Some screen actors have talents other than acting—singing, dancing, what have you—and the show they're in will want to make use of it at some point. In most cases, this doesn't derail the story (much), often leading to viewers exclaiming, "I didn't know [actor/actress] could [sing/dance/whatever]!" However, it's not unheard of for the plot will stop dead just to allow such an actor (usually the lead) to show off.
The line between this and Cast the Expert can be quite thin indeed. Contrast Irony As She Is Cast (in which an actor who is good at something [singing, dancing, etc] in real life has to play a character who is not good at whatever the talent is).
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Anime & Manga
Very common in any anime that requires a character to sing, as the greater majority of seiyuu in the anime industry posess some form of talent in singing, regardless of whether they were in a music group beforehand or not (and many were and still are).
In Digimon Adventure, Mimi is required to sing to wake up a sleeping ShogunGekomon in one episode. Her seiyuu, Ai Maeda, sang the ending songs for most of the series.
A Filler episode of the Slayers anime had Lina and Amelia sing a duet together; Megumi Hayashibara (Lina) is an accomplished singer (it helps that she sings all of the show's opening and closing songs), as is the lesser-known Masami Suzuki (Amelia), who would eventually sing the opening and ending to the Tales of Phantasia OVA. Zelgadis (Hikaru Midorikawa) helps them with the "test run" of the song; his actor is also a well-known singer.
It's in the story, but Haruhi Suzumiya deserves a mention. We all knew by that point how well Aya Hirano sings, however the dub did a translation so Wendee Lee could do her part.
Ditto with Asuka's Mexican voice actress in the Mexican Spanish dub, she even added German profanity not included in the Japanese or even English versions.
During Episode 8 of Girls und Panzer, Pravda Team's XO Nonna leads the team in singing the Russian song Katyusha and does a good job of it; her seiyuu, Sumire Uesaka, is a Russian language major. Taking it one step further, an official tweet tells how Nonna singing the Cossack Lullaby in episode 9 was an ad lib by Sumire; the original script only called for her to sing any lullaby.
Infinite Stratos has the members of Ichika's harem sing the ending song Super Stream:
In every one of his movies, Norman Wisdom insisted that his bumbling character break into romantic or sentimental songs in spite of how inappropriate they were to his character. On the radio show Desert Island Discs, he immodestly chose to take his own songs to the island in nearly every case.
Robert Pattinson composed and played most of the music for How To Be (though it is intended to be a bit inept, as the character isn't supposed to be very talented).
Used in Bad Company, where Chris Rock launches, unprovoked, into a monologue lifted word for word straight out of his stand up act.
The entire motorcycle sequence in The Great Escape was included due to the insistence of Steve McQueen, an avid motorcyclist. Note that the scene also involved McQueen playing one of the German pursuers, as the only person on the set capable of riding a motorcycle on the level of Steve McQueen was Steve McQueen.
The chase scene in Bullitt, where McQueen, also a car enthusiast does quite a bit of his own stunt driving. He made a point of sitting far to the left in the driver's seat, without a seatbelt, so that his face would be clearly identifiable during the stunts.
McQueen was also behind the wheel for the racing film, Le Mans.
At the peak of Robin Williams' career, just about all of his films went a bit out of their way to feature a scene of him doing a bunch of voices in rapid succession. They didn't have to work that hard to shoehorn them in; his scripts would often have a placeholder that just said "Robin can go off here." By Williams' own admission he throws away the script.
Zygmunt Malanowicz gets a few opportunities to display his skill at five-finger fillet in Knife in the Water. The film also stands as a statement of director Roman Polanski's enthusiasm for sailing; at times it resembles an instructional video on the sport.
In the book The Lord of the Rings most of the characters sing more or less all the time, but this was scrapped for the film versions. After hearing Billy Boyd sing "Delilah" at a karaoke bar, however, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens decided to let Pippin sing. Boyd picked a song from the books, wrote a tune for it, and the result was the scene where Pippin sings to Denethor. Funnily enough, when Denethor in the books ask Pippin to sing him a song, Pippin does not comply. The vocals are included on the three-disc expanded sets for each film, so if you want to hear Liv Tyler singing you know where to go.
Harrison Ford worked as a carpenter before becoming an actor. He gets to display those skills in Witness, where he fixes a birdhouse and participates in a Barn Raising.
Harrison Ford shows his carpentry skills (working with a welding torch, chainsaw etc) in Mosquito Coast, in which he plays a radical, maverick inventor establishing his brand of civilization in a remote coastal town.
Michelle Pfeiffer's baton-twirling in Hairspray. In fact, the creators of the 2007 movie have said that a lot of the parts were cast to show off the cast members' musical skills, especially from people whose talent wasn't exceptionally well-known (James Marsden, Amanda Bynes, Christopher Walken), or who hadn't had much of a chance to show off in recent years (Pfeiffer, John Travolta, and even Queen Latifah is nowadays seen by most as an actress more than a musician).
Sean Connery is a superb golfer, and his superlative swing largely won him the lead role in A Good Man In Africa.
Valentine's Day shows off several of its actors' talents. Taylor Lautner's martial art skills, Taylor Swift's dancing, and George Lopez's Spanglish.
In the first The Princess Diaries, Lupe the Cheerleader (played by rhythmic gymnast and Olympian Tamara Levinson) pretty much does all the impressive stunts while the other cheerleaders never do anything beyond basic choreography. In the same movie, Lana (Mandy Moore) sings a musical number.
Mandy Moore also gets a musical number as Hilary Faye in Saved!, when her girl-band, The Christian Jewels, performs at school assembly.
Crispin Glover singing Michael Jackson's "Ben" over the end credits in the 2003 version of Willard. He's actually really good.
Casino Royale (1967) does this particularly blatantly in a scene with Peter Sellers and Orson Welles. Peter Sellers puts on a range of accents, while Orson Welles fills his side with magic tricks (Welles was a keen amateur magician). None of it is remotely relevant to what little plot there is.
In Batman Begins, Liam Neeson's younger days as a boxer can be seen in Ducard's fighting style, especially the climactic battle towards the end. He goes into boxing stance when fighting Batman in the train.
2010's The A-Team has Murdock fake a South African accent, which is Sharlto Copley's actual accent. Copley and Bradley Cooper also get to display their actual fluency in Swahili and French, respectively. Ex-boxer Liam Neeson also got to show off his moves in the film's climax.
Bradley Cooper also breaks out the French in Limitless, along with Italian and Mandarin Chinese (he doesn't fare so well on that last one).
It's possible that Anna was made a musician rather than an athlete in the most recent Freaky Friday so that Lindsay Lohan could sing and play guitar. (Incidentally, when Jamie Lee Curtis (who's swapped bodies with Lindsay in the plot) plays the guitar solo in the climax, she really is playing it.)
Ever since the media learned that Madeline Kahn could sing, it isn't uncommon for her work onscreen to feature her singing even one note. Though the best example is probably Young Frankenstein, and a subversion occurs in Blazing Saddles when she is deliberately singing badly.
Deleted scenes in Tomorrow Never Dies would have showcased renowned magician Ricky Jay's playing card throwing skills, for which he once held a Guiness World Record.
Wai Lin is a secret agent, so it makes sense for her to know some martial arts, but the fact that she uses kung fu so extensively (as opposed to a more practical martial art like junshi sanda or just shooting enemies) is because Michelle Yeoh has decades of experience doing kung fu movies.
Lewis Ozawa Changchien, who played Hanzo in Predators has practiced kendo since he was five years old, and insisted on using that style in Hanzo's fight with the Predator.
In High Fidelity Jack Black shows off his singing skills, nailing Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On." Black's had been singing in Tenacious D for a few years by that point, but was far from a household name, so the quality of his performance played as a nice surprise for most audience memebers.
Jack Nicholson was a volunteer firefighter before he got into acting. Thus, when he must hack his way through a door with a fireaxe to get to Shelley Duvall in The Shining, that's a real door he's chopping through because he annihilated the prop door they had used in a previous take.
Edward Norton lived with Salma Hayek for years, and speaks fluent Spanish. If there is any excuse to get a few lines in Spanish shoehorned into any of his movies, he will take it. There is a particularly egregious example in his directorial effort Keeping The Faith, where his priest character chats to a boy in his congregation in Spanish for no plot-related reason whatsoever.
A Film With Me In It has an in-universe example: Mark asks Pierce to make his character in the script they're supposedly writing a clarinet player, solely due to the fact that Mark can play the clarinet—so no one else can play the role.
In the cult film Class Of 1984, the plot pauses to allow main villain/high school student Peter Stegman to play a piano solo, a solo written and performed by Peter Stegman's actor, Timothy Van Patten.
In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Marcus nearly falls off his horse. However, Denholm Elliott was an accomplished equestrian and so knew how to nearly-fall without much of a risk involved.
Steve Martin has many talents that he often works into his movies or standup routines, such as playing banjo, singing, dancing, juggling, and some acrobatic feats. This was lampshaded when Martin was a judge on an episode of the Gong Show that filmed at the end of a production week and ran out of regular contestants. Martin helped pad the show by twice pretending to be a contestant playing an extremely competent banjo, before getting cutoff by Chuck Barris for competing as a celebrity.
