10 Fabulous TV Shows for People Who Love Musicals
Fall in love with all of these tune-filled series
En español | One of the summer's most anticipated new shows is Apple TV+'s Schmigadoon! (July 16), about two backpackers (Saturday Night Live's Cecily Strong and Key & Peele's Keegan-Michael Key, 50) who stumble upon a magical town that's trapped in a 1940s musical. Costarring heavy hitters like Kristin Chenoweth (52), Alan Cumming (56) and Martin Short (71), the loving send-up of Brigadoon should prove a toe-tapping, chorus-lining breath of fresh air after a tough year.
While cinematic musicals are a dime a dozen, their TV counterparts are much more of a rarity. Here are 10 fantastic musical shows — from medieval comedies to backstage Broadway dramas — that will leave you singing.
The premise: This behind-the-scenes drama traces the creation of a new Broadway musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe called Bombshell, with two ingenues — American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee and Tony nominee Megan Hilty — vying for the role. The Tony-winning songwriters behind Hairspray, composer Marc Shaiman (61) and lyricist Scott Wittman (66), provide the catchy tunes, while the ensemble cast features such recognizable faces as Will and Grace star Debra Messing (52) as the show-within-a-show's cowriter and Anjelica Huston (70) as a producer.
The best musical number: "Let Me Be Your Star,” which was nominated for a Grammy and an Emmy.
Watch it: Smash, on NBC.com
The premise: This raucous comedy is executive-produced by Tina Fey (51) — with music by her husband, Jeff Richmond (60), who was nominated for a Tony for Broadway's Mean Girls — and follows a washed-up girl group that gets a shot at a comeback after a rapper samples the chorus of their one hit from the 1990s. The fictional band boasts a murderers’ row of talented musicians and comedians: singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, sitcom veteran Busy Phillips, Hamilton Tony winner Renée Elise Goldsberry, and former SNL writer Paula Pell, 58. You'll want to tune in to see who plays an imaginary version of Dolly Parton.
The best musical number: "Famous 5eva,” which pairs a Spice Girls–like melody with perfectly awful lyrics
Watch it: Girls5eva, on Peacock
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Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist (2020-21)
The premise: This high-concept musical dramedy will make you laugh as much as it'll make you cry. After an earthquake hits while Jane Levy's titular computer programmer is inside an MRI, she develops the ability to hear the innermost thoughts of those around her, in the form of elaborately choreographed pop numbers. Mary Steenburgen, 68, costars as Zoey's landscape designer mother Maggie, and Peter Gallagher, 65, plays her father Mitch, who is suffering from progressive supranuclear palsy — a rare degenerative disease that claimed the life of the series creator Austin Winsberg's father.
The best musical number: An emotionally wrenching performance of Don McLean's “American Pie” — but resist the urge to watch it out of order or you'll spoil some major plot points!
Watch it: Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, on Peacock
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Flight of the Conchords (2007-09)
The premise: In this offbeat HBO comedy, Kiwi actors Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie star as fictionalized versions of themselves, as they try to make it big in New York as “New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo a cappella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo.” Comedian Kristen Schaal steals scenes as the band's only fan (and part-time stalker), and the show earned 10 Emmy nominations, including for outstanding comedy series.
The best musical number: The Pet Shop Boys–inspired “Inner City Pressure,” which, in addition to being funny, is just a legitimately good song.
Watch it: Flight of the Conchords, on HBO Max
The premise: It's hard to overstate the pop cultural impact of this comedy about a scrappy high school glee club. It launched the careers of countless young stars, including Lea Michele and Chris Colfer. It earned Jane Lynch, 60, a best supporting actress Emmy for her deliciously villainous turn as Coach Sue Sylvester and turned her into a major A-lister. It boosted cocreator Ryan Murphy, 55, into the Hollywood stratosphere — he has since earned six Emmys out of a whopping 32 nominations. Oh, and it made a cappella cool again.
