Monday, September 25, 2006

An Animated Discussion of Musical Numbers

Ok, this is going to be one of those rare times when you hear me say something blasphemous, and something which seems to contradict my beliefs.

The Simpsons shouldn't sing. There I've said it.

When the characters start singing, I am sure there is a collective groan across an entire time zone. Perhaps it is because the songs that the writers of The Simpsons craft are sort of lame and corny, or the fact that really, the character voices (not the actors behind them) are really not meant for musicality. There are characters who CAN sing well, like Barney for instance, but they rarely use him in that capacity. And what is sad is, the direction of the show seems to be drawn towards more and more musical numbers and it just isn't working. I'm not saying that an occasional song is out of order, but for the most part, when a musical number breaks out, the entertainment value goes way down.

Compare that with Seth MacFarlane and gang who are adept at making a song work in the context of a show. Generally speaking, it seems like the people behind Family Guy and to a lesser extent American Dad actually spend the time and money to make sure that what they are putting up on the screen is worth the time. And the fact that Seth MacFarlane sings better in character than most of the people on the Simpsons cast also elevates those numbers. I remember a particularly inspired number, "Road to Rhode Island", which was a take off of those old Bing Crosby-Bob Hope movies where Seth MacFarlane sang a both parts of a duet as Brian and Stewie... and it sounded harmonic, Rarely if ever is a character whose voice doesn't lend itself to singing given a song, as I can't really think of any Chris Griffin musical numbers.

And looking at another animated show, while Matt Stone and Trey Parker aren't the best singers, they do manage to work a song in at just the right time and for the right effect, and their Oscar-nominated work in South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is proof of that. I still have "Lemmywinks" stuck in my head after how many years. Of course, the fact that they performed in a band together probably doesn't hurt.

I just wish that the writers and producers of The Simpsons would realize what they are doing to the American public every time they foist a substandard musical number on us. They are hurting the people that love them, and that is never good.


Anomie-Atlanta said...

Agree with you on the musical Simpsons, but I also think Family Guy is not enhanced by the musical numbers. South Park, ah...Cartman's version of "In The Ghetto" still echos in my head.

Semaj said...

Family Guy seems to go after the 'Big' Broadway musical type songs. But, yeah Family Guy's songs seem better.

I liked the American Dad episode where the wife sings a song while they're living in Saudi Arabia, which in turn gets her arrested.

MC said...

AA: I think we'll have to agree to disagree about that. :)

semaj: there are certain Family Guy numbers that stood out for me... like "You've Got a Lot to See".

Mr. Fabulous said...

I cannot agree more with you on this one, my friend. The musical numbers on The Family Guy are brilliant.

Jeremy Barker said...

I'd prefer to pass on all musical numbers on any TV show. When one medium tries to copy another, it rarely works. Though I do have a soft spot for Taco Kisses and Chocolate Salty Balls.

The one other musical number in a show I love is Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Once More With Feeling, which was a brilliant episode.

MC said...

I think there is a time and place for everything, and while I am not a huge fan of the musical as a genre, there are times when it does work. The Simpsons rarely follow this guideline however.

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