Tom Cruise is an odd variation of this: he's one of the very few actors who's confident about his ability to sprint on-camera. Hence why so many of his movies (especially the Mission: Impossible series) have scenes dedicated to showing off his sprinting ability.
In two different scenes in The Goonies, Robert Davi, who plays Jake Fratelli, is shown singing opera. Davi had trained as an opera singer.
House of Flying Daggers: The dance scene in the pleasure house is mostly an opportunity for Zhang Ziyi to show off what a great dancer she is. She trained extensively as one before embracing an acting career.
As with Rathbone above, many actors during the early days of Hollywood were accomplished and master fencers, so pretty much every swashbuckler of the time featured the actors doing all their own fighting.
The Court Jester is a showcase for Danny Kaye's skill at mimicry. He was very much not a trained fencer, but he was so good at reading and mimicking other people's movements that he held his own against master swordsman Basil Rathbone!
Estella Warren is a former synchronised swimmer and member of the Canadian national team. She displays this skill in a very plot-unrelated scene in Driven.
Robert Downey, Jr. is a practitioner of Wing Chun martial arts, so Tony Stark has a Wing Chun dummy in his garage which he is seen dealing out a few strikes to in Iron Man 3.
"Home Economics": Pierce becomes a keyboardist in Vaughn's band, allowing Chevy Chase to briefly display his skills as a musician.
"Environmental Science": Troy and Abed's duet of "Somewhere Out There".
"Comparative Religion": Troy harmonizes nicely during Jeff and Abed's singing of "Oh, Christmas Troy".
"Interpretive Dance": The dance recital serves as an opportunity for Troy, Britta, and Abed to show off their dancing skills.
"Physical Education": Not only can Joel McHale play pool, he also looks good naked, everybody! Yes, those two facts were related.
"Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas": They all sing, and very well by the way (especially Yvette and Alison).
More and more as Gomer Pyle USMC went on, Jim Nabors was given opportunities to showcase his bell-like if somewhat bland singing voice. The sharp contrast between this and his in-character hick accent stopped being striking or funny fairly quickly.
It had already been shown a few times on The Andy Griffith Show, alongside Griffith's singing, guitar playing, and unique storytelling style.
John Goodman is an adept impressionist, as seen in his many Saturday Night Live hostings, so Roseanne frequently had Dan launch into one-line impressions or whole routines as anybody from De Niro and Brando to all Three Stooges or even Julia Child. It worked pretty seamlessly as Dan was a film and TV buff and usually just being the fun dad for his kids and wife. He also sings during the course of the show, as does Bonnie Bramlett.
In Chuck, Yvonne Strahovski, who is Polish-Australian and whose first language is Polish, speaks some of her native tongue. The first time she does this is in conversation with the Swedish-speaking Mini Andén.
Many scenes from Mork and Mindy were just excuses for Robin Williams to let loose with his improvisational comedy act. Considering that Williams' manic act was considerably funnier than the average episode's script this was an improvement that was obvious enough to the producers to have specific gaps in the scripts where he could improvise to his heart's — and the audience's — content.
I Carly: Sam/Jennette shows off her dancing skills in "iDream of Dance" and "iWas A Pageant Girl".
Carly/Miranda shows off her singing ability for a few lines of Amazing Freaking Grace in "iPie", and performs an entire song in "iDo".
In the short-lived What About Joan, cast member and noted Broadway star Donna Murphy was given several uncalled-for singing scenes.
Seasons four and five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer increasingly called on Anthony Head's services as a singer and guitarist, which just serves to illustrate how drastically his character changed with time.
The Musical Episode, "Once More With Feeling" reportedly was written after Joss Whedon discovered how many of his cast could sing well during an after-shooting karaoke party; the episode was written specifically to show off the cast's various talents. Notably, Michelle Trachtenberg, who'd had dance training, got a scene where she danced with the Big Bad's Mooks, and Alyson Hannigan sang about two lines without accompaniment; her other lines were mostly filler. She reportedly begged Joss not to give her many singing lines because she hated her voice, although when she heard how good she sounded after post-production Hannigan regretted giving up so much singing time. Most notably, the Tara solo Under Your Spell was supposed to be a duet with Willow.
Sarah Michelle Gellar's Taekwondo and Kickboxing skills came in handy for most of the series, but in episode "What's My Line, Pt. 1" she got to show off her ice skating talents too. Also, at Anya and Xander's wedding she got to juggle in order to distract the attendees.
Marc Blucas, a gifted college player, had a basketball scene in season five.
The ballet episode of Angel was originally conceived as an excuse for Whedon to utilize Amy Acker's dancing talent. The only scene that required her to dance was cut from the episode for pacing reasons. It did, however, allow him to display former ballerina Summer Glau's dancing talents — and her knack for accents.
Summer Glau is arguably a case of Cast the Expert — "Waiting in the Wings" was the very first acting role that she ever took, so when Joss hired her, she wasn't so much an actor who could also dance as a dancer who could also act. In hindsight, however, it becomes a straight example.
The mere existence of Caritas, the demon karaoke bar safe-haven where no one is allowed to fight, seems tailor-made to let the cast show their talents, or lack thereof. Unsurprisingly, except for Lorne, it's always the villains who get the best songs.
Supposedly Caritas and Lorne was created solely because the actor Andy Hallet was a gifted singer (though not professional until much later) and a friend of Joss Whedon.
Christian Kane left the show after two seasons and worked on the film Secondhand Lions, for which he became a skilled fencer. When he returned to Angel, his character Lindsay was suddenly revealed to be quite a swordsman.
An earlier example is when Lindsay was in the Caritas where he sings a song for Lorne. The song in question was written by David Greenwalt and Christian Kane.
In the episode "Shindig", River deconstructs the mobster Badger, all in a Cockney accent — again utilizing Summer Glau's knack for accents, or what the show's producers thought was a knack for accents. Her Cockney accent has been heavily criticised, however.
In a Cast the Expert cross-over, River is an expert in dancing, which she displays in in "Safe." Her flexibility is also shown off in a few instances, notably in "Objects In Space" and several instances where she clings to the ceiling.
Another example of Joss Whedon utilizing someone's talent for accents: Enver Gjokaj as Victor in Dollhouse. He spends all of the first three episodes imprinted as a Russian mobster named Lubov, and later takes on imprints of both Dominic and Topher—two characters that were already established enough that the audience would know if he was less than stellar. He nailed them both.
The Intoxication Ensues episode gave Harry Lennix an opportunity to tickle the ivories onscreen.
Jaleel White was also a fan of martial arts (and was also building muscle), so one episode has him transform into Bruce Lee using his special chamber. This was revived for two other episodes.
The O.C. included an episode in which Sandy Cohen, played by Broadway veteran Peter Gallagher, sang to his wife.
Dixie Carter [Julia Sugarbaker] sang frequently on Designing Women as part of a bargain with the head writer: Whenever Julia spouted a rant that ran counter to Dixie's politics, Dixie got to sing in the next episode. Julia was a liberal; Dixie was a conservative.
Sliders: Cleavant Derricks has a beautiful singing voice, showcased in several episodes. Justified, in that Rembrandt was a professional musician on the home world.
This was used to expose Rembrandt as fraud in one world - that world version is royalty, and tone-deaf.
Star Trek: Voyager did this a lot. The Doctor (a hologram) gets to sing in every third episode (sometimes accompanied by Seven of Nine).
The show even went so far as to have a whole episode with a plot based around the Doctor's singing, in which he becomes a celebrity to a race of aliens that have never heard music before. (Ironically, that episode - "Virtuoso" - features the only use of a Talent Double for the Doctor's singing - operatic tenor Agostino Castellano dubbed over Robert Picardo for Don Carlo and Rondine Al Nido (all other songs in the episode are performed by Picardo).
Not to mention all those times on Star Trek: The Next Generation where they let cast members explore their range; whether it was Dwight Schultz performing Cyrano de Bergerac, Patrick Stewart doing Michael Williams from Henry V, or Brent Spiner playing three different characters having a face-to-face conversation.
Gates McFadden, a noted Broadway choreographer, actually choreographed her character's tap-dancing lesson for Data and did all her own dancing. Given a bit of a lampshade when Dr. Crusher mentions that she hated the nickname of the "Dancing Doctor" at school.
Jonathan Frakes is a skilled poker player, and introduced the tradition of the main cast (minus Picard until the finale) playing poker in their downtime. He could play the trombone at the drop of a mute. Again, however, sometimes Frakes required a Talent Double - professional trombonist Bill Watrous. In Frakes' own words: "When Riker played badly, it was me, but when he was playing well, it was Bill Watrous."
In "Unification II", we get Jonathan Frakes playing a brisk piece on the piano as well as Michael Dorn singing a part of a Klingon opera.
George Takei didn't know how to fence prior to being cast for Star Trek, though he said he could learn in order to better his chances at landing the role; when granted the role of Sulu he went out that weekend to do just that. In the episode "The Naked Time" he finally got to put his skills to practice after suggesting that he fence instead of run around with a katana playing samurai, as the writers initially intended.
The Goodies had frequent musical moments. While the other two saw them as an opportunity to muck about, they demonstrated that Bill Oddie was a proper musician and songwriter.
