From the Avengers or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon's name is synonymous with ass-kicking superheroes; but in reality, the fan-favorite director's real passion is theater.
However, aside from a beautifully crafted black-and-white adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Whedon has rarely dedicated himself entirely to musical theater. Instead, he's found ingenious ways to incorporate the genre into his sci-fi projects.
Given that Whedon's seminal hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer is celebrating its 20th anniversary, now's the perfect time to take a look back at Joss Whedon's best musical moments on TV. So put on your browncoat, grab a freeze ray and get ready to fall under the director's spell once more, with feeling. Pre-warning: I will never apologise for Buffy puns.
5. Glee - "Safety Dance"
"And we can act like we come from out of this world, Leave the real one far behind."
Whedon reportedly worked hard to ensure that his signature style wouldn't become too apparent during his guest directing spot on Glee. However, with his long-time collaborator Neil Patrick Harris in tow, it was inevitable that 'Dream On' would feature some typically Whedonesque moments.
Some would argue that the highlight of the episode was Harris's duet with Matthew Morrison on the titular song, but it's actually Kevin McHale's performance of 'Safety Dance' that subtly steals the show.
Whether you like the song or not, it's hard to deny that Artie's fantasy about being able to walk and dance out of his wheelchair is undoubtedly touching. This scene perfectly demonstrates Whedon's ability to evoke genuine emotion in the most fantastical of scenarios.
4. Firefly - "The Ballad of Jayne Cobb"
"Our love for him now ain't hard to explain, The Hero of Canton, the man they call Jayne!"
Jayne Cobb is the typical anti-hero that fans fall in love with; yet to say he's "likeable" would be a gross overstatement. So, the moment when we discover that an entire town idolises him is a surprising highlight of Firefly's first and only season.
To welcome Jayne back, the residents of the town perform a charming folk legend that sings Cobb's praises, completely unaware that he's actually the opposite of what a typical hero would stand for.
Whedon's composition reappears at the end of the Jaynestown episode in an instrumental arrangement that demonstrates how versatile the director's songwriting actually is. 'The Ballad of Jayne Cobb' is a typically strong example of Whedon's ability to write songs that are funny and entertaining yet also serve the narrative too. As if that wasn't enough to entice you into the world of Firefly, Jayne's just awesome, so you should go check out the cinematic adaptation Serenity immediately.
3. Dollhouse - "Remains"
"I will go rolling fast / Arms out in the rain / Feel momentum building ’tilI I lift off ground like an airplane."
For the final episode of Dollhouse's first season, Whedon made the bold choice to set the story in the distant future, hinting at the potential future direction of the show while also providing closure, in case the program didn't return for another run.
While Whedon was one of the main creative forces behind the episode Epitaph One, Joss handed the reins mostly over to his brother Jed Whedon and sister-in-law Maurissa Tancharoen. They ultimately crafted one of the single strongest and most creative episodes ever seen on any show that Joss has created.
One of the highlights was undoubtedly the song 'Remains', which the writing duo wrote and sang over the final scenes of the episode. As the lyrics were written with this sequence in mind, the mournful melancholia of the song resonates long after the credits have rolled, and could have represented a fitting end to the show if it had been cancelled there and then.
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2. Dr Horrible's Sing Along - "My Eyes"
"Listen close to everybody's heart / And hear that breaking sound / Hopes and dreams are shattering apart / And crashing to the ground."
Dr Horrible's Sing Along was originally intended to be a small project for Joss while issues regarding the writers' strike worked themselves out. However, the short film took on a life of its own online and became a cult classic among Whedon fans and geeks alike.
The idea of basing a musical around a super villain's unrequited love could have failed miserably, but performers like Neil Patrick Harris and Felicia Day gave the material their all, lending genuine gravitas to the songs written by Joss, Maurissa Tancharoen and Whedon's brothers Zack and Jed.
Out of all the songs featured in this musical, 'My Eyes' is arguably the standout track, exploring two contrasting views on love through some clever lyrical twists and beautiful harmonies that somehow make you empathise with the lovelorn villain.
1. Buffy The Vampire Slayer - "Something To Sing About"
"So that’s my refrain, I live in hell, Cause I’ve been expelled from heaven. I think I was in heaven, So give me something to sing about, Please, give me something…"
What started out as an experiment 15 (!?) years ago became one of the single most influential episodes of any TV show ever created. That's right. Buffy's 'Once More, With Feeling' musical episode single-handedly pushed the boundaries of what genre TV is capable of. Shows as diverse as Scrubs and American Horror Story have since tried their own hand at musical episodes, along with even more experimental ideas — but Buffy's is one of the originals, and still the best.
Sure, the singing in Once More, With Feeling wasn't always flawless, and Season Six is otherwise perceived as one of the weaker runs on the show. Nonetheless, Whedon and his team still managed to create a genuine masterpiece that no one has since been able to replicate.
Episodes like 'Hush' and 'The Body' are equally as innovative and worthy of the classic status that is bestowed upon them. Yet there's something almost indefinably perfect about the way that 'Once More, With Feeling' tied together every plot thread of the season, revealing secrets and traumas through the medium of song.
So much could have gone wrong with this episode. Even the idea of a vampire slayer and her friends singing songs while fighting demons sounds ridiculous, yet every song that Whedon and his team wrote contains moments of wit, spark and genuine emotion that elevated this widely beloved show to its peak of creativity.
Choosing a favorite song is like choosing a favorite member of the Scooby Gang — all of them, the correct answer's all of them! — so instead, we've decided to showcase the one song that is arguably the most pivotal. 'Give Me Something To Sing About', captures the moment when Buffy finally reveals to her loved ones that she's been devastated all season because they pulled her out of heaven.
Few people would dare to even consider combining their love of sci-fi and musical theater together, but with his unique vision and boundless creativity enthusiasm, Joss Whedon successfully redefined the entire landscape of television with musical moments like these. Why should he stop with TV though?
The petition for an Avengers musical film starring Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth starts here. Sure, Whedon might be done with the MCU for now, but we can dream! Plus, did you see the Aussie actor's moves at the end of Ghostbusters?
What do you think Joss Whedon's best musical moment on TV is?