Unexpected Musical Numbers on TV


Glee has sort of mainstreamed musical numbers in TV shows (they haven’t quite become a full-fledged musical yet, but some numbers have gone beyond their supposed “realistic” setting), but it’s not uncommon for shows, especially comedies, to have big splashy musical numbers. The Fox animated shows do it all the time, of course, and How I Met Your Mother‘s 100th episode will have a production number for Neil Patrick Harris’s Barney, celebrating his love of suits.

Live-action shows usually have to have some excuse for the number — like a dream, or performing on a stage, or that Buffy the Vampire Slayer singing demon thing — while animated shows feel free just to let the people sing. But there have been a few live-action TV episodes where there is no setup or excuse provided, where characters just start singing out of nowhere, like in a musical. The only example that comes to mind right now is one of the ultimate WTF!? moments of TV, from the last and worst season of Laverne and Shirley (the season without Shirley), an episode involving Laraine Newman, Anne Ramsey, a guest singer named “Ernie Banks” (a different Ernie Banks from the baseball player) and some lip-synching that’s impressively bad even by Glee standards.

Are there any other non-animated TV episodes you recall where a musical number just happened, without any explanation or rationale?

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Unexpected Musical Numbers on TV

  1. Taxi did a great big musical number, Lullabye of Broadway, I think. Featuring Marilu Henner for the most part, but they all swayed with her.

  2. ummm…not sure if this counts – but the Werewolf Bar Mitzvah from 30 Rock.

  3. I can't recall if the Ally McBeal musical episode counts or not, what was the premise?

  4. Going a ways back, the final couple of seasons of "The Lucy Show" featured some 'lets put on a show' type musical numbers, where a sort of a cross between the old Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland MGM musicals and a particularly weird part of a Jerry Lewis Telethon when a "throw everything at the audience" ethos took over the show (in place of the broad slapstick gags that people wanted to see when they tuned in on Mondays at 9 Eastern).

    Here's a YouTube clip from the final scene of "Main Street USA" from the 1966-67 season (the one Desilu forgot to copywright, so this clip is from a PD print and not particularly clear. But since it's from Desilu, it may have actually been done on the same set as the Laverne sans Shirley musical number:


  5. The premise (of the post) is musical numbers that happen without some excuse to set it up, like a dream/fantasy or a stage performance.

    IIRC the Ally McBeal episode had that, so it would count.

  6. "Midnight Train to Georgia" on 30 Rock. Liz and the crowd suddenly burst into song in the middle of the NBC building.

  7. I think the That 70s Show musical episode had no reason for the songs, but like Ally McBeal I just can't remember why they were singing. It was also really really drab, they all just kind of fluffed through drab 70s songs.

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