NBC started 2020 with something extraordinary. Her name is Zoey and she has a playlist.
Full disclosure: I grew up in a musical and theatre family. My dad sang, my mother was a piano teacher, all three kids played instruments and my sister and I danced. I knew Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, and Mickey Rooney before any songs on the radio. Music has always been a part of my life. It’s how I process the world.
So the pilot of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist was right up my alley. Zoey is a quiet, rather sad computer programmer whose father is suffering from a neurological disorder that makes him unable to speak or move. After a freak event in an MRI, Zoey is suddenly able to hear people’s innermost hidden thoughts and feelings through songs that only she can hear.
This isn’t the first time network television has incorporated music into a dramedy. Ally McBeal had a dancing baby. Eli Stone became a prophet after George Michael sang that he “Gotta Have Faith” in his living room.
Full disclosure #2: I was a dedicated fan of both shows and am a proud owner of Eli Stone DVD’s.
More recently, Glee and then Crazy Ex-Girlfriend had their fair share of musical followers. The genre allows writers to play more with the audience and break a few rules.
One of the problems many people have with musical theatre is the idea of people going about their day and then suddenly bursting into song and dance with full orchestration. Not really a melophile herself, Zoey has the same problem. So in the pilot, she gives a lot of laugh-out-loud commentary about the songs she hears and the people she “sees” singing them.
Ally McBeal believed that people’s lives should have a theme song. So it was important that she choose the right one. Eli Stone took the music that came to him as directions for his actions. The key was to interpret them correctly. Zoey takes a nod from both.
And in a sea of network crime procedurals and dark streaming service dramas, Zoey is a breath of fresh air. The show is poignant. She is finally able to connect with her father in a musical moment.
It’s funny. How would you feel if a mob of strangers started chasing you down the street in choreographed unison?
And it focuses on a problem in our society. People don’t really communicate. We aren’t connecting in any real or honest way.
Fans of the genre will love that the show is full of talented singers and even an Emmy-winning choreographer. (Thank you, Mandy Moore.) But if you didn’t like La-La Land, this probably won’t be up your alley.
The biggest problem with Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is that the follow-up episode won’t air for a month. And we all know how long TV audiences’ attention spans are.
But if you remember, it’s certainly worth a listen. After all, I hear music is good for you.