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Apr 19 2013
27 Indispensable Musical Performances In Non-Musical TV Shows Comments (19)

Peter Brady Time to Change 3

When I was growing up, I watched TV in search of offbeat musical performances that would come out of nowhere, particularly on cartoons but often elsewhere.

What follows is a list I hope you'll enjoy of the 27 most outstanding in my memory. Please comment with some of your favorites (I'm sure I'm missing a ton of Seth MacFarlane and Simpsons possibles) and help me flesh this out.

Let me know which ones I missed...



#27 "Happy Together" from That '70s Show (2002)

SONGS. The songs from That '70s Show's musical episode are a bit hard to swallow (actually, they probably do taste better than they sound) since no one can sing. But there's something giddily satisfying about the cast's effort on this one. CHOICE LYRIC: "I can't see me lovin' nobody but you/For all my life."



#26 "The Freaking FCC" from Family Guy (2005)

SONG. Say what you will about Seth MacFarlane—the son of bitch is daringly funny, can sing and loves musical numbers. I think this one is the best, but I know plenty of people who are strangely partial to "You Have AIDS." This CHOICE LYRIC: "They're as stuffy as the stuffiest of special-interest groups/Make a joke about your bowels and they order in the troops/Any baby with a brain could tell them everybody poops."



#25 "We Went to the Moon in 1969" from Even Stevens (2002)

SONG. If you only became aware of Shia LaBeouf once he started taking his shirt off and causing trouble, you missed his far more appealing childhood antics on Even Stevens. That show's finest moment from its bizarre musical episode Influenza was by Christy Carlson Romano. You will never hear anything as out-there and Off-Broadway on Disney Channel today. CHOICE LYRIC: "We went to the moon in 1969/The trip wasn't all that easy/ And when we got there/We were surprised to find that it was solid, and wasn't cheesy."


#24 "Way Out" from The Flintstones (1965)

SONG. As performed by "Fred" (Alan Reed)and "The Way-Outs," this song is as evergreen as "The Twist" for me. I was obsessed with the absurdity of those gaps that appeared when the singers leapt in the air. It was kinda scary and kinda funny. CHOICE LYRIC: "That's where the fun is/Way out/Way out."


#23 "How Great Thou Art" from Designing Women (1988)

SONG. Okay, so there's really no way that's really Dixie Carter singing in that church. But the episode is still moving because of "Julia Sugarbaker" worrying about hitting a high note and winding up knocking it out of the park. CHOICE LYRIC: Seriously? We all know this song.


#22 "The Last Duet" from Oz (2002)

SONG. Some would argue that when "Beecher" (Lee Tergesen) and "Schillinger" (J.K. Simmons) dueted on Barry Manilow's "The Last Duet," Oz jumped the same shark Henry Winkler once did on Happy Days. But this song (and many of the others in the show's bizarro musical episode) is fairly mesmerizing, and as off as the rest of the series. It's just set to music. CHOICE LYRIC: "Bye-bye/Don't slam the door/And I don't want, I don't want, I don't want/No, I don't want your flowers anymore."


#21 "Power On" from I Dream of Jeannie (1969)

SONG. Yes, yes, it's the naughty cousin of "Jeannie" (Barbara Eden) who's vamping it up with the kind of song Peggy Lee may have sung had she been a flower child (it was written by Dean Martin!), but it's easy to forget that and just focus on what an absolute knock-out Eden was at her peak. Not a bad singer, either, in spite of the snickering from"Major Nelson" (Larry Hagman). CHOICE LYRIC: "Electric beams/Electric haze/Electric days/Electric nights."


#20 "You Need Us" from Gilligan's Island (1965)

SONG. Watching the ladies of Gilligan's Island perform as The Honey Bees, a kind of all-girl Beatles, never gets old. And speaking of old, "Lovey" (Natalie Schafer) was 65 when this episode was filmed, even though she had fibbed to her castmates and was assumed to be a good deal younger (she was 13 years older than "Thurston"/Jim Backus). Their take on The Beatles (or The Mosquitoes, as they were repreented in the episode) is earnest and literal, but those lyrics are funnier and more creative than most of the (nonetheless eternally enchanting) series. CHOICE LYRIC: "You need us/You need us/Like a clam needs a shell/Like a prisoner needs a cell/Like a ding-dong needs a bell."


#19 "Night After Night" from Laverne & Shirley (1979)

SONG. "Lenny & Squiggy" (David L. Lander and Michael McKean) killed with this hysterical send-up of '50s/'60s romance songs. The guys are singing to a knocked up girl, telling her all the reasons why, even though it would be the right thing to do to get married, they probably shouldn't. CHOICE LYRIC: "I'll treat you like a queen/'Cuz you were 17/ When your birthday rolled around/You let me go to down/Now I've lost my appetite/'Cuz even true love can be boring/Night after night."


