Review: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Year: 2020
Creator: Austin Winsberg
Stars: Jane Levy, Stephanie Styles, Hiro Kanagawa, Lauren Graham, John Clarence Stewart, Peter Gallagher, Skylar Astin

By Morgan Roberts

NBC’s new television series “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” is more than just a musical comedy.  Zoey (Jane Levy) works at a tech company.  Her boss, Joan (Lauren Graham) has given her a job promotion which puts her more directly in contact with Joan but also having to oversee an entirely male team.  At work, she has two confidants, Simon (John Clarence Stewart) and Max (Skylar Astin), but tends to have to handle situations on her own.  Outside of work, Zoey’s father, Mitch (Peter Gallagher), is sick and her mother, Maggie (Mary Steenburgen) is his main caregiver.

If that situation wasn’t enough, Zoey, afraid she is developing the same condition as her father, goes to have an MRI; during the MRI, an earthquake strikes, and once she comes out, she begins hearing everyone’s thoughts in song.  That’s right, everyone starts singing to her and then she has to find out how to help them. It starts with Simon, singing “Mad World,” and Zoey learning of his father’s recent passing. But with great power comes great responsibility.  To help her harness her power, Zoey’s neighbor, Mo (Alex Newell) steps in to be a comedic sounding board.

zoey jane
Jane Levy in Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (2020)

While “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” is fun and whimsical in the song and dance numbers, the show possesses a lot of heart.  We see a very accurate portrayal of a family struggling to operate in a new normal when one member begins to deteriorate due to a terminal neurological disease. It is this overarching storyline that is truly remarkable to be so earnestly portraying in this manner.  It humanizes a very difficult reality for many people.

“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” is not just an enjoyable show to watch.  It is able to also tackle some really difficult topics, and does so in a very honest manner. 

And this isn’t the only thing that this show manages to Trojan Horse into it.  It touches on mental health through Simon’s father’s death. It focuses on sexism in the workplace.  It expands from there to look at Joan, a woman in a power of position, having to justify herself in many aspects of her life.  With everything, the show just highlights that when we really listen to others, we’ll learn more about them, and might even be able to help them.

zoey
Jane Levy in Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (2020)

Yes, the songs and the dances are fun.  Music is a powerful way of communication.  Sure, a musical comedy is not new. Nor is it a radical idea to give a person some supernatural power that forces them to help others.  But the way the cast portrays complexity and sincerity to human experiences is what takes this show to a new level. They are quick with their witty quips, but able to hold that authenticity to the heavier subjects.

“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” is not just an enjoyable show to watch.  It is able to also tackle some really difficult topics, and does so in a very honest manner.  And that is what truly makes it extraordinary.

4.5 stars

 

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