"Gotta Dance!" — Imagining Musical Episodes for "Girls," "Modern Family" and More

By Benjamin Solomon
March 9, 2014

Playbill.com offers a list of TV shows that should feature musical episodes in their upcoming seasons.



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There is no shortage of Broadway stars on television these days. Even the most unlikely of shows (for example, "Homeland") feature song and dance men and women moonlighting as detectives, serial killers and high school teachers. Thankfully, for Broadway fans, the temptation to create a musical episode of these TV shows seems stronger than ever.

Over the last decade it has become popular for long-running televisions shows to find a silly reason for their stars to "Glee"-out a bit. A brain aneurism on "Chicago Hope" made cast members break into song, while electroshock therapy on "American Horror Story: Asylum" transformed Jessica Lange into Shirley Ellis. Though the concept can be traced all the way back to a dream sequence on "I Love Lucy,' most credit the '90s CW drama "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" for popularizing the trend with an episode that saw the residents of Sunnydale breaking out into musical numbers at the behest of an evil demon.

And it's a trend that's not disappearing anytime soon. ABC's "The Neighbors" and USA's "Psych" recently joined the party. Even "The Good Wife" released a music video!

Click through to see a selection of TV shows that should feature a musical episode. 


Kevin Spacey

"House of Cards," Netflix

Why this show: Kevin Spacey is not afraid of a few showtunes; don't forget the actor directed and starred in the musical biopic "Beyond the Sea." And Sebastian Arcelus toured with Wicked before playing plucky reporter Lucas on the show. 

Possible plot: Spacey's devious Frank Underwood is no stranger to breaking the fourth wall, so why not have him take the show's "Machiavellian political theatre" literally with a fantasy sequence that involves him singing and dancing over the bodies of his enemies at the White House? It could be the next 1776!

Odds: Low. Not only did "Beyond the Sea" bomb, but Spacey's singing voice was lacerated by critics.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson

"Modern Family," ABC

Why this show: Besides the excellent episode "The Musical Man," which featured Cam directing Manny and Luke's school musical, it's kind of a shocker that the ABC comedy hasn't had a full musical episode, given it stars two Broadway vets: Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Sofia Vergara. (Remember when she played Mama Morton in Chicago?

Possible plot: After the family travels to New York to see a Broadway show, Mitch trips, falls and gets a concussion which causes him to imagine his life if he was a big Broadway star and not married to Cam.

Odds: High. Despite not actually being dancers, Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet would jump at the chance to make fools of themselves in a kickline.

Nathan Fillion

"Castle," ABC

Why this show: Because in its six season, "Castle" seems ready to pull a ratings stunt like a musical episode (the show has yet to be renewed for season seven). And because star Nathan Fillion was awesome in Joss Whedon's "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog."

Possible plot: "Castle'"s newest book is being turned into a musical. But when the actors start turning up dead (cue Neil Patrick Harris reunion!), Castle and Beckett must find the murderer before opening night.

Odds: Medium. The show's cast has already proved they can sing and the show is no stranger to cross-over projects.

Cheryl Tunt

"Archer," FX

Why this show: In the animated world of this spy comedy, nothing is off-limits. So we don't see why its outlandish characters couldn't randomly break into song — the show has already moved from being a James Bond spoof into a "Miami Vice" spoof!

Possible plot: Cheryl Tunt (Judy Greer) became country singer Charlene in season four,  so why not just go ahead and make a country-western musical? Maybe they could travel back in time to the old west — "Back to the Future"-style — and land themselves in prison. It would be like Chicago-meets-Oklahoma-meets-Spamalot. There doesn't need to be an explanation to all of this (this is "Archer," after all). But Lana (Aisha Tyler) would look great as one of those dancing saloon girls and Malory (Jessica Walter) would make a badass Madam.

Odds: Low. We're guessing Charlene was "Archer'"s one and only flirtation with singing.

Raul Esparza

"Law and Order: SVU," NBC

Why this show? After 15 seasons, what else does Dick Wolf's police procedural have to lose? The show's ratings remain solid, even though Mariska Hargitay is the only holdover from the first season. And it's not like the show's newest series regular, Tony-nominated actor Raul Esparza, isn't up to the task. 

