'Psych' shows how to set an episode to music

Comedy, drama, reality, whatever: They all could benefit from a song-and-dance episode

New York Times News ServiceDecember 12, 2013 


Psych stars Dulé Hill, second from left, and James Roday in the episode "Psych: The Musical." Other shows could pull off a musical.

USA NETWORK — Alan Zenuk/USA Network

Whatever you thought of NBC's live Sound of Music last week, it wasn't television's musical event of the season. The forthcoming finals of The Voice? Also not. Last month's Country Music Awards, Tuesday's American Country Awards or the recent Barbra Streisand: Back to Brooklyn? Not, not, not.

The winner is Sunday's hilarious musical episode of the USA series Psych, one of television's most consistently smart and amusing shows. Promotional spots for the two-hour special episode have run seemingly all year, and the payoff is pretty sweet.

Shawn (James Roday) and Gus (Dulé Hill) investigate a crime that involves a psychiatric ward, the theater, a bad review and an old friendly nemesis.

The guest stars include Anthony Rapp, who logged time in Rent. Hill, who added his latest Broadway credit last month when he opened in the jazz revue After Midnight, gets to poke fun at himself as his character becomes stage-struck. Steve Franks, the series' creator, and the composer Adam Cohen wrote the songs, and practically no theatrical convention escapes skewering.

For shows that don't normally have music (as opposed to, say, Glee) and achieve a certain longevity, the musical episode is something of a television tradition. These episodes no doubt give the cast a way to shake off the doldrums, and they tend to make a big impression on fans. Who among those who saw it can forget the song Everything Comes Down to Poo from the 2007 musical installment of Scrubs?

So Psych: The Musical inevitably leads us to ponder: What other shows should be working on musical episodes, if they aren't already? Here are a few.


NCIS: Fans of this CBS hit have talked about this possibility for years, because almost everyone in the cast has a musical background. Michael Weatherly (DiNozzo) has recorded songs for NCIS soundtrack albums. Pauley Perrette (Abby) was in a punk band called Lo-Ball.

For a comedy, musical episodes come easily, but as a drama, NCIS might have a harder time finding a plot that makes sense. Maybe the return of Ziva, the character played by Cote de Pablo, who left the show this season and who studied musical theater in college?

The hook: Everyone is so confused and conflicted about her reappearance that the only way to communicate about it is to sing. LL Cool J slides over from NCIS: Los Angeles to help people work through their emotions.

The Crazy Ones: It's a little early for this new CBS comedy to play the musical-episode card, but if it hangs around, destiny calls. One of its stars, Robin Williams, is known to children and former children everywhere for his bombastic singing on Friend Like Me and Prince Ali from the animated film Aladdin. The other, Sarah Michelle Gellar, was at the center of one of the best musical offerings ever, Once More, With Feeling, a 2001 episode of her series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The two are father-and-daughter advertising executives on The Crazy Ones. Williams gets a patter song consisting entirely of advertising catchphrases. Gellar sings a lament about having a borderline-bonkers dad.

60 Minutes: Obviously, this boring crew would need help pulling off a musical episode. The solution would be to recruit as collaborators a group that Morley Safer interviewed more than 30 years ago: the Muppets. Because "Fozzie" is practically the only thing that rhymes with "Benghazi."

The Good Wife and Modern Family: Who knows what the excuse would be for a crossover episode between these two, or what creative and bureaucratic red tape would have to be cut, because one is a CBS drama and the other an ABC comedy. But the pairing of The Good Wife's Alan Cumming, who has a Tony Award for Cabaret, and Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson, whose stage credits include the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, would be something to see.

Survivor: If Lost were still around, it would get this honor, but CBS's Survivor will have to do. Someone needs to remake the classic musical Hamlet episode of Gilligan's Island from 1966, and how many current shows feature castaways?

In the original, Phil Silvers was a producer who ended up on the island, and the castaways tried to impress him with Ginger's acting talents by staging Hamlet as a musical. "From Ophelia no one can steal ya," Ginger-as-Ophelia sings to Gilligan, who is playing Hamlet.

Yes, it's dicey introducing rehearsed songs to a reality show, but with its treachery, hallucinations and ever-shrinking cast of characters, Hamlet makes perfect Survivor sense.

Duck Dynasty: Speaking of reality shows, a musical version of this A&E series about a duck-call-making family is a no-brainer. Especially because the show's Robertson clan recently released a holiday album. Which is called, of course, Duck the Halls.

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