97. "My Musical," Scrubs (2007)
Welcome to the “100 Best Sitcom Episodes of All Time,” a countdown for winter 2012. Each episode will get a separate blog post, counting backward toward No. 1. A list of the programs revealed so far is here and an introduction to the project is here.
Back in the introduction to this project, I quoted TV critic Jaime Weinman: "All the things that theatre did to make scenery more fluid and less literal have really never become a part of theatre-style sitcom television." Single-camera sitcoms, in contrast, have reveled in their freedom from the literal, to the point that it can be hard to tell when we're watching something "real" on a show like 30 Rock and when we're spending a few seconds in a character's imagination.
It was inevitable (and I mean that in a good way) that a single-camera sitcom would attempt a full-episode musical after new Broadway shows like Avenue Q started attracting younger audiences. (See a couple of musical moments from multicamera sitcoms at the end of this post.) When the hospital sitcom Scrubs took on the challenge, it even hired Avenue Q composers Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez as part of the team to come up with 10 original songs for the episode.
You do have to like Avenue Q, Urinetown, and the other tongue-in-cheek, sometimes scatalogical musicals that inspired this episode. But you can figure that out by song titles such as "Everything Comes Down to Poo" (video here) which includes the lines "It may sound gross, you may say "shush!"/But we need to see what comes out of your tush!" (All the song lyrics are here.) The other well-known song from the episode, "Guy Love" (video here) is a "we-love-each-other-but-we're-not-gay" anthem that could apply to Felix and Oscar, Ralph and Ed, and other sitcom pairings (whether or not you believe that they protest too much).
I'd love to see more sitcoms try a musical episode, but the liklihood of being unfavorably compared to "My Musical" is probably a big disincentive.
The entire episode is now on YouTube.
Here are a couple of musical moments from more traditional live-audience sitcoms, beginning with Elaine's "Lullaby of Broadway" fantasy on Taxi:
And wrenched from the guts of a woman who's really lived, here's "One for My Baby," by Mary Richards:
Tragically, I can't find a clip of Stephanie singing "Old Man River" on Newhart.