Musical films have been a staple of Hollywood since the early days of cinema, with feature films from Hollywood’s Golden Age regularly featuring musical numbers. We have seen this trend continue in the film industry with the success of modern musical films like The Earth, which incidentally plays on the old Hollywood musical style. One of the reasons musicals are so popular is the spectacle: from elaborate dance sequences and quaint sets to catchy beats and colorful costumes, musicals are a feast for all the senses.
Unlike the film industry, musical television shows have not been so common. However, with the success of Ryan Murphy’s TV shows like Joy and Laid, we’ve seen that start to change. The musical TV shows on this list have proven to be just as good as movies at bringing entertainment to the small screen. With jaw-dropping numbers and character-driven ballads, these are the best musical TV series, ranked.
To go up
Auli’i Cravalho landed the lead role in this series after his breakthrough film role in Moana. Based on a true story, according to Bustle, To go up follows a group of working-class teenagers who find their place in the world through their school’s revitalized drama program. The series was canceled after just one season, but it nonetheless captured the essence of school drama and showcased the talent of its actors.
One of the most underrated shows on this list is 2019 Soundtrack. The series portrays different characters who were all pursuing careers in the performing arts in Los Angeles, jumping between past and present. The series was canceled after one season, but certainly deserved more, especially with its stories about a diverse group of artists.
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series
Disney had planned how to bring the musical high school franchise to a different generation for years, and they finally decided to High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, which premiered on Disney+ in November 2019 and has remained a hit ever since, having recently been renewed for season three. The series follows a new group of East High Wildcats as they attempt to put together the best musicals possible under the guidance of their new acting teacher, Miss Jenn. The series includes new songs, as well as songs from the original films, and features performances by Olivia Rodrigo.
Crazy ex-girlfriend focused on Rebecca Bund, a successful New York lawyer who has been offered the position of junior partner at her law firm, but decides to run away instead of accepting the offer. While on the run, she meets her summer camp boyfriend and decides to follow him to his hometown. Although a bit short-lived – the series only lasted four seasons – Crazy ex-girlfriend is hilarious and has a huge cult following.
Fosse/Verdon is different from the other series on the list in terms of format, as it tells the real-life story of director-choreographer Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell). Music plays a huge role in the series, with performances from a dramatized version of Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams). The series has won several awards, including Williams winning an Emmy for her portrayal of the Verdon.
Julie and the ghosts
Julie and the ghosts is one of the best new teen shows on Netflix. Based on the Brazilian television series of the same name, Julie and the ghosts follows the eponymous Julie Molina, a high school musician, who falls in love with music after the untimely death of her mother. Her passion is rekindled when she accidentally summons the ghosts of musicians who once dreamed of being rock stars. The series garnered a huge cult following and won Daytime Emmys. Despite its popularity, Netflix canceled the series after just one season.
Joy is probably the most famous example of a music television show, as it was a huge hit when it first premiered in 2009. The series is set at McKinley High and follows the school’s glee club as they begin to participate in competitions. During the series, the Joy the cast performed 754 musical covers of hit pop songs, many of which charted worldwide. In addition to the television series, Joy also boasted several tours and soundtracks.
Set in the late 80s and early 90s, Laid is a dance musical that explores the juxtaposition of multiple segments of New York life and society, featuring a diverse cast and addressing important social issues. The focus is on Blanca (Michaela Jaé Rodriguez), who forms a home, a self-selected family that provides support to young LGBTQ people who have been rejected by their biological families. Introducing New York’s drag ball cultural scene, Laid often featured moving musical numbers and garnered widespread acclaim, including historic Emmy wins and nominations for Rodriguez and his co-star Billy Porter.
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