The best musical number: The ultra-catchy cover of Journey's “Don't Stop Believin',” which was certified platinum and earned a Grammy nomination.
Watch it: Glee, on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix
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High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (2019-)
The premise: Firmly aimed at viewers your grandkids’ ages, this charming Disney+ musical mockumentary nonetheless has a concept so hilariously convoluted (just look at that title!) that it earns a spot on this list. The show is set at a fictionalized version of East High School, the real Salt Lake City school where the Disney Channel movie High School Musical was filmed, and the fictional students within the show are putting on a stage version of that movie. Got it? Another reason to watch: It's where pop star Olivia Rodrigo — whose song “drivers license” is one of the biggest hit singles of the year — got her start.
The best musical number: The emotional “All I Want,” which Rodrigo wrote for the show before launching her solo career.
Watch it: High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, on Disney+
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-19)
The premise: Star and creator Rachel Bloom sought to turn the misogynistic stereotype of the “crazy ex-girlfriend” on its head with this dark romantic comedy that really dives deep into themes of mental illness and female sexuality. Bloom stars as Rebecca Bunch, a lawyer who quits her job at a New York law firm and moves across the country to West Covina, California, to pursue a crush she met a decade ago at summer camp. Many of the show’s songs were composed by Adam Schlesinger (a founding member of the band Fountains of Wayne and writer of “That Thing You Do!”), who tragically died of COVID-19 last spring.
The best musical number: The pun-filled, impeccably nerdy “The Math of Love Triangles,” in which Bloom shows off her excellent Marilyn Monroe impersonation.
Watch it: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, on Netflix
The premise: Described by one of its stars as “the bastard child of Monty Python and The Princess Bride,” this medieval musical comedy boasts a dream creative team that includes writer-creator Dan Fogelman (This Is Us) and 71-year-old composer Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast), but it somehow never rose above a small-scale cult hit. Joshua Sasse plays the namesake knight, who sets out to rescue his love (Mallory Jansen) after she's kidnapped by the evil King Richard (Timothy Omundson, 51). You'll love the oddball assortment of cameos, such as John Stamos (57) as a legendary jouster, Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville (57) as a pirate king, and “Weird Al” Yankovic (61) as a singing monk.
The best musical number: The uproarious “My Dragon Pal and Me,” which Richard sings to Tad Cooper, a lizard he thinks is a dragon.
Watch it: Galavant, on Amazon Prime Video
Katy Keene (2020)
The premise: Set within the Archie Comics universe, this short-lived spinoff of the teen soap Riverdale follows a crew of friends chasing their dreams in New York City, including up-and-coming fashion designer Katy Keene (Lucy Hale) and singer Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray), of Josie and the Pussycats fame. Music played a big role throughout the series — including a number of showstoppers by aspiring Broadway actor and drag performer Jorge/Ginger Lopez (Jonny Beauchamp) — but it reached its peak in Episode 7, which was entirely dedicated to the Kander and Ebb musical Kiss of the Spider Woman.
The best musical number: “Glow,” an original song written for the show and performed by Murray.
Watch it: Katy Keene, on HBO Max
Central Park (2020-)
The premise: This endlessly sweet animated musical charts the adventures of a family who lives in a castle inside Central Park. Dad Owen (voiced by One Night in Miami's Leslie Odom Jr.) is the park manager, mom Paige (Kathryn Hahn) is a newspaper reporter, and their nemesis is hotel heiress Bitsy Brandenham (played by a very-against-type Stanley Tucci, 60), who has nefarious plans for the titular green space. The show's songs were written by an ever-expanding roster of cool musicians, including Cyndi Lauper (68), Sara Bareilles, Fiona Apple, and Aimee Mann (60).
The best musical number: “Imperfectly Perfect,” a catchy ditty that compares falling in love to the messiness of making homemade pizzas.
Watch it: Central Park, on Apple TV+
Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.