The nature of Quantum Leap allowed the series to exploit star Scott Bakula's various talents, frequently in instances of Suddenly Always Knew That. Bakula's character Sam Beckett frequently found himself leaping into dancers and musicians to justify the inclusion of scenes in which Sam then had to dance, sing, or play the piano. In the penultimate episode ("Memphis Melody") he leaped into Elvis freaking Presley, although the ultimate example has to be "Catch A Falling Star," in which he leaps into the understudy for the lead role of a production of Man Of La Mancha! Even when the leapee of the episode isn't a musician or dancer, episodes like "Double Identity" and "Pool Hall Blues" still throw in musical interludes purely in order to showcase Bakula's musical chops.
Donald Bellisario said that unless it was dangerous Bakula would rarely use a double for anything.
However the less said about Dean Stockwell's rapping in "Shock Theatre" the better. (It's telling that the version on the soundtrack album is very different, both in terms of performance and words, to the one in the actual episode.)
House is not only the world's greatest diagnostician, he sings, plays the guitar and the piano, and is an amateur magician. Of course, the same applies to Hugh Laurie, who plays him — except for the "diagnostician" bit (the closest he gets to that is being the son of a doctor). The writers' success at not making it too blatant varies. They have at least succeeded at not making House a novelist (that we know of). Which Hugh Laurie also is, of course. Basically, there's not much Hugh Laurie doesn't seem to be doing, so that some of it would rub off on his character seems inevitable.
Hugh Laurie has also shown off his musical talent in other roles, particularly that of Bertie Wooster of Jeeves and Wooster. What makes the Jeeves and Wooster thing even more remarkable is that there's no dubbing in those scenes. He's playing the piano and singing AND acting like an upper-class twit. Nice.
A season five episode of House had Hugh Laurie play both the piano and the harmonica AT THE SAME TIME. How's that for show off?
Luckily for the show, the character of House is such that he is the type that would actually go out and learn all these things, either because he's bored and just needs to fill time (magic, most likely) or he wanted to prove that it could be done (anything music related). The character is ever learning, as demonstrated by his taking cooking classes.
One of the more justified examples as Sherlock Holmes (upon whom House is based) was an accomplished violinist.
A season seven episode featured a musical dream sequence which allowed Hugh Laurie to show off his vocal range (again) while also giving Lisa Edelstein a chance to show off her pipes.
Whilst Hugh Laurie's real talent is performing a flawless American accent every week (when Bryan Singer first cast him, he didn't realise he was English), there is a fun twist on this trope in an early episode when House calls a hospital in the middle of the night and pretends to be calling from the UK, using the excuse that he's not rude, he just forgot the time difference. What's really brilliant about this to British fans is that the accent he uses isn't Hugh Laurie's real accent. It's the "upper-class-twit" voice he used as Bertie Wooster and the Prince Regent.
Pushing Daisies has Broadway performers Kristin Chenoweth (Galinda in Wicked) and Ellen Greene (Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors) among its ranks. The writers couldn't seem to make it through the second episode of the series without showing us that yes, Kristin Chenoweth can sing, though it took as long as the fourth episode for Chenoweth and Greene to have a duet (they sang "Birdhouse in Your Soul" by They Might Be Giants). Some things are just too good to pass up, it seems.
By that same token, Harry Stone of Night Court, played by magician/comedian Harry Anderson, is prone to doing magic tricks and playing practical jokes. Since this was established as part of his character fairly early on, it's not too blatant.
Also from the same show, singer Shirley Manson makes her acting debut in the Season 2 opener; the opening scene is set to the backdrop of her singing, even before her character has any screen time. Her character's daughter mentions in a later episode that "Mommy can't sing."
In the episode "The Tower is Tall But the Fall is Short", Bonnie Morgan, an actress who is also a contortionist, plays the Terminator "Rosie" and gets bent every which way in a fight with Cameron—and yes, her body can and does really bend like that.
The later seasons of Happy Days had a lot of Anson Williams [Potsie] breaking into song for various flimsy reasons. Granted, his character was a singer, but after a while it got blatant. The "Pumps Your Blood" song he nominally used to memorize the cardiovascular system for an anatomy test is a good (and catchy) example.
The infamous Jumping the Shark episode was done in part because Henry Winkler was a good water-skiier.
The Veronica Mars season 1 episode Clash of the Tritons had a scene that took place in a karaoke bar where Veronica got called up to sing. Kristen Bell did all her own singing, which is probably half the reason the scene was written in the first place. (The other half: it's karaoke. The show's creator, however, mused on the prevalence of musical episodes in shows at the time, that since she was pretty much the only cast member who could sing...)
Philip Michael Thomas and his....ahem, singing abilities in the first two seasons of Miami Vice. Tubbs would hum or sing a selection from his album, "Living the Book of My Life", during a break in the action, although this was a rare occurrence.
MacGyver had several episodes that featured ice hockey prominently. Richard Dean Anderson loves the sport and these gave him a chance to show off his hockey skills.
But they only showed him playing guitar once; RDA had his own band for quite some time.
Matthew Gray Gubler does magic tricks, which were put to good use in two episodes of Criminal Minds, first when he had to palm a chip he was pretending to pull out of a crazy guy's body and later for the noble purpose of picking up a sexy badass bartender.
He's also an artist. In one episode, when Reid (Gubler's character) makes a sketch of an unsub who approached him in the metro, it's his actual work.
Several episodes of Small Wonder allowed Marla Pennington to demonstrate her culinary skills or, more often, Tiffany Brissette to show off her talents, from gymnastics to voice mimicry.
An episode of Life makes good use of Sarah Shahi's fluency in Farsi.
On one episode of Psych we got to see Dulé Hill's tap dancing skills. Later, in a blooper scene for another episode, when he comments that he has NO idea what he's talking about because he didn't take shop in high school, somebody off-screen asks if he was "too busy tap dancing". (Yes, he was.)
Also High Top Fade Out in which Gus is reunited with 1/2 of his college quartet. Dulé and James show off their singing skills.
In many episode "Psych-out"s the cast assembles for a song. Season 7 will have an episode titled [[Musical Episode Psych: The Musical".
Thirty Rock likes to make use of Jane Krakowski's singing skills by making her character an in-universe Cast Showoff. Her character seems dead set on launching a singing career that just isn't happening, aside from some success in Eastern Europe with a ditty called "Muffin Top". The whole thing is particularly lampshaded when she forcibly inserts herself into the center of a song and dance number that has absolutely nothing to do with her, much to the mild annoyance of the other characters in the scene.
This was also done with Krakowski a lot in Ally McBeal, which make it seem it's Krakowski herself who contractually obligates shows she joins to let her sing. It is a little excessive.
Ally McBeal is an excellent example of this trope all together; everybody in the cast who can remotely carry a tune (and some who can't) takes the stage at the bar at least once.
In the second Christmas Episode, Jack's mother gets to sing. Elaine Stritch, who plays her, is a Broadway singer.
Tina Fey has gotten to show off her college-level German a number of times.
Jack has a few opportunities to showcase Alec Baldwin's celebrity impressions.
Subverted in Are You Being Served?, in that the cast members' various talents were well-showcased, from Nicholas Smith's musical performances to John Inman cross-dressing (and displaying why he was considered one of the great "pantomime dames" of his generation).
Bones contained a short scene of Zack Addy, whose actor Eric Millegan is trained in musical theatre, surprising several of his coworkers by singing.
In The Monkees episode "Don't Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth", Davy Jones must win a horse race in order for a young boy to be able to keep his beloved horse. Jones was a jockey prior to becoming an entertainer.
Evangeline Lilly's talent for climbing trees is used often on LOST.
In one episode of Black Books, it is discovered that Manny has a great talent for the piano, which is exploited by Fran and Bernard who both wish to appear that they can play. Manny is played by Bill Bailey, who, of course, is a very talented multi-instrumentalist. Bailey recorded all musical renditions in this episode, including those heard on the radio.
Barney in How I Met Your Mother does just about anything to impress the ladies, and magic tricks are just one of those things. He even had an intervention... and magic is just one of the many talents of the great NPH.
You can't forget the oft-gratuitous singing, either (harmonising to 'Silent Night', anyone?), and NPH is far from the only one. How I Met Your Mother has also showcased Jason Segel's singing and piano-playing talents with the totally awesome Slapsgiving song, and the infamous Robin Sparkles videos let Cobie Smulders show off her pipes too. Why there has not been a musical episode for this show yet is beyond me.
And the 100th episode, "Girls vs. Suits" gives us NPH, Jason Segel, Josh Radnor, Cobie Smulders, and Alyson Hannigan singing a musical number - "Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit". And it is, you guessed it, legendary.
Josh Radnor (Ted) gets his chance with his song about the "Super Date" in "Of Course". Really it's only Alyson Hannigan who (quite openly) can't sing.
Josh Radnor also utilizes his apparent fluency in ASL in at least 2 episodes. Ted's use of ASL is worked into the plots fairly gracefully.
In the seventh season, Neil and Cobie have another chance to show their talents with an impressive dance number, and later in the season, Neil and Josh get to sing again when Barney and Ted have a duet parody of Cheers's "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" about the impromptu bar they opened in Ted's apartment.
The Tag to the Season 8 episode "The Time Travelers" involves Neil and Josh doing a barbershop sextet rendition of Billy Joel's "For The Longest Time" (with their eponymous time-travelling selves, that is).
Sam Lloyd (Ted) belongs to an a cappella group called 'The Blanks', which was written into a multitude of episodes performing as The Worthless Peons.