#18 "I'll Blow You a Kiss in the Wind" from Bewitched (1970)

SONG. Loved "Serena"/"Sam" (Elizabeth Montgomery) on Bewitched, but was never more partial to Serena than when she was bopping around to this cheesy rock song in that Brady-short mini-skirt. CHOICE LYRIC: "I'm gonna blow you a kiss in the wind/And when it reaches your lips, my dear/You're gonna smile and feel me oh-so-near."



#17 "Burger on a Bun (The Car Hop Song)" from The Flintstones (1960)

SONG. This early-run performance always blew me away because the women seemed so classy, but here, they "grind-grind-grind" their husbands' failure into their faces with this gum-smackin' ditty. CHOICE LYRIC: "Oooh, your taste we will tickle/With a cold dill pickle."


#16 "Do the Fonzie" from Happy Days (1977)

SONG. "Leather Tuscadero" (Suzi Quatro) did several songs on Happy Days (loved the ultra-square backing by "Joanie"/Erin Moran), but I liked her take on "All Shook Up" best of all as far as covers go. No wonder Joanie considered leaving the safety of home to go on the road with the dykelicious doo-wopper. But the dopey "Do the Fonzie" was what captured my imagination, especially Henry Winkler's falsetto, "One more time!" CHOICE LYRIC: "Do the Fonzie/Oh, c'mon, do the Fonzie with me!" (No one said it was deep.)


#15 "We Can Make the World Brighter" from The Brady Bunch (1972)

SONG. This is the song the Brady 6 should've been singing, but couldn't because stupid "Peter" (Christopher Knight) had to go and get himself embroiled in puberty. Traitor. Who knew "Greg" (Barry Williams) was such a hippie? Just check out this CHOICE LYRIC: "Come take a stand/And help us save the land/Let's go out and try to make it better." (I mean, don'cha know it's now or never? Meanwhile, we're still having this argument 40 years later, sigh.)



#14 "Under Your Spell" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2003)

SONG. Easily the most amazing song from the musical episode of this fan fave is this one where we not only get that lovely, pure voice, but we get to watch a girl receive oral sex to the point of orgasm, albeit filmed on "suggestive" vs. "explicit." CHOICE LYRICS: "I saw a whole world enchanted/Spirits and charms in the air/And I always took for granted/I was the only one there."


#13 "What'll I Do" vs. "I Wanna Be Loved By You" from The Golden Girls (1992)

SONG. & SONG. From a classic episode in which "Dorothy" (Bea Arthur) accidentally steals all the thunder from "Blanche" (Rue McClanahan), these songs are great counterparts. Blanche has been entertaining the guys at the local dive, but can't keep up with her best friend's sultry vocals. Arthur's masterfully subdued take on this standard manages to be funny in flashes without sacrificing her artistry, and McClanahan's desperate attention-grabber is just plain hilarious. CHOICE LYRIC: "What'll I do!" (When Arthur emphatically continues the song after her accompanist mistakenly thinks she's all done.)



#12 "Guy Love" from Scrubs (2007)

SONGS. My favorite song from the critically acclaimed "My Musical" episode of Scrubs is this bromantic ballad. CHOICE LYRIC: "Guy love/That's all it is/Guy love/He's mine, I'm his/There's nothin' gay about our eyes."


#11 "Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah" from The Jetsons (1962)

SONG. This classy cartoon was ahead of its time in more ways than one. Just dig that crazy "Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah," the best Beatles send-up of the many done on '60s TV. What I love about it is the idea that they lyrics are futuristic gibberish, so even though the idea of doing a Beatles homage is firmly rooted in the then-present, the song still sounds really oddball and potentially spacey. Gotta love that the singer ("Jet Streamer"/Howard Morris)...a Milky Way cool cat! CHOICE LYRIC: "Epp opp ork ah-ah/That means I love you!"



#10 "Hearts Are Hurting" from Xena: Warrior Princess (1998)

SONG. You haven't lived until you've seen the musical episode of Xena, or at least heard Lucy Lawless tear up this duet. Simply exquisite, and so unexpected from a fun TV series with "warrior princess in the title." CHOICE LYRIC: "My heart is hurting beyond words/The pain is tearing up my soul/Please tell me how can I retrieve/The life that all this sadness stole?"


#9 "Hard-Hearted Hannah (The Vamp of Savannah)" from Maude (1973)

SONG. Maude was about social issues and poking fun at both sides of any argument, but it could be overlooked that its star was the dazzling multi-hyphenate Bea Arthur. Her performance of "Hard-Hearted Hannah is legendary, and made such an impression she reprised it in a different arrangement in 1992 on The Golden Girls. " CHOICE LYRIC: "An evening spent with Hannah sittin' on your knee/Is just like goin' through Alaska in your BVDs."


#8 "Sunshine Day" from The Brady Bunch (1973)

SONG. Whose idea was it to give "Bobby" (Mike Lookinland) an extended solo in this otherwise addictive pop song? "Marcia" (Maureen McCormick) has never sounded more fuckable. CHOICE LYRIC: "I just can't stay inside all day/I gotta get out, get me some of those rays."



