TV musical antics don’t end with the theme song. If they did, we would miss out on so much! Plot-moving karaoke, musical episodes, magical soundtracks, big performances, rowdy sitcom bands (Every TGIF show ever featured an episode about characters starting a band. But that’s a whole other list.) Here are the Top 5 occasionally earnest, more often hilarious, musical moments from a few of my favorite shows. Enjoy.
“I Will Always Love You,” sung by Lorelai Gilmore (played by Lauren Graham) on the Gilmore Girls
The Gilmore Girls is one of those shows that had an unexpectedly terrific soundtrack. The show was known for it’s whip-fast dialog and litany of references (so many that DVD sets for the seasons came with a booklet tracing each book, song, and trivia fact scattered through Loreleia and Rory’s conversations), but a little homage should be paid to their consistently smart use of music—from their Carol King penned theme song (King appeared in a handful of episodes as the owner of a music store), to their town troubadour, to their exploration of countless bands and genres through Lane’s music-fueled rebellion. Music nerds in the audience will enjoy the fact that in the scene above, a snippet of conversation between Rory and her friend Lane is used to immediately remind the audience that “I Will Always Love You” was originally by Dolly Parton, not Whitney Houston.
This is another example of music used wisely on Gilmore Girls. Lorelai’s karaoke rendition of “I Will Always Love You” took place during the last season. It starts out as a campy, admittedly embarrassing, performance. She’s grinning and gesticulating wildly, playing to a rowdy audience full of friends, when Luke, her ex-fiancee, walks into the bar. And very suddenly, the whole song changes. Lorelai shrugs and stumbles, instantly losing the upbeat tone as she begins to direct the song to Luke, letting Dolly Parton’s words say all the things she hasn’t been able to say. The last season of Gilmore Girls was a tough one for fans. The creators of the show left at the end of the previous season. Convaluted storylines and forced dialog made the show inconsistent and ultimately unsatisfying. In a weak season, Lorelai’s accidental ode to Luke shines.
“Parents Just Don’t Understand,” rapped by Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) on Parks and Recreation
(**Click on the image above for the video)
Leslie Knope’s version of “Parents Just Don’t Understand” is a perfect snapshot of her character for a Parks and Rec beginner: Playful (see: this whole bit), fun (how much better would your day be if Amy Poehler came to your office and rapped for you? Come on.), collaborative (Tom/Aziz Ansari’s drum solo is immediately appreciated and incorporated), overly committed (actually picking up Jerry’s phone), and a little annoying in a totally endearing way (Amy Poehler’s occasional super high nasal voice only makes me like her more). And the ending where Ron Swanson says he originally came into her office because someone is on fire in one of the parks? Priceless.
“Miami Miami,” sung by Rose and Dorothy (played by Betty White and Bea Arthur) on The Golden Girls
The central theme for the episode is the process of songwriting, specifically between new song writing partners Rose and Dorothy. They’re trying to compose a song about Miami for a contest. Both women have some musical talent, but putting it together proves difficult. Lyrics like “Miami is nice, so I’ll say it twice” turn into a comically repetitive “Miami is nice, so I’ll say it thrice,” followed by the requisite Miami-is-niceities. Brainstorming sessions end in “Miami you’re cuter than, an interuterine.” But the ladies are reveling in all of the songwriting quirks and pratfalls: jargon, brainstorming, arguing, hurting the music, then hurting the lyrics, tearing up songs and trying again. It’s a sweet, honest look at a music lover’s dream: actually creating music versus just consuming it. In the end, the ladies are let down when their second place standing doesn’t win them any attention or accolades. But they come out of the process with a solid song and an all-Golden-Girl-sing-a-long with Blanche and Sophia.
“Afternoon Delight,” sung by Michael and Maebe (played by Jason Bateman and Alia Shawkat) on Arrested Development
**Click on the image above for the video
One of my favorite parts of Arrested Development was their incorporation of music into running jokes (especially with their original songs like All You Need Is Smiles, Big Yellow Joint, and For British Eyes Only). Here, Michael and Maebe find out what we all learned after watching Anchorman: “Afternoon Delight” is a sonically wholesome, lyrically filthy ditty. Unfortunately, they find out during a karaoke performance at the company Christmas party when they’re trying to revenge-bond to get back at their respective mother and son. The thoroughly disgusted faces of Michael’s coworkers after watching him duet with his niece are hysterical, as is Michael’s awkward end of the performance, where he shoos Maebe off in the opposite direction. One of my other favorite parts of Arrested Development was their penchant for revisiting jokes—another duet of this song, this time between nephew and aunt, appears later in this episode.
“(Night Time Is) The Right Time” performed by Cliff, Theo, and Rudy (Bill Cosby, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, and Keshia Knight Pulliam) on The Cosby Show
**Click image above for clip
One of the most classic musical TV moments, and a moment that proves two things we already knew:
1) The Cosbys were the best family ever: Could you imagine rounding up your relatives for a perfectly choreographed and lip-synched musical number for your grandparents’ anniversary? Would you go out of your way to train a maybe-4 year old to be the most integral part of the performance? I know we live in a time of lip-dubs, musical proposals, family dance routines at weddings—but this was way before all that, pre-big showy lip-synched ceremony. And it’s not even a big public event like a wedding—it’s in their house, just for the lucky grandparents. Okay, I know they’re fictional, but still—the Cosbys were the best. End of story.
2) Keshia Knight Pulliam was the world’s cutest child: Now she’s all grown up and hilariously beautiful, but lets not forget the ovary-busting adorableness that was Rudy, newly sans front teeth, hamming it up to Ray Charles.
If you can’t get enough Cosby, watch their less celebrated but equally awesome performance of James Brown’s “I Got the Feeling.”