Scrubs had a musical episode too. Not all the cast were good singers (hence why Chalke wasn't a part of the brief musical number they had in season 2), but some were and the rest gamely did their best toward an enthusiastic and entertaining performance overall.
The patient with the brain aneurysm in this episode is played by Stephanie D'Abruzzo, who is best known for being in the original Broadway cast of Avenue Q.
Full House with John Stamos' music skills, who has toured with The Beach Boys (he also played drums and sang backing vocals on an ER episode). Dave Coulier also showed off his skills in cartoon impressions very frequently, mostly Popeye.
Stephanie was frequently seen dancing throughout the run of the show and even a few episodes where it a Plot Line.
Bob Saget got a chance to show that he can play the guitar one in a later season episode.
Michelle's friend Derek sang a couple times on the show.
Lisa Kudrow is fluent in French (and is married to a French advertising executive), and that's a key element of the 10th season episode 'The One Where Joey Speaks French'.
Although Joey is portrayed as being useless at speaking French (in the episode mentioned above), Matt Le Blanc is fluent in the language.
In some episodes Chandler (played by Matthew Perry) is seen playing tennis well and is also a good ping pong player. Perry has a keen interest in tennis and was a top-ranked junior player. Matthew also played a tennis player on Beverly Hills 90210.
Sonny With A Chance started off having Sonny (Demi Lovato) as a comedy actress, not a musician (although from the very first episode and opening credits it's seen she's got a guitar). That, until a second season episode where she shows she sings, plays the piano and writes music (pretty much like Demi Lovato herself). Probably justified, seeing as how it's a Disney Channel show, and Disney loves to promote its stars as Idol Singers.
While the central character on Hannah Montana is already a professional singer (like Miley Cyrus), the show also worked as platform for Mitchell Musso's (Oliver) rising singing career. Again, it's Disney. Coincidentally, Selena Gomez guest-starred on an episode as a singer (though the vocals were recorded by someone else), years before her singing career began
Lorelai in Gilmore Girls is shown singing some times. While not a professional, Lauren Graham certainly has a good voice and (AFAIK) is very knowledgeable about music, which may have helped her character's endless witty references.
Rory showed off her Spanish speaking in one episode while speaking to one of Emily's maids. In real life, Alexis Bledel is actually Latina. This also came up during interviews for Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants; Bledel surprised fellow Latina actress America Ferrera when she spoke Spanish to an interviewer.
In one episode of Heroes, Micah plays the piano, showing off Noah Gray-Cabey's musical talents. (This was a major part of his role on My Wife and Kids.)
Louise Fletcher got to use American Sign Language in a guest spot on Heroes. She learned it in her childhood, as both her parents were deaf.
Considering both Hayden Panettiere and Kristen Bell are not averse to bursting into song onscreen - the former even did it in her Guiding Light days; see for yourself - it's curious how NBC never "suggested" they do a bit of vocalising. (Then again, maybe they just couldn't find a logical way to fit it in.)
As Lenny Briscoe in Law & Order, Jerry Orbach displayed his skills at pool, particularly with trick shots.
And also a total subversion of this trope: although Orbach was a Tony Award winning song-and-dance man (even released an album!), his character never sang a note on the show and even claimed in one episode he knew nothing about music!
Allison Janney's, uh, performance of "The Jackal" on The West Wing. Also, possibly, Rob Lowe's impression of Martin Sheen a few seasons later.
Except that the Jackal lip-sync was totally in character for CJ, adds to rather than stop the episode's flow, and is universally adored by West Wing fans.
Hilariously subverted in Hogan's Heroes - Werner Klemperer (Col. Klink) was a world-class violinist, and the son of a classical composer and noted orchestral conductor. Klink, on the other hand, played the violin like a cat being raped by a band saw. However, other episodes did showcase the singing talents of the cast (noticeably Robert Clary, Richard Dawson and Larry Hovis). Bob Crane also got to show off his drumming chops in one episode. (He also played the drums for the show's theme music.)
It should be noted that Klink could play song perfectly, The American National Anthem
The Seinfeld episode "The Bookstore" allows John O'Hurley to show off his dancing skills, later to be demonstrated quite thoroughly in the first season of Dancing with the Stars.
While Mike/Joel and the bots all took turns at songs and musical riffs in Mystery Science Theater 3000 (including Mike Nelson being the singer of the Mike-era theme songs), Kevin Murphy's Tom Servo had the lion's share, making use of his powerful singing voice. Ironic, considering he was the smallest robot. Case in point.
The Invention Exchange skits which kicked off most of Joel's episodes were specifically devised to make use of Joel's skills as a prop comedian. That's why they were dropped when Mike took over.
Andy Kaufman had to be convinced to do Taxi in the first place, and over time became increasingly bored with his character Latka. The final episode of Season 3 thus had Latka choosing to remake his personality, becoming the suave jerk Vic Ferrari and temporarily forgetting who he really was; the following season revealed Latka had developed multiple personalities, allowing Andy to take on other persona in addition to Latka's. (For those unaware, playing multiple persons was a large part of Kaufman's shtick.) This plot thread was wrapped up by the end of the season (though in the process, another change came — Latka got married).
Bruce Lee as Kato in the TV adaptation of The Green Hornet. In prior versions of the property (a radio series and two film serials), Kato was merely Reid's valet and the Hornet's sidekick, and he did not demonstrate any notable fighting skills, much less martial arts mastery. Owing to Lee's status as a martial arts master, his Kato was given every chance to show that mastery on the air. This has influenced subsequent adaptations of the property; it is probably now unthinkable for Kato not to be a martial arts master in any new adaptation of The Green Hornet in any medium.
Parodied in Garth Marenghis Darkplace, where one episode has an inserted music video of supporting actor Todd Rivers, featuring a "rap" by Dean Lerner.
The season three finale of The Sopranos had Junior Soprano, played by Dominic Chianese, singing an Italian ballad; Chianese is an accomplished tenor in real life. This is something of a subversion; while the adult characters are enjoying it, their kids are bored out of their minds. Meadow Soprano even starts heckling, and later describes the song as saccharine and cliche.
The third episode of Kamen Rider Dragon Knight features a scene where Len, portrayed by karate champion Matt Mullins, trains on a rooftop. Although it makes sense for the character, the scene has absolutely no plot relevance. Looks good, though...
Later in the season, there's a sparring scene between Len and the Advent Master, played by Mark Decascos. That scene pretty much exists to show off their skills.
As far back as the original series' "Let's Go Rider Kick" (performed by Hiroshi Fujioka), Kamen Rider series have featured insert songs performed by the lead actors in order to show off their singing skills. However, Den-O takes the cake for allowing star Takeru Satoh to show off his singing, acting, and even breakdancing skills.
Not to mention nearly the entire cast of Kamen Rider Kiva getting to show off thier vocal chops during things like the Holy Fang Christmas live show. KojiSeto and Kenji Matsuda especially.
Power Rangers Zeo had an episode where Tommy and Tanya had to sing every single line, briefly turning the show into a musical and displaying their singing talents (or lack of in Tommy's case). Mighty Morphin also had an episode in season 3 where Kimberly sings an original song, playing her own acoustic guitar as backup. Dino Thunder would pull a similar trick with Yellow Ranger Kira, but as a singer with her own band who dreamed of getting a record contract one day, Kira performed significantly more often in-show than Kimberly ever did.
And let's not forget that the original series tailored its martial arts battle to cater to each person's ability, Trini's kung fu, Jason's martial arts ability, Zack's dancing, and Kimberly's gymnastics. Billy didn't get to really show off until about season 3.
Will and Grace had two moments that stand out: An episode where Jack challenged Will's boss Ben to a tap-dance-off to prove he was better at something, with the real reason being to display Gregory Hines and his dancing abilities. Then there was the finale, which had Jack and Karen performing a duet of "Unforgettable," with no excuse given other than "I feel a song coming on."
As the show got in to its final two or three seasons the writers took every opportunity to showcase Megan Mullally (As Karen)'s singing voice, towards the end of the show they stopped even trying to be subtle about it.
Linda Lavin singing on Alice. To be fair, the character in the original movie sang, too.
The character was supposed to be a singer who had to take a waitress job to make ends meet. Lavin was hired for the part because she could sing.
Beakman's World was able to use the fact that Senta Moses is trained in martial arts for a segment on the science behind breaking boards.
Season Three of Mad Men has "My Old Kentucky Home", an entire episode that seems to be dedicated to Cast Showoffs:
Vincent Kartheiser shows off his dancing skills in the scene where Pete and his wife Trudy stop Roger's party dead by doing the Charleston.
Michael Gladis duets with Miles Fisher (formerly of an a cappella group at Harvard) on "Hello, My Baby" in the scene where Kinsey and his old college buddy from Princeton's Tigertones show off their a cappella skills.
John Slattery singing the title song (in blackface, for extraSquick) at Roger and Jane's engagement party
Christina Hendricks appears to sing a rendition of "C'est Magnifique" while accompanying herself on the accordion, at Joan and Greg's dinner party. The singing voice was dubbed but the accordion-playing was all her.
The episode 'Plan B' of Wizards of Waverly Place in which Alex puts together a band seems to exist solely to let Selena Gomez show off her singing skills.