#7 "Blue Moon" & "I Told Ya I Love Ya, Now Get Out" from Moonlighting (1985)

SONGS. First, I can't get enough of this series. Second, Cybill Shepherd was gorgeous during its run, fully ripe, and a fantastic singer. This episode, with a prologue by Orson Welles (the last creative thing he ever did; the last thing he ever filmed was a Merv Griffin episode the day he died), fully capitalized on the show's daring creativity and the palpable chemistry between the leads. Shepherd does a lovely take on "Blue Moon," but I prefer her delightful vamping in "I Told Ya I Love Ya, Now Get Out," which is much more suited to the disposition of one "Ms. Maddie Hayes." Rita Hayworth would approve. CHOICE LYRIC: "Everything's rosey/Everything's jake/But just how much can a good gal take?


#6 "Keep on Movin'" from The Brady Bunch (1973)

SONG. If the "Bradys" were so much more demonstrably untalented than the "Partridges," why were so many of their songs so much...what is the word I want here?...better??? This rollickin' entry was good enough to land them on a TV show within their TV show, a performance that when televised made "Mrs. Brady" (Florence Henderson) squeal, "Where did they get those costumes?" when th answer seems to have been either Goodwill or a blind seamstress (the stripes down their legs are random). CHOICE LYRIC: "You can't hear the music from 26 miles away/Woo! Yeah! Woo! Yeah!"


#5 "Open Up Your Heart (and Let the Sunshine In)" from The Flintstones (1965)

SONG. One of the worst earbugs of the lot is this Chipmunks-inspired duet between "Pebbles" and "Bamm-Bamm" (Rebecca and Ricky Page, respectively) on a very weird episode of The Flintstones. The gimmick was that the kids would sing this fully formed song in spite of not being old enough to speak, which is explained when the whole episode is revealed to be but a dream. It wasn't until decades later that I realized how creepy and overtly religious it is. The original is more so, but it's still jarring to hear "children" in a cartoon sing this CHOICE LYRIC: "Mommy told me something/A little kid should know/It is all about the devil/And I've learned to hate him so."


#4 "I Wanna Be Loved By You" from Gilligan's Island (1967)

SONG. Jeez, Louise! It's arguable, but I've always thought a Technicolor "Ginger Grant" (Tina Louise) really gave a black-and-white Marilyn Monroe a serious run for her money with her even more over-the-top rendition of this burlesque-ready bump-and-grinder. Watching Louise in action, you have to rethink any bad feelings you've had toward her for feeling so superior to the show that made her forever-famous. Seeing "Mary Ann" (Dawn Wells) try to tackle it was hilarious and disturbing, too. CHOICE LYRIC: "Pa-pa-do-ra...boop-boop-ba-doo...OOH!" I just always loved her sexpot ad-libbing. Amazing that this was embraced so soon after Marilyn's demise.



#3 "Miami" from The Golden Girls (1986)

SONG. It's not so much the engaging final version of this Miami-tourism jingle cooked up by "Rose" (Betty White) and "Dorothy" (Bea Arthur) that's so memorable, it's the goofing around as they tried to finalize it. CHOICE LYRIC: "Miami is nice/So I'll say it twice/Miami is nice, Miami is nice...Miami nice." or "Miami, you're cuter than/An interuterine."


#2 "The Twitch" from The Flintstones (1962)

SONG. When "Fred" (Alan Reed) tells "Wilma" (Jean Vander Pyl) he got "Rock Roll" to perform at her function, he has to play the part himself or risk looking like the lying, fat bag of shit that he is. A quality song from a show that, while highly derivative of The Honeymooners, certainly brought a lot, creatively, to the stone table. CHOICE LYRIC: "There's a town I know where the hipsters go called Bedrock/Twitch! Twitch"


#1 "Time to Change" from The Brady Bunch (1972)

SONG. Nobody did it like those Bradies. This ear-shattering number brings all of the Bradys together in a last-ditch effort to save their budding singing careers (The Brady clever writers, you) when "Peter" (Christopher Knight) goes through a catastrophic voice change mid-recording. Rather than ice him out of the group—and in reality, Knight was the #1 teen pinup and #1 draw when the actors went on tour, so that would've been pretty dumb—ringleader "Greg" (Barry Williams) saves the day by proposing they instead embrace Peter's little problem. Of course, the real CHOICE LYRIC: "Time to chAAAnge." But I am also partial to the Mom-this-makes-me-feel-funny-inside CHOICE LYRIC: "For every boy's a man inside/A girl's a woman, too/And if you wanna reach your destiny/Here's what you've got to do." As far as the performance itself, seeing "Cindy" (Susan Olsen) all tarted up in white go-go boots and watching as almost all of them sing wildy out-of-sync with the music (was "Bobby"/Mike Lookinland on meds?) made this song as unforgettable visually as it is unforgettable aurally.