Possible plot: The only way the NYPD can catch a rapist terrorizing the New York Musical Theater Festival is if Sergeant Benson (Hargitay) and Assistant DA Barba (Esparza) go undercover as performers. Barba wins over the trust of the chorus boys/suspects with his dramatic tenor.

Odds: Low. We're guessing musicals aren't Dick Wolf's bag, no matter how good Esparza is.

Mandy Patinkin

"Homeland," Showtime

Why this show? "Homeland" features some of Broadway most revered talents (Tracy Letts, F. Murray Abraham), but mostly we'd just love to find a reason for Mandy Patinkin's Saul to break into song

Possible plot: Is it too easy for jazz-loving Carrie (Claire Danes) to have another psychotic break where it seems like she is living in a big-band musical fantasy led by Saul (Patinkin)?

Odds: Low. This show seems a little too serious for musical-comedy distraction.

Andrew Rannells

"Girls," HBO

Why this show? It was only a matter of time until Lena Dunham's show about 20-somethings trying to make it in the Big Apple featured a character on Broadway, especially since the show stars Broadway vets Adam Driver and Andrew Rannells (plus, the occasional Patti Lupone cameo).

Possible plot: Marnie's new plan to overcome her YouTube shame is to become a legit Broadway performer. So she enlists Hannah (Dunham) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) to write her an edgy Fringe Festival musical that she produces with money Jessa (Jemima Kirke) has made by selling drugs.

Odds: High. The choreographed dance sequence in season three's "Beach House" was one of the show's best moments so far. 

Kerry Washington

"Scandal," ABC

Why this show? Because creator Shonda Rhimes already found a reason to do it on "Grey's Anatomy," and the tormented love between the characters seem ripe for musical adaptation.

Possible plot: Hacker genius Huck (Guillermo Diaz), in one of his torturer shame spirals, fantasizes about the show's characters in vaudeville-style numbers. Master fixer Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) performs a burlesque number, the president of the United States Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) throws knives at his conniving wife Mellie (Bellamy Young) and Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) plays a violent clown.

Odds: Medium. Just when you think "Scandal" won't go there...

Amy Poehler

"Parks And Recreation," NBC

Why this show? Now that Amy Poehler has a Golden Globe, she can do whatever she wants. And co-creators Greg Daniels and Mike Shur already have experience parodying the theatre world from their time writing for "The Office."

Possible plot: To celebrate Pawnee's 100th birthday, Leslie Knope (Poehler) writes and directs an original musical starring all of her friends in the Parks department. Just imagine Andy leading the Mouse Rat orchestra.

Odds: High. This could be the best thing to happen to fictional community theatre since "Waiting for Guffman."

Andy Samberg

"Brooklyn Nine-Nine," Fox

Why this show? Star Andy Samberg has already spent a good portion of his career working with musical comedy act The Lonely Island. It can't be too long before there is some sort of crossover episode.

Possible plot: To infiltrate a drug cartel, Jake (Samberg) has to pose as a famous rapper. So he enlists his old high school friends (The Lonely Island's Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer) to produce some outrageous music videos. Things go awry when the videos go viral.

Odds: High. The more random it sounds, the more likely we figure Samberg will do it.

Anna Paquin

"True Blood," HBO

Why this show? Now that Stephen Moyer has proven his Broadway chops playing Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, we can see HBO enlisting his talents to drive interest in the vampire drama's seventh season.

Possible plot: Merlotte's is in financial trouble, so the town pulls together to put on a benefit musical — starring Sookie (Anna Paquin), of course. But when Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) pulls out of the leading role at role at the last minute, Vampire Bill (Moyer) saves the day with his gorgeous baritone.

Odds: Low. Like Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) would ever let Sookie take center stage.

"The Real World," MTV

Why this show? The show is still going strong after 25 seasons and Broadway has plenty of sexy, ripped singles just looking for their 15 minutes.

Possible plot: Something like "The Real World: Broadway;" basically just fill an apartment in Times Square with seven chorus "strangers" and watch what happens when they stop being polite and start inexplicably breaking into song.

 

 

 

Odds: Medium. This sounds a lot more promising than some other shows.