Lucy Hale got two opportunities to show off her singing voice during Privileged: The first was a rehearsal scene where Rose and Sage were trying to impress their new publicist and the second was in the final episode, during Marco's marriage ceremony.
The sitcom Dear John featured an episode in which ultra-nerdy, socially incompetent Ralph Drang got out onto the dance floor—and suddenly turned into Fred Astaire, courtesy of actor Harry Groener (a full-fledged professional dancer).
Degrassi has done this a lot. Craig's band is the actor's real life band, and Ashley (who also once was in a couple of bands) in real life has said she loves singing.
Good News Week frequently has Paul McDermott singing for no good reason, though it's certainly not unwanted. Every episode also has two cast members singing popular songs as clues for a game. Sometimes, the contestant in particular can't sing - the usual answer to this is to just have them sing off-key with a piano for support, followed by them singing off-key with ABSURD AWESOME-NESS for support. Case in point: Colin Lane sings Thriller.
William Frawley and Vivian Vance also occasionally got chances to sing or perform with no relation to comedy. Lucy's performances were never played straight.
FlashForward featured an eppisode in which Demetri Noh sang karaoke. This is because John Cho is actually a quite talented singer (and is the frontman of an LA-area band).
The punchline to a Ben Elton standup routine about trying to urinate with an erection is his confession that he wrote the whole routine just to prove he can walk on his hands.
Topher Grace as Eric Forman on That '70s Show. It's very mildly put in few episodes, but Eric will often sing a line or two (once singing "My Way" by Frank Sinatra and, early on, "Fernando" by ABBA with Love Interest Donna) in the show (whether it's plot relevant doesn't really matter because it could be considered in-character for Eric Forman's quirkiness), and he's a surprisingly good singer. Especially compared to everyone else in the "That 70s Musical" episode.
How Grace was discovered by the producers of That '70s Show was actually performing in a high school musical as the lead; arguably this could be Lampshade Hanging from the producers...
It's entirely in character, but Wilmer Valderrama as Fez has a dance routine in just about every five episodes.
In the US version of The Office, the characters go to an ice rink on Michael's birthday so that Steve Carell, a former hockey player and great skater, can show his skills off. Averted in the same episode when Jenna Fischer, who learned to skate for Blades of Glory, played Pam as being poor at it.
Also used in-universe in Michael's self-made movie Threat Level Midnight, which includes a completely irrelevant hockey subplot seemingly just to show off Michael's skill at it.
Also, Andy, played by Ed Helms, gets many chances to sing to show off Ed Helms' talent.
And play the banjo. Rainn Wilson frequently picks up the guitar—Dwight and Andy played "Duelling Banjos" in one episode.
NCIS: In the episode "Forced Entry" Special Agent Gibbs tosses a football to a kid going deep, with a perfect spiral and everything. Gibbs's actor, Mark Harmon, was the starting quarterback for UCLA back in his college days.
Cote de Pablo is a pretty good singer and gets to sing the Tom Waits song "Temptation" in one episode.
"Pretty good"? She used to do Broadway!
Every episode, Abby is this. Pauley Perrette has a degree in criminology.
Similarly, but inverted, David McCallum (Ducky) prepared for his part like a method actor, and eventually became good enough to act as a consultant. Whether he does so by now or not is unknown.
On JAG, Catherine Bell (Mac) often got the chance to speak Farsi, a langauge in which she is proficient.
Sex and the City seemed to intentionally avert this trope in the casting of Mikhail Baryshnikov (as Aleksandr Petrovsky, or "The Russian"). Baryshnikov is frequently cited as one of the greatest ballet dancers of the age, yet never once is his character given an opportunity to dance. In fact, in the one scene most likely to feature him dancing, it's quickly cut off before he takes his first steps.
He does run for a taxi at one point with balletic skips and hops, though.
Some episodes of Saved by the Bell showcased Mario Lopez's wrestling and drumming skills.
Burn Notice seamlessly blends actor Jeffrey Donovan's extensive martial arts training, skill for accents, and even dancing background into the show, which are justified by his character being an ex-spy who would need to know such things. Curiously, the fight-scenes are often filmed in such a way that Jeffrey's face can't be seen, leading some viewers to think that a stunt-double is used (much to Donovan's frustration).
Star Trek: Enterprise's Malcolm Reed shows himself to have a talent for voices much like actor Dominic Keating's in early episodes, mimicking Trip and affecting an American accent to go under cover.
It took Ugly Betty four seasons, but they finally had Vanessa Williams sing on the show. She did "Maneater", among other songs, a drag show.
Vanessa Williams actually sang "The Way We Were" in Season 1 while reminiscing over her time with Marc. However, this was only in voice-over.
Family Ties had an episode where Jennifer Keaton is the lead singer in a band, performing at the end a cover of "Baby I'm Back in Love Again". Guess what song Tina Yothers released as a single?
Trivia: Two of her bandmates were played by a pre-Married... with Children Christina Applegate and Rainbow "sister of River" Phoenix (who herself had a band at the time). Yothers would go on to form a real band with her brother Cory in the early 2000s (!).
Red Dwarf had a few examples, given that most of the cast were not "legit" actors at the start of the series. The most egregious has to be the "Tongue-Tied" music video at the beginning of the second-season finale as performed by Danny John-Jules (who was a professional dancer), but there were several episodes where Chris Barrie (an impressionist and Spitting Image alumnus) would either do a voice-only part or have Rimmer break into a surprisingly excellent impression of a particular voice or accent (and of course, Ace Rimmer has a different-sounding voice to Rimmer as well).
Subverted in one episode, though, where apparently it turns out that Ace's voice is the one voice that Rimmer can't do well, sounding "67% more weaselly" according to Kryten.
The audiobook of "Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers" is performed by Chris Barrie alone, but sounds like a full cast recording. Barrie also does this on an unbroadcast script episode ("Identity Within") that was included in the Series VII DVD as an extra.
In Episode 12 of Human Target, Jackie Earle Haley (who has a Black Belt) uses some of his martial arts skills.
Rule of Funny set in when, in an episode of Rutland Weekend Television, David Battley (as a cop) chased the actors away because 'This is a fire lane. You can't act here,' and then pulled some unidentifiable fruit out of his jacket, beginning to show off some very good juggling as the credits rolled.
In Rentaghost, cast showoff Michael Staniforth as Timothy Claypole could juggle (not unlikely for a court jester), tumble (ditto) and disco-dance on roller skates. He also wrote and sang the theme tune.
Virtually every time a wrestler stars or guest-stars in anything they're shown using wrestling moves, even if they're not supposed to. This led to a hilarious subversion in Chuck when they introduce "Stone Cold" Steve Austin as an enemy agent and expert at close-quarters combat, but is revealed to be a sword expert who ends up performing no wrestling moves whatsoever.
One particularly blatant example comes from Star Trek: Voyager. In one episode Dwayne Johnson (credited simply as "The Rock") appears for one scene just so he can wrestle Seven of Nine. They even let him do a couple of his trademark moves (including The People's Eyebrow).
The Eyebrow can, at least, be justified by the fact that he is playing a gladiator. It would make sense for him to have a trademark, of sorts.
Now being foreshadowed by Wendell Pierce as trombonist Antoine Batiste on Treme. His trombone playing in season one is mimed to pre-existing tracks (though he does it so well you'd never know), but after filming a couple episodes he decided to take lessons, and hopes to be able to do his own playing from season two onward.
One episode of Doctor Who involved the Doctor playing football, which gave Matt Smith - who was headed for a professional career before an injury put an end to that - a chance to show off his skills on the pitch.
This is a rare coincidental example of this trope. Word Of God has it that the scene already existed before Matt Smith had been cast.
It was even in the comic the episode was adapted from, which was published in 2006, four years before Smith's debut.
You thought that was the first time the Doctor took time off world saving in order to participate in a popular British sport? Wrong!Check this out. And yes, Peter Davison is a cricket fanatic.
The Seventh Doctor plays the spoons, a talent Sylvester McCoy mastered during his vaudeville career. He even performs the spoons during a turn as The Fool in King Lear opposite Sir Ian McKellen.
Jon Pertwee had a fascination for gadgets and cars, which cropped up in the Third Doctor's stories. In fact, one car used by the Doctor during his run, known affectionately by fans as "The Whomobile", was Pertwee's own personal property, and not a BBC prop. This is why it is never seen or mentioned again after Planet of the Spiders, unlike Bessie, the more often seen yellow roadster.
The whole of Season 23 features the Doctor defending himself in a trial. Before he was an actor, Colin Baker was a lawyer.
Closing Time establishes that since leaving the Doctor, Amy Pond has become a popular model. In real life, actress Karen Gillan was a model before she was an actor.
Averted on at least two occasions: the 2005 and 2006 seasons co-starred Billie Piper, who was a very successful pop singer, while the 2007 Christmas special co-starred Kylie Minogue, who needs no introduction, yet neither sang a note during their appearances on the series (and Minogue's episode even included an original song, which was performed by someone else).
Top Gear has done this a couple times, largely Played for Laughs. James May has a music degree and has been called on twice to reinterpret the opening theme, once with engine sounds and once, when the show spent all its budget and couldn't afford the licensing fee, he substituted with a Casio keyboard. Richard Hammond studied photography at art school and has produced a few paintings. He's also played bass a couple of times.
