn't mention "The Love Boat" musical episode! I was a kid so I don't remember much about it just that it was very weird and made no sense that they were singing.
I would love to see the 7th Heaven Musical, just to see how bad it truely is. Nice to hear mention of one of my favorite Buffy episodes. I vaguely remember seeing the Ally McBeal musical actually, clearly it lacked speciality because I vaguely remember it. Lol.
The two biggest hurdles are budget and believability.


Actually, I think time and talent are bigger hurdles for the tv musical. Although, no amount of time, money, and believability could make up for the stunning lack of talent on 7th Heaven's Red Socks episode. Appalling? I saw a couple of clips and they were indeed appalling. Unfortunately 7th Heaven is pretty popular and in syndication so there will probably be plenty of chances to see this abomination again and again, god help us.

It takes time to work on songs and dance routines. Broadway musicals don't go up in 10 days (like your average hourlong drama). It takes months of rehearsal, revisions, and planning. Joss took that into consideration and had his cast and crew working for months beforehand to get things right. Somehow, I don't think they did that with Red Socks.

What Joss got right with OMWF was simple but rare in tvland: more than a deep and abiding love of the musical form, he has respect for its conventions and an understanding of how it works. Most tv shows who try a musical ep seem to think that it's enough to slap some songs together for the characters to sing. They're lazy and use/abuse some great classic songs as shorthand to do all the work of telling us what a character is thinking or feeling. That's not a musical, that's a music video or worse, Moulin Rouge.
That's not a musical, that's a music video or worse, Moulin Rouge.


Amen to that, sister.
Since this article mentioned the Xena musical episode, I wanted to ask, is Xena a show worth watching? What is it like? I remember changing the channel to it a few times, and just thought it was too campy, and I never liked the Hercules show. I just thought it was more of the same, a lot of silly plots and bad acting. I don't mean to offend Hurcules fans, but that was the impression it had on me.

Also, did the Xena musical work or was it a flop?

I saw the tail end of the 7th Heaven musical episode, and oh my god, it was awful. I could barely even watch it. The worst part was when the two little kids were singing. Those two are the worst child actors I've ever seen in TV, and they couldn't even sing! I guess the producers figured the cute factor would make it work. Oh, but it was bad bad bad.
I never saw the Xena musical, and I never watched 7th Heaven, but I saw several clips of the latter's musical episode, and I must agree with all as to how bad it was. Embarrassing for all.

The worst part was when the two little kids were singing. . . . and they couldn't even sing! I guess the producers figured the cute factor would make it work.

Whether the "cute factor" was true for 7th Heaven, that is certainly true for other appearances of singing child actors. As a case in point, the latest Oscar Meyer commercial with the children deliberately singing off-key, loudly, is so painful to watch, whereas some of the earliest of that company's commercials, years and years ago, were actually fun to watch. The kids were innocently cute, not the painfully overly-trained-to-be-cute professional child actors of today. I saw the Oscar Meyer commercial earlier today, and it haunts me still.
No mention of the Lexx musical episode either! I loved that episode.

The Lost musical would be interesting, but an Alias musical is IMMINENT. At a recent convention, Victor Garber told of a running joke between him and J.J. Abrams where, when they know the show is going to be canceled anyway, they're going to have an episode where Jack and Sydney have to put on a musical together on a mission.
Didn't THE DREW CAREY SHOW also have a musical episode?
FYI, there were TWO Xena musical episodes. The second was the previously-mentioned "Lyre, Lyre" which featured the characters singing established modern rock and pop hits with anachronistic, well-choreographed flair. Not bad, but nothing extraordinary.

But the first Xena musical episode, "The Bitter Suite" (broadcast 2/2/98) was something special. A pivotal episode of the series (the climax to a season-long rift between Xena and Gabrielle), Bitter Suite was a dazzling musical fantasy set in a world inspired by the Tarot, where Xena and Gaby hashed out their issues in song. The musical numbers leaned too much toward Lez Miz-style pop opera for my taste, but Lucy Lawless and the rest of the cast sold it. (In a parallel to Alyson Hannigan's troubles, Renee O'Connor's singing was so bad that the producers wisely dubbed Gaby's voice.)

