I just read the terrible news on Twitter that Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is not getting renewed at NBC or on its streaming service, Peacock. Show creator Austin Winsberg is asking people to tweet #saveZoeysplaylist to help get it onto another network, so I’m doing my part. It needs to be saved!
Have you seen this show yet? It’s based on a bizarre premise.
In episode one, Zoey Clarke (Jane Levy), a software developer, is getting an MRI when an earthquake hits and this somehow results her acquiring a crazy new superpower: She can hear people’s innermost thoughts and emotions expressed in song, which she calls heart songs. Nobody but Zoey can see it, but in the middle of a normal conversation (or just during a walk down the street!), people suddenly burst into song, complete with elaborate production numbers, and humanity’s emotional complexities are revealed in all their musical splendor.
Surprisingly, it’s not even a little bit annoying; in fact, it’s delightful. The songs range from classics to show tunes, from DJ Khaled to The Partridge Family, Lizzo to Marcy Playground, Irving Berlin to Taylor Swift, and the production numbers are creatively done in offices, coffee shops, and even funeral parlors. Yes, I said funeral parlors. When the show begins, Zoey is dealing with the impending death of her father (Peter Gallagher), who has progressive supranuclear palsy and is in rapid decline. This is the burden she carries with her throughout as she tries to get through her day.
The show just wrapped its second season. Here’s why it deserves a third:
Season 2 ended on a cliffhanger
Zoey’s love life has been a bit of a trampoline ride. She’s been going back and forth between Simon (the super handsome John Clarence Stewart), a coworker who bonds with her because he’s still reeling from the death of his father; and Max (Skylar Austin), her best friend-turned-boyfriend-turned-back-into-best-friend. At the end of the season, Zoey hears Max sing “When a Man Loves a Woman” to his new girlfriend, then finds out it wasn’t really about the girlfriend—and then another, bigger twist hit, and I MUST KNOW WHAT HAPPENS.
It’s an emotional roller coaster
I love a good cry, and this show delivers plenty of ‘em. All the stuff with Zoey’s dad hit me hard in such a beautiful way that makes my heart feel fuller after weeping through it, not empty like after a character dies for no reason on, say, 24. The other big emotional beats for me have come from the journey of Zoey’s friend and neighbor Mo (Alex Newell, who played Unique on Glee), the post-partum struggles of her sister-in-law Emily (Alice Lee), and of course, the ups and downs her mom (Mary Steenburgen) is going through.
Watching it is so much fun!
Despite everything in the previous paragraph, the show is not a downer. People are singing, everywhere, out of the blue, all the time, and emoting like crazy, which can be pretty hilarious depending on who’s doing it and where they are. There are great singers and dancers in the cast, and some who aren’t so great, and it doesn’t matter one whit.
They know how to do “issues”
When Zoey (as a senior-level exec) tries to help her team address workplace inequalities, she gets the terrible idea to have everyone participate in an open forum to discuss them. It turns into a disaster of white people trying to prove they’re not racist (“my stepdad’s Black!”) (“I took a knee at the company softball game”). It’s very funny, and spot-on.
Great guest stars
My three favorites so far have been Bernadette Peters as a widow who befriends Zoey’s mom, Oscar Nunez (from The Office) as Zoey’s therapist, and Renée Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton) as an executive at Zoey’s company. If they get a third season, no doubt they’ll get to bring in even more great people.
There’s no other show like it
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is utterly unique. It uses the gimmick, if you can call it that, of heart songs to reveal deep truths about its characters and about humanity in general. There are moments when I think this is the coolest superpower of all.