Leverage has managed to do this twice in season 3, and has somehow kept it from seeming contrived or out of character. Aldis Hodge (Hardison) had his opportunity to play the violin in "The Scheherazade Job," while Christian Kane (Eliot) sang and played guitar in "The Studio Job."
Also, that painting of Nate's "ancestor" (a stylized version of Nate, really) that Hardison claimed to paint himself - yeah, that was really painted by the actor himself.
Married... with Children demonstrated David Faustino's rapping, Christina Applegate's and David Garrison's dancing, Ed O' Neill's football playing, and Katey Segal's singing talents at different times.
Before Bebe Neuwirth became a big Broadway name, she actually sang a couple of times on Cheers, even if it was mostly for comic effect.
On one episode of The State spinoff Viva Variety, the musical guest was Cake Like, co-host Kerri Kenney's band. This involved her introducing the band in character, then switching costumes and singing a song as herself.
Done in episode 11 of Tensou Sentai Goseiger where Moune forms a cheerleading squad to raise money for a Littlest Cancer Patient - the actress, Mikiho Niwa, belongs to idol group Canary Club whose repertoire includes cheerleading.
It Ain't Half Hot Mum (which focused on a British Army "Concert Party" stationed in Burma during World War II) allowed the whole cast to showcase their talents, notably Don Estelle's singing. The trope is subverted in one episode where an outside recruit is brought in and proceeds to demonstrate his many impressive talents - singing, playing the piano, tap dance, ventriloquism and more. In the end the men conspire to get rid of him because he risks replacing Lofty, who will then have to be posted "up the jungle"
In an episode of Lie to Me, Brendan Hynes (Eli Loker) and guest star Felicia Day get to sing a little duet — about lies, of course.
LazyTown's Sportacus (Magnus Scheving) showcases the actor's amazing stunts and talent as a gymnast, to the point where the character won't simply walk anywhere - instead he'll flip, somersault, walk on his hands, cartwheel, etc. just to get to wherever he needs to be. Granted, the show was created by Scheving himself, but still...
There was one scene where Sportacus made the simple act of writing a letter look like an exhausting gymnastic workout.
The new Hawaii Five-0 introduces the ME, Max, as he's playing the piano. It's partly to reinforce Max's quirky character, and partly to showcase Masi Oka's piano skills.
Chris Pratt does his own singing and guitar playing as Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation. He also wrote one of Andy's songs. Nick Offerman, who plays Ron Swanson, really is an accomplished woodworker and a saxophone player.
Dolores Duffy has playing the bongos on her professional resume so Iris Puffybush played the bongos in one episode.
Chosen Man Hagman from the Sharpe series is often seen singing or playing music. John Tams who plays Hagman is also a folk musician and composer. He also co-authored music score for the series.
Whenever there was a musical number on the sketch comedy series Fast Forward, Gina Riley would always portray a female singer.
And sometimes male singers.
Candice Accola sang "Eternal Flame" in The Vampire Diaries while "living out her rockstar dreams."
In the 1960s Batman episode "That Darn Catwoman," singer Lesley Gore (playing the villain "Pussycat") sings one of her songs to Catwoman's henchmen.
The guitar sequence with Maddy and Donna and James in Twin Peaks.
Michael Vartan's hockey skills. His character has always been given an opportunity to use French, something that becomes an increasingly important plot point as the show progresses. Vartan tends to be viewed as French by Americans and American by the French (he actually refers to himself as a Polish Jew born to Bulgarian and Polish parents who just happened to be born and raised in France).
And Jennifer Garner got to sing in an episode as well.
The episode of Wonder Woman called "Amazon Hot Wax". Going undercover to stop extortionists in the record industry gives Diana Prince a chance to show off her vocal abilities. Lynda Carter performs songs from her debut album Portrait as a form of advertisement.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - "What's Will Got to Do With It?" This episode is spent having all the other characters praise Tatyana Ali's singing voice.
Alfonso Ribeiro's dance experience was put to use several times, notably in "Sooooooooul Train" and "Strip-Tease for Two." Subverted in that Ribeiro's character Carlton Banks was famous for having outdated taste in dance moves, despite his innate skill.
Played straight and subverted in one episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, when Avery Brooks and Rene Auberjonois (as Sisko and Odo) sing "You Can't Take That Away From Me" together: Sisko sounds great, but Odo grumbles through it in a very off-key rendition, though Auberjonois has an excellent voice and has performed in Broadway musicals.
Then there are the various songs sung by Vic Fontaine, played by James Darren.
And Vic and Sisko's duet of "The Best Is Yet To Come".
And Nana Visitor but not as Kira singing "Fever".
Pretty much the entire point of the Grey's Anatomy episode "Song Beneath the Song": nearly all of the characters sing at one point, but the focus is on Callie (Sara Ramirez), Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Owen (Kevin McKidd), all of whom have excellent voices. Ramirez even has a Tony for Spamalot.
Subverted in Seinfeld. We hear George's singing in which he can't hold a note to save his life. His actor, Jason Alexander, is a Broadway veteran and a very talented singer who had to be recorded singing twice as he sounded too good the first time.
Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis are both guilty of this charge, on Moonlighting and off - but especially Cybill, whose penchant for working her pipes into her projects makes Scarlett Johansson seem like Scott Speedman in Duets.
And speaking of Duets, Speedman was the only major cast member in that film (not counting a dubbed Andre Braugher) who never sang a note. Gwyneth Paltrow, on the other hand... and this was beforeGlee and Country Strong.
Diagnosis: Murder showcased everybody's "hidden" talents at some point: Dick Van Dyke got to dance, sing, and perform magic (although how good he was depended on the writer); Victoria Rowell had an episode in which she displayed her ballet raining (referenced once or twice before); Barry Van Dyke did some boxing.
On Gimme A Break, they let star Nell Carter (a veteran Broadway performer) strut her vocal stuff practically every chance they got, even bringing in musical guest stars for her to sing with. (And guess who sang the theme song?) Ironically, they cut back on that sort of thing once Telma Hopkins (formerly of Tony Orlando and Dawn) joined the cast.
Brian Austin Green showing off his dancing, singing and rapping "skills" on Beverly Hills 90210. His performances look painfully outdated now.
A 1976 episode of One Day At A Time had the gang from the apartment building staging a musical show for some senior citizens. It was highlighted by Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips as Elton John and Kiki Dee performing "Don't Go Breaking My Heart."
They performed a second show at the same retirement home in a later season. Notable for Nanette Fabray, who played Bonnie Franklin's grandmother, performing the song "Triplets", which she originally performed in The Band Wagon with Fred Astaire.
Happens often in Victorious to show off Victoria Justice's singing skills. Especially noticeable in the episode "Beggin' on Your Knees".
This would also apply to Leon Thomas' skills as a musician and singer.
This occasionally applies to Ariana Grande and Elizabeth Gillies, both of whom are singers, having previously appeared on Broadway.
Elizabeth Gillies also gets numerous chances to show off her talents as a Woman Of A Thousand Voices, with numerous scenes involving her character doing funny voices (a deep, Jersey-accented "man" voice, a Judy Garland-esque voice to mock Tori, and even a pitch-perfect imitation of Ariana Grande's voice, among others).
While Glee is made to show off the entire cast's singing abilities, there are a few scenes that show Heather Morris (Brittany), Harry Shum Jr. (Mike), and Matthew Morrison's (Will) dancing abilities. Even when the whole group is dancing in unison, if you watch Morris and Shum, their moves are always far cleaner than the rest of the cast. Morris was cast after she was brought on to teach Chris Colfer the Single Ladies dance, as she had recently finished touring with Beyonce.
Special notice goes to the "Special Education" episode, where Morris and Shum get a spectacular swing dance duet during "Valerie", and "The Substitute", where Shum and Morrison do a jaw dropping comedy-dance routine to "Make Em Laugh".
"I Am Unicorn" shows off Chris Colfer's (Kurt) skill with Sai swords. It's pretty damn awesome.
Prior to Glee, Kevin Mchale was in a boyband, and before the addition of Harry and Heather, was said to have been among the cast's best dancers. While he spends most of his time in a wheelchair, he does learn all the routines standing up. His character has been given two dream sequences, giving Mc Hale a chance to show off his dance skills. The first dream sequence was plot related, but the second, in which he performs Michael Jackson's 'Scream', was probably an excuse for him to show off.
It was pretty obvious that Gwyneth Paltrow and later Kate Hudson's guest starring roles were mainly used as a tool for the actresses to show off their singing (and in the latter case's dancing) abilities.
Darren Criss sung and played piano for both Teenage Dream and Against All Odds live.
Many cast members showcase their abilities with instruments as well: Mark Salling (Puck), Kevin McHale (Artie) and Chord Overstreet (Sam) all play guitar and Cory Monteith (Finn) plays the drums.
In the season two premiere of Roswell, the now ex-Sheriff Valenti (William Sadler) starts to sing at the Crashdown Cafe; his son Nick expects to be embarrassed. Both he and we are surprised to find his dad can actually sing pretty well.
Happens in A.N.T. Farm with Chyna (China Anne McClain). Justified because her character is a musical prodigy.
Hellcats allowed Sharon Leal, Ashley Tisdale and Alyson Michalka to not just show off their physical agility but also their vocal chops. Especially Aly Michalka (compare Tisdale sharing a number with 3OH!3 to Michalka having whole solos). Especially when her sister came onto the show...
