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Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist Review 2020 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew Online
Stars: Jane Levy, Skylar Astin, Alex Newell
If you watched Sunday’s Golden Globes on the network, you probably saw a few dozen ads for its new big bet of a TV show, musical comedy “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” (preview Tuesday, 10 EST/PST; returns Sundays, 9 EST/PST Feb. 16, ★★★ out of four). If you couldn’t catch the gist from the promos, the series centers on Zoey (Jane Levy, “Suburgatory”), a woman who, after an MRI mishap, hears other people’s thoughts through elaborate song and dance numbers.
When a stranger needs help? He or she sings “Help” by the Beatles. Someone with a crush might sing “Sucker” by the Jonas Brothers. A colleague working through grief sings “Mad World” by Gary Jules. All the while, only Zoey can hear the songs and see the accompanying dance moves.
The stars explain:Why NBC’s ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ gets emotional with Van Morrison, Jonas Brothers tunes
John Clarence Stewart as Simon, Jane Levy as Zoey Clarke and Skylar Astin as Max on “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.”
Strange and ambitious concept? Absolutely. But when it comes to executing what is essentially “X-Men” telepath Professor X trapped in the “Glee” classroom, “Zoey” hits most of the right notes. Created by Austin Winsberg (“Gossip Girl,” “The Sound of Music Live!”), the series happily embraces its musical numbers with gusto and builds a strong stable of characters – and talented voices such as Peter Gallagher, Skylar Astin, Mary Steenburgen and Lauren Graham – to sing them. There is certainly room for improvement, but the cast is so charming and the tone so joyful that “Zoey” carries itself through a few early hiccups.
Zoey is a quiet, less-than-confident computer programmer living in San Francisco when she goes through her life-changing MRI. At work, she’s having a tough time interviewing for a promotion, while in her personal life, she and her family struggle with her father Mitch’s (Peter Gallagher) degenerative neurological disorder, which renders him mostly paralyzed and unable to communicate.
Jane Levy as Zoey and Peter Gallagher as Mitch on “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.”
The power of mind-reading through song helps Zoey realize which of her co-workers really has her back (not many) and that her best friend, Max (Astin), is in love with her. In the first episode’s best scene, she’s able to communicate with her father after so much silence between them. Zoey confides her secret power only to her gender-fluid neighbor, Mo (Alex Newell), a DJ who offers advice both musical and spiritual.
In the first four episodes, there isn’t a lot of depth to the stories or the way the songs are used, other than Mitch’s scenes. Mostly, the lyrics of the songs serve as a bridge to the emotions of Zoey’s friends, family and acquaintances. You almost wish the series made the audience work for it a little more. Maybe there was a subtler choice to be made than when Zoey’s boss Joan (Graham) is unsatisfied in her crumbling marriage and sings “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones?
“Zoey” does, occasionally, make more nuanced musical choices. After Max sleeps with his new girlfriend, he doesn’t bust out “The Lonely Island” song “I Just Had Sex,” but instead belts out a jubilant opera tune. The moment is all the funnier for the implication rather than an explanation.
Jane Levy as Zoey in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.”
The series ventures a bit into “Joan of Arcadia” territory, the 2003-05 CBS series that also starred Steenburgen, when the songs follow Zoey around until she starts helping the singers. That raises questions about the mechanics of her power (and the basic plot of the show) that the writers have yet to answer. Is Zoey an angel? A superhero? Is there more magic in the world? Or is it really all just science?
“Zoey” has a magnetic cast and – most importantly – an incredible flair for staging its musical numbers. The songs are visually interesting even if there aren’t coordinated background dancers. Putting together a TV musical is no small feat. The live musical event trend has had more than its share of duds, from “Rent” to “The Little Mermaid” and “Peter Pan,” in part because the people behind them didn’t quite grasp what makes a musical tick.
If nothing else, “Zoey” is a celebration of the unabashedly joyful, big and loud musical number. After sing-song wonders “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Glee” left the air, that’s enough to win the hearts of theater nerds.
Beyond its music, the series needs a little “Help” to become great. But all signs, musical or not, indicate it will eventually get there.
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