Joss' OMWF score is stronger than Bitter Suite--but Xena got there first. (In fact, Xander's "Great Zeus!" in OMWF has to be a shout-out to the BUFFY episode's immediate predecssor.) The set design for Bitter Suite was an absolute marvel, and could be considered a separate character in itself. Supporting players like Kevin Smith (Ares) and Ted Raimi (Joxer) were terrific. If OMWF hadn't come along, I'd call it the best original musical episode in series television.

For more on Bitter Suite, check "Whoosh!" (the Xena fansite) for innumerable articles on the episode, or go to the Bitter Suite site (http://www.perpetualwednesday.org) for true fanaticism.
The Lost musical would be interesting, but an Alias musical is IMMINENT. At a recent convention, Victor Garber told of a running joke between him and J.J. Abrams where, when they know the show is going to be canceled anyway, they're going to have an episode where Jack and Sydney have to put on a musical together on a mission.


Yes! Although I don't wish the cancellation of Alias, I'd love to see that episode! I think J.J. could pull it off.

Didn't THE DREW CAREY SHOW also have a musical episode?


It did. And I saw it. It was campy, but that's all I remember of it.
I downloaded the 7th Heaven musical after I heard how bad it was. It was worse. Dear god it was awful.
An Alias musical? LOL. Well, Victor Garber would be fabulous since he's quite the song & dance man and Jennifer Garner has had dance training. I'd love to see that! Not sure if the rest of the cast has the chops for that sort of thing, but who cares? It would be hilarious.

Boy, the Museum of Broadcasting should do an exhibition of musical shows!

Ack! They've already done something like this just last fall as part of the NY Musical Theatre Festival. They showed the premiere episode of Cop Rock, an episode of That's Life (with Robert Morse & E.J. Peaker and guest stars Liza Minnelli and Paul Lynde), Stephen Sondheim's Evening Primrose (SS' only musical written for television, "about a group of people living a secret nighttime existence in a department store" and starring Anthony Perkins!), and a James Thurber fairy tale "The Thirteen Clocks" with John Raitt, Roberta Peters and Basil Rathbone!

[ edited by punkinpuss on 2005-07-13 23:46 ]
Mindpieces, if youreally want to see more "Cop Rock", Trio has it as part of their "Brilliant But Canceled" series. Right now they're on "EZ Streets" (Wonderful show), but they seem to rotate in other series about once a month. You might want to check their website.

[ edited by aver on 2005-07-14 06:15 ]
Since this article mentioned the Xena musical episode, I wanted to ask, is Xena a show worth watching? What is it like? I remember changing the channel to it a few times, and just thought it was too campy, and I never liked the Hercules show. I just thought it was more of the same, a lot of silly plots and bad acting. I don't mean to offend Hurcules fans, but that was the impression it had on me.

Also, did the Xena musical work or was it a flop?


I'd say Xena was a show worth watching. One thing you could always count on with this show was the writers just LOVED to think outside the box. Sometimes this was a very good thing. Other times, I admit, it was an incredibly... NOT good thing. ;p

But it was never boring, at least. The consistency of quality was a bit shaky at times, and the early episodes didn't do too much to distinguish itself in any kind of original style from 'Hercules', but the characters were mostly great (especially Ares) and the stories were usually fun and interesting. It did have a tendency to be a bit over the top, if that bothers you, though.

As far as the musical goes, like cjl said, The Bitter Suite is MUCH stronger than the Lyre, Lyre episode mentioned in the article, and while I will forever believe OMWF is a stronger showing than TBS, I actually do understand why some people disagree with that.

As for the Lyre episode, it's only watchable if you're really bored. Except for Joxer's cousin singing "Dancing in the Moonlight", that's hilarious any day of the week. ;p

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