Very few scripted dramatic TV shows have ever attempted to mount a full-blown musical episode. Certainly Dallas never did it. Mad Man sent off Bert Cooper in style when, in a fantasy sequence, Robert Morse took a career-ending bow singing, “The Best Things in Life are Free.” Even Don Draper was speechless.

But full blown musical episodes? Buffy the Vampire Slayer did it best in 2001 in an episode titled, “Once More, with Feeling.” A demon made them do it in that episode, and his name was Joss Whedon.

The success of that entry emboldened a few others. Scrubs put on a musical to general acclaim. Community took a shot at Glee in a holiday-thermed episode. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia tried to put on a rock opera. Grey’s Anatomy‘s odd song and dance required a post mortum.

While Schitt’s Creek enjoyed at least one great musical moment, a full song and dance episode of a scripted series is rare in Canada. Leave it to Murdoch Mysteries, however, which has gone all black and white in the past, to sing it out in Season 17.

Monday night’s musical episode is directed by Laurie Lynd and written by Paul Aitken, who had been sitting on the idea for years. Tim French came on board as choreographer.

The premise had to address star Yannick Bisson’s reservation, which was basically the title of the episode: “Why is Everybody Singing?” Basically, Detective Murdoch gets a message and wanders into an alley where he is shot. A bullet, it seems has struck him in the head.

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This sleuth side of Murdoch’s noggin, it seems, keeps right on sleuthing, but strangely, to a Broadway beat. Those around him — Dr. Ogden (Helene Joy), Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), Constable Crabtree (Jonny Harris), Violet Hart (Shanice Banton), Det. Watts (Daniel Maslany) and others start backtracking Murdoch’s steps and otherwise searching for clues.

You have to buy into it, of course. Getting shot in the head is not good today but was rather fatal in 1915 or wherever we are by now in Murdochland. Spoiler alert: the series is not going to end this week with the death of its famous hat wearer.

The fun is in the 14 songs Aitken has concocted and in seeing the cast unleashed on this lark. Some can really sing, including Joy, who has a wonderful duet with Bisson where they harmonize very well together. Craig singing a song titled “Bloody Hell”? Bloody marvelous. There are even words added to composer Robert Carli’s catchy series theme.

Others rely on auto tune but, hey, if you ever witnessed Jane Lynch singing on Glee, the voice sweetener machine has worked bigger miracles in the past.

The best fun is in the street scenes, where choreographer French takes full advantage of Murdoch’s vast and detailed backlot. Daniel Maslany, who I interview this week as my guest on brioux.tv: the podcast, told me the winter shoot was a tad unpredicatable given Toronto’s unseasonably weird and unevenly warm weather. That didn’t seem to hinder the full company, with seasoned dance extras brought in to add some “Step in Time” bounce to the proceedings.

Harris, as Crabtree, is handed some lovely and hammy musical moments, paying homage to “Singing in the Raid” one minutes and Johnny LaRue getting his cherished crane shot the next. There’s a special guest star as well whose lines will be familiar with fans of the series.

Kudos to executive producer Christina Jennings and showrunner Peter Mitchell for throwing so much production into the production. Just doing the show normally is a task. Turning it inside out with song is madness. Murdoch has successfully coloured outside the lines before and, after a few hundred episodes, why is everybody singing? Well, why the hell not.

A special screening for selected fans will take place Monday night at the Royal Cinema in Toronto, with Maslany and other cast members in attendance. An official soundtrack will be released of the entire 14-songs performed on the episode on April 8.

5 Comments

  1. Minnie Grace Westerman Reply

    I have watches about 10 minutes of this episode and it’s absolutely ridiculous. I love this show and I am almost ready to turn it off . I wait all week to watch this and I feel like my time is wasted on this episode .

  2. Watched it all the way through. Very cleverly done, and the surprise culprit as a perfect addition. Waiting for the animated episode… ;+)

  3. This was so much fun. I actually laughed out loud a few times. They did a fun episode for a change. They work so hard and such, long hours it’s nice to see this for a change.

  4. I watched for 10 minutes then shut the tv off. I am very disappointed that the producers would ruin a great show like, Murdoch Mysteries

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