Whatever you thought of NBC’s live “Sound of Music” last week, it was not 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 been running 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.
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:
Fans of this CBS hit have been talking about this possibility for years, since 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 a drama like “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 be playing 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.
Obviously, this boring crew would need help pulling off a musical episode. The solution would be to recruit as collaborators some performers 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 Alan Cumming from “The Good Wife,” who has a Tony Award for “Cabaret,” and Jesse Tyler Ferguson from “Modern Family,” whose stage credits include the musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” would be something to see.
If “Lost” were still around it would get this honor, but CBS’ “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” actually makes perfect “Survivor” sense.
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.”