Halfway through the fourth season of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, conservatorium-trained operatic baritone Alessandro Juliani (Mr Gaeta) was given a storyline in which the character sang to help himself endure the pain of an amputated leg; the song was later re-recorded and became the lead number on the Season 4 soundtrack album. Juliani later also recorded the male vocal part of the duet "Capricoperactica" for the mid-season finale of Caprica.
In the Castle episode 'The Last Call', the main cast does an improptu performance of 'Piano Man'. Most fans were already aware of Nathan Fillion's voice, but many were amazed by Seamus Dever and Stana Katic's chops. Rumor has it, Jon Huertas (Esposito) is pushing for a musical episode.
While not a full episode, he got the chance to show off his tenor in "Swan Song," which dealt with a murdered musician.
In Frasier, the eponymous character was a highbrow, artsy type, so it was totally in-character (and often humorous, due to context or song selection) for Kelsey Grammer to sing on several occasions throughout the show. He does it quite brilliantly — he's also the singer of the ending credits theme "Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs".
Both Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce can play the piano and demonstrate this several times on the show. As Hyde Pierce isn't as good a singer but a better pianist than Grammer, Niles is often called upon to play the piano while Frasier sings.
Wendie Malick, who appears as lounge singer Ronee Lawrence in Frasier's final season, sings at the drop of a hat. The most egregious example is where she sits at the piano singing about the Crane family breakfast to the tune of several well-known songs. (She also has a song-and-dance routine, but that's in a dream sequence of Martin Crane's, so we'll let her off.)
Jane Leeves is a trained dancer and got to demonstrate this ability a couple of times on the show, most notably in the episode "Moon Dance". Her flexibility comes in handy in later seasons when she gets to show off yoga moves.
Despite playing all-American dad Martin, John Mahoney is actually from Liverpool and in one episode mocked Daphne's Mancunian accent by mimicking it rather eerily. Ironically, Daphne's Mancuian accent is put on; Jane Leeves is actually from London.
Wheel of Fortune co-hostess Vanna White is more than just a pretty face. She's also a pretty good singer, as seen on a series of Christmas Week episodes in 1996 where she promoted her Christmas album. She crochets, too.
Host Pat Sajak subverted this on a Christmas episode in 1988, where he gave an intentionally off-key rendition of "White Christmas" while Vanna accompanied him on a piano.
He later played it straight in December 1994, singing the theme to the 1950s Zorro TV series after a contestant failed to solve the bonus puzzle ZORRO.
The Playboy Club only aired, like, 3 episodes, but every single one of them featured at least one song for Laura Benanti to sing.
In one early episode of Mash, where a USO troop entertained the camp, Gary "Radar" Burghoff sat in with the USO band and performed an impressive drum solo. Several other episodes included moments where he would show off his skills as an impressionist(notably of John Wayne and Jack Benny).
Sharon Small, a classically trained lyric soprano, got to show off her serious vocal talents at the end of her guest spot on Doctor Finlay, when she performed the classic Irish ballad "Carrickfergus".
Shake It Up gives Davis Cleveland a chance to sing in their Christmas Episode in which Duece is managing carolers and Flynn gets to sing solo for a line or two. He sounds a lot like Oliver Twist from the movie/musical 1968 Oliver! and apparently he was well received, as he sings backup for his Shake It Up costar Caroline Sunshine in a new video. I'm sure she'll eventually get a chance to sing on the show also.
PJ is the guitarist for his band, and Jason Dolley plays the guitar in real-life as well as the piano.
Spencer and Emmet both can dance and they have a dance-off in which they take turns serving each other.
Teddy has a few chances to sing on the show, once for a talent show, a contest, and an audition for a school musical.
Her friend Skylar does a duet with Teddy for the talent show, but they combine with PJ and Emmet's band and mash-up both songs and subsequentally win the talent show.
Leigh-Allyn Baker appears for have professional dance training, and Amy Duncan tries to teach her family simple and complicated dance moves and routines in an episode when she wants them to do a song and dance number for her hospital's fundraiser. When they don't even try to duplicate what she just showed them, she asks, "what are you waiting for?" and Teddy says "10 years for dance lessons." Which may be a hint to Leigh-Allyn having dance training, or could just be a joke, or both. She even gets an applause track played after the more complicated part of her routine, probably pointing to the former.
Since Rachel Luttrell is a trained singer (and dancer, but we don't really get to see that), one episode of Stargate Atlantis has her singing a song at a friend's funeral, implying that all Athosian funeral ceremonies are done this way. According to Luttrell's audio commentary on the episode, she had to fly to LA to do the singing twice since her first attempt sounded too much like a classically trained singer (I wonder why?) which the character, Teyla, is not.
The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries: Shaun Cassidy (who played Joe Hardy) had a successful singing career outside the show. A number of episodes featured Joe singing either with his "band back home in Bayport" or with whatever musical act happened to be in the show that week. Luckily, the show worked around this through the running gag of his brother Frank never sticking around to hear Joe perform. Plot follows Frank, with cut-backs to Joe's performance.
Parker Stevenson was also a good surfer in real life. One episode, "Wipe Out" had a silly contrived mechanism of Frank Hardy placing in a national surfing competition, just to get the boys to Hawaii and in the middle of a hotel theft ring.
My Living Doll: Julie Newmar was an accomplished dancer when she was signed to play Rhoda the robot in this short-lived sitcom. She has said in interviews that she approached the role in part as a dance performance; this is clearly noticeable in episodes like "The Pool Shark". Newmar is also a skilled classical pianist, so Rhoda was allowed to show off her musical talents in "The Beauty Contest".
During a recent guest appearance on NCIS, Bob Newhart's character conducts a brief reprise of Newhart's signature "one-sided telephone call" schtick.
Game of Thrones had Bronn lead some soldiers in singing a drinking song. His actor Jerome Flynn was a pop singer back in the nineties. Another character compliments Bronn for his singing voice.
Starsky & Hutch: David Soul is a professional musician; Hutch therefore is given opportunity to sing and play guitar in a number of episodes.
The Cosby Show had an episode in its first season where Heathcliff participates in a senior's track and field event. Bill Cosby ran track at Temple University.
Much of The Dick Van Dyke Show revolves around the talents of the writers of a sketch-comedy show. Buddy's one-liners, Sally's voice, Rob's Dick-van-dyke-ness. Mary Tyler Moore was allowed to showoff just as frequently.
Gary Sinise has showed off his skills with bass guitar on CSI: New York.
Melina Kanakaredes also showed off her fluency in Greek in several eps.
One episode had Danny helping replicate damage on a case involving a baseball player throwing a baseball at a door, thus letting Carmine Giovinazzo show off his baseball ability (he wanted to go pro, but, like Danny, got hurt.)
The Newsroom showcased Olivia Munn's fluency in Japanese in an episode about the radiation as a result of the Fukushima Earthquake. A later episode also had Jeff Daniels and former Broadway actor John Gallagher Jr. sing and play the guitar.
Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs. Full stop. The guy can do anything, and pretty much every episode showcases this. He's even a classically-trained opera singer!
Ironically, the thing Mike has the most trouble with is usually the actual dirty job he is supposed to be doing in each episode.
Nashville runs on this trope, since most of the cast play either professional or aspiring singers/musicians and the ones who play guitar also do their own playing. That said, Juliette doing a solo number in church in front of the choir pretty much settles it for her.
The episode 'Mountie Sings The Blues' on Due South let Paul Gross show off his singing ability, and the 'Two Houses' song that Huey and Dewey are trying to 'write' is actually written by Paul Gross and his singing partner David Keeley. It's on their first CD. Also, 'All The Queen's Horses' had Paul singing 'Ride Forever', also on that CD (as well as the soundtrack.) Paul sings again in 'Mountie on the Bounty', doing Stan Roger's 'Barret's Privateers' and his own '32 Down on the Robert Mackenzie'.
Forever Knight had a musical scene in one ep that let Geraint Wyn Davies show off his piano skills.
A part of the reason Joe Dawson owned a blues bar in Highlander was so that Jim Byrnes could show off his skill as a guitarist and blues singer.
Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps did a Live Episode including a talent show, almost solely so Will Mellor (Gaz) can demo his juggling ability and Natalie Casey (Donna) can sing (her song, "Chick Chick Chicken", is an Actor Allusion - Casey holds the record for the youngest ever person to make the UK charts, having done so when that song made number 72 way back when she was three years old).
Wentworth Miller was a competitive swimmer in school, apparently the only reason he's swimming on a first-season episode of Prison Break.
Simon Helberg (Howard Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory) is skilled as a stage magician, and has gotten to perform tricks on more than one episode.
Adam De Vine of Workaholics has displayed his impressive voice several times, most notably in the episodes 'Office Campout' and 'Man Up'. The show also makes reference to Anders Holm's collegiate swimming days, though this hasn't yet been displayed on the show.
In some episodes of Warehouse13, Artie Nielsen sits down at a piano. In "Regrets," he plays a piece that he's written for his father. The piece, "Nocturne for Artie's Dad," was composed and performed by Saul Rubinek himself.
On Fantasy Island, Tattoo was often shown painting landscapes and nature in the later seasons, and Mr. Roarke tells a guest who admires a painting in Mr. Roarke's office that Tattoo is the artist. Herve Villechaize had studied at the Beaux-Arts in Paris and exhibited his paintings.
