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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Radio killed the video show?

    The pilot episode of “”Glee”” premiered in May 2009. In the wake of its popularity and success, other TV shows followed suit. The concept of musical episodes swept across TV like a peppy, melodic plague of jazz-hands and show tunes.

    Since “”Glee”” is a TV series about a school choir, the characters have plenty of motivation to perform show-stopping numbers. The concept worked well in “”Buffy the Vampire Slayer”” (2001) and “”Scrubs”” (2007) because the shows provided reasons for the characters’ spontaneous outbursts into song (a demon possession and an unusually entertaining brain tumor, respectively).

    But as other series took a stab at musical episodes this year, I couldn’t help but feel that singing was out of place and, frankly, pretty corny.

    We all love Hugh Laurie as the sardonic, anti-social Dr. House. And it’s perfectly believable when we see scenes of House playing the guitar or piano in his New Jersey apartment. But in March, when a bizarre dream sequence prompted House and Cuddy to sing a strange, cabaret version of “”Get Happy,”” things really just got creepy. True, the song may have been well executed in terms of musical talent and ability, but the bizarre cinematography and surrealist costumes belonged somewhere between “”Across the Universe”” and a Lady Gaga video?—?not in an episode of “”House, M.D.””

    The musical concept went from weird to weirder when “”Grey’s Anatomy”” aired its disastrous attempt at a musical. At that point in the show, beloved bisexual Callie Torres was comatose after a terrifying car accident, leaving the life of her unborn baby at stake. Thus, the episode entitled “”Song Beneath the Song”” could have been one of the most emotional and dramatic since “”Losing My Religion”” (the 2005 season two finale, in which Izzie inadvertently causes the death of her fiance, Denny Duquette).

    Even the most dedicated fans couldn’t help but laugh when the not-so-musically-adept cast burst into unexplained, clumsy renditions of poorly integrated pop songs. Not to mention how completely cliché it was to include The Fray’s hit song “”How to Save a Life”” while the doctors were, literally, in the middle of performing a life-saving operation.

    What is the cause of this TV musical invasion? Is it the long-running popularity of shows like “”American Idol,”” which earned more viewer votes than any presidential race in American history during its 2006 Taylor Hicks vs. Katharine McPhee bout? Is it because shows like “”America’s Got Talent”” give un-pretty, everyday schmoes the chance to become multi-platinum artists (Susan Boyle, who now has sold more than 9 million albums worldwide)? Networks are sure banking on this trend, giving as many people as possible a chance to “”Dream a Dream.”” If you get sick of Steven Tyler’s antics on “”Idol”” today, you can change the channel to soothe your singing contest jones with “”America’s Got Talent,”” Simon Cowell’s “”X Factor,”” or the new Christina Aguilera/Cee Lo Green mash-up, “”The Voice.””

    But does watching fictional hospital workers and high school students bursting into song to solve their problems provide the same satisfaction as watching real people do the same? Maybe so. As a culture raised on music, maybe we all just wish life’s troubles were trivial enough to ease with a few dulcet notes.

    The musical sitcom experiment is a valiant effort, but maybe it’s best to leave musicals up to the professionals. “”Glee”” is sure to keep singing for several more seasons, but hopefully the musical trend will fade away from other TV series sooner rather than later. Or the national language will be changed to “”song.”” In the meantime, this middle ground is a grating noise.

    Did you know?

    “”Glee”” wasn’t the first show to introduce musical episodes, and it certainly won’t be the last. Check out these other hit series that have explored the realm of musical television?—?for better and for worse.

    — Gilligan’s Island (“”The Producer””) 1966

    — Xena: Warrior Princess (“”The Bitter Suite””) 1998

    — Family Guy (“”Road to Rhode Island””) 2000

    — How I Met Your Mother (“”Girls vs. Suits””) 2009

    — The Simpsons (“”Elementary School Musical””) 2010

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