He also recorded a Symphonic Metal album titled Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross, a concept album about First Holy Emperor of Rome, King Charlemagne (whom he is a descendant from) which he sang the lead vocals on.
P!nk's live shows spend more and more time showing off her acrobatic/aerial abilities.
And in the more recent days of radio, on Adventures in Odyssey, Will Ryan's propensity for playing the ukulele (he would actually bring it to recording sessions) carried over into his character, Eugene.
Subverted in Im Sorry I Havent A Clue, which generally does not feature musical rounds when any of the panel members are talented singers (and which always has at least one musical round when Jeremy Hardy is on the show, because his singing voice is terrible).
The exception is Rob Brydon, who during his first appearance did a "Pick Up Song" of "Delilah" in which he revealed a really good and Tom-Jones-ish voice as well as a freakishly ability to stay in time when the music came back in. The show's accommodating him by continuing to give him Tom Jones songs in subsequent appearances arguably does qualify him for Cast Showoff.
Rob's true Crowning Music of Awesome comes in "One Song To The Tune Of Another". In a round when even decent singers consider themselves lucky to get to the end, he manages to make the most ridiculous combinations sound like that was how they were supposed to sound all along.
Also parodied on the show, as one of Benny's running gags was his painful violin playing, despite Benny actually being very talented at the instrument.
Back in the day, just about every radio show had one of these.
In The Navy Lark, most of the cast had a massive talent for humorous voices, particularly Jon Pertwee and Tenniel Evans, leading to many episodes having a great deal of Talking to Themselves.
Cabin Pressure stars Roger Allam, a twenty-year veteran of the West End and the original Javert in Les Misérables. Needless to say, his character, Douglas Richardson, does some singing, notably in "Fitton" and "Ottery St Mary". (His co-star Benedict Cumberbatch, a fine singer but not quite of West End caliber, joins in and certainly holds his own, but the musical limelight is Allam's.)
Carolyn: Hell is being trapped in a grounded aircraft with two middle aged pilots singing Puccini at you!
Anthony Head & Roger Allam: It's not Puccini!
Little Nell was given a chance to audition for The Rocky Horror Show after the director saw her tap dancing on the street. Her tap dancing was displayed during the Time Warp number and was kept in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
In the original production of Show Boat, The Eleven O'Clock Number included Kim doing impressions of contemporary stars such as Ethel Barrymore and Ted Lewis, for no good reason other than allowing featured actress Norma Terris to show off.
Little Voice, and the movie made of it, were both written specifically for Jane Horrocks after her incredible talent for mimicking singers and actresses was discovered.
Several of Noël Coward's plays have moments where the character originally acted by the author sits down at a grand piano and plays angrily.
On The Guild, Bladezz is occasionally seen toying with a deck of playing cards. Vincent Caso is known for carrying these everywhere he goes, and is noted on his character page to be "an accomplished sleight of hand artist and playing card handler."
Amy Okuda, who plays Tink, has been a dancer since she was 13. She gets to show it off in Do You Wanna Date My Avatar and Game On. Nobody objected. The music videos also highlight Felicia Day's talents as a singer.
Day has said she likes to write in actor's talents into the script so that's why Codex is a former violin prodigy (Day was a violinist) Tink playing basketball (Okuda played basketball).
Andrew, who plays all but three roles in The Time... Guys, is the only cast member who speaks Spanish, and this has influenced several gags.
Homestar Runner pretty much lives and breathes this trope, with the same two guys writing, animating, and voicing all but a couple of the characters themselves, but special mention goes to Matt's talent as a Man of a Thousand Voices (no other series with only one voice actor could handle the Loads and Loads of Characters they've added over the years), and the brothers' songwriting skills, which they started showcasing every few episodes or so by 2008-ish.
Linkara as well has shown his Sinatra-esque singing talents on occasion, not least with the character of Harvey Finevoice. This is lampshaded in his review of Treehouse of Horror #2, where he sings "A Policeman's Lot" (which Sideshow Bob does in the comic), and has this to say...
Oh, no joke or anything. It's just that I was in Penzance as the main police officer and it's rare for me to get a chance to sing the music, so I'm just indulging myself.
Brows Held High is pretty much Oancitizen saying "I have an education in film and theater," but he also dedicated an entire episode to showing off his singing voice by singing his review of The Man Who Fell to Earth to the tune of David Bowie. Similarly to MarzGurl, he can also speak Dutch.
Suburban Knights basically showcases Orlando's complete dominance in terms of martial arts skills.
Chad Roco of Familiar Faces started out as a fan artist on deviantART, who drew obscure characters in the style of a completely different artist or show and challenged his viewers to figure out who they were. That collage of headshots that appears at the beginning of every video and looks like it was ripped from dozens of random fan art galleries? All his own work.
Nash has his homebuilt Stratocaster, Laura, and the combo amp he built. He gets to show off not only his musical chops (which, while not excellent, aren't bad, either), but his technical know-how.
Stuff You Like's 10th episode is basically this for presenter Sursum Ursa. A sung review of Les Misérables? In several parts? To the tune of "One Day More"? Why not?
Shiny Objects Videos: Though usually played for Stylistic Suck, Daniel proves he really can sing in "Psychic Powers". As a writer, Curly likes to show off his extensive knowledge of trivia, as well.
One of the things most frequently said about the Global Guardians PBEM Universe is that the history of the Guardians Verse is as thick and interconnected as real life history, and thus the setting "feels real" to those writing for it. Jack Butler, the setting's creator, is not only a professional author, he also has a PHD in History.
The song is pretty much spot on for what has happened in the show though, so it could easily be thought of as performed by the character.
Since its return, Family Guy has increasingly become a platform for Seth Mac Farlane to show off his fondness for musical theatre and old MGM movies and, since he's half the cast, also his tremendous singing ability. In one season, not an episode went by without the show breaking into spontaneous chorus. Eventually this is parodied in "Road to Germany", where having gone back to WWII Europe via a time machine, Stewie, Brian, and Mort Goldman are trapped by Hitler, who threatens them with execution unless they perform a song and dance routine (each of the Road to... episodes up to that point had included one). Brian and Stewie begin to sing, but Mort cuts the song short, yelling at them to shut up and get in the time machine.
The episode Spies Reminiscent of Us may well have been written as an opportunity for Mila Kunis to speak in her native Russian.
Unsurprisingly, American Dad! appears to be going down the same route, if not to quite the same extent. Stan Smith has gotten a few great musical numbers courtesy of Seth. Also, Scott Grimes is a professional singer, and many episodes reference Steve Smith's singing talent.
Over the years the show has been used heavily as a vehicle for showcasing Trey Parker's talents and interests. Usually manifests in the form music numbers or hilarious use of horribly improper, but grammatically correct Japanese. Parker has a long relationship with music and studied Japanese in university before making it big.
Let's Fighting Love is the combination of both of these talents.
Isaac Hayes before he left. In almost every appearance, he's singing.
And of course, there's the famous scene in which Arleen Sorkin herself performs "Amazing Grace" on a kazoo.
Apparently getting Batman to sing was something that they were trying to do from the beginning because the voice actor Kevin Conroy had an excellent voice. He was one of the singers for the tongue-in-cheek Batman Musical bit in Batman Beyond but it wasn't until Justice League Unlimited that they got Batman to sing in-character.
Subverted in that this Batman is normally voiced by Diedrich Bader, while his singing voice was provided by Jeff Bennett. Probably done because, as Batman himself put it, he's "more of a baritone" and justified In-Universe by him artificially modifying it with a Bat-gadget.
Susie Carmichael had a few songs in All Grown Up! (and even a few in the Rugrats timeline). Her voice actress Cree Summer Francks had made a few records.
The Total Drama Action episode "The Princess Pride" features a song performed by Courtney, whose voice actress Emelie-Claire Barlow is an accomplished jazz singer.
Olivia Olson has had two characters geared to this: Vanessa Doofenshmirtz in Phineas and Ferb (which fits in quite well since there's a song every episode anyway), and Marceline the Vampire Queen in Adventure Time.
In the DVD commentaries, the writers for The Critic shamelessly admitted that they tried to get Jon Lovitz to sing any chance they got, noting that he has a very powerful singing voice.
The cast of Garfield and Friends includes singer Desirée Goyette as Nermal (who can also be heard in the Title Theme Tune). She gets to show off sometimes in the Nermal voice, but Thom Huge (Jon) is a pretty good singer too.
Many of the later episodes of Duckman had song and dance numbers, once again, to show off Jason Alexander's singing voice.
An aversion in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: In the DVD Commentary, Mandell admits that he really wished he wrote an excuse for Zach (played by Jerry Orbach) to sing. He did manage it with Laura Dean (Niko) in "The Ax," though.
Most of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic cast have voice doubles for songs, but Ashleigh Ball does the singing voice for both of her characters. It's not a coincidence that she happens to be the lead singer for band Hey Ocean. Similarly Apple Bloom has never been written as having any singing talent, but when it was discovered that her actress Michelle Creber had a great voice she was assigned as the singing double for her best friend Sweetie Belle. Andrea Libman voices Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy and is Fluttershy's singing voice. She is also fluent in French; a fact noted by fans upon hearing Fluttershy pronounce "haute couture".