Readers, friends, NBC executives who I'm sure are reading this, welcome. Today I have some very important matters to discuss and those matters have absolutely everything to do with my new favorite show, Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist created by Austin Winsberg.
Zoey's aired it's season one finale last night, entitled, "Zoey's Extraordinary Dad" and I cried big ole' tears. Jane Levy (Zoey herself!) also cried big tears and liked my response on Twitter of my matching blotchy face and mascara-running eyes (seriously, the one day I wear makeup). I wanted to write this as an ode to this brilliant show that has provided me with so many laughs and tears during this incredibly anxious and uncomfortable time. I'm praying (I don't pray so this is a big deal) that this show gets renewed and gets to tell its story more fully and continue to provide the world with songs and romance and tears. So here goes my very own heart song (if you know, you know) to this fantastic show:
***MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!!!***
Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist is about a quirky coder girl named Zoey (played by the magnificent Jane Levy) who goes to have an MRI after worry that her headaches might be a symptom of the disease her dad (Peter Gallagher) is suffering from. The MRI technican plays music for Zoey to lighten the mood, but when an earthquake hits while she's getting her brain scanned she ends up with a really bizarre superpower that allows her to hear what/how people are feeling expressed through songs they sing for only her to hear. I orginially believed this to be a halfhour comedy. I was very wrong.
Zoey's power reveals a lot of things to her in the beginning episodes; her boss' failing marriage, her coworker crush's depression, her best friend's love for her, and an ability to connect and communicate with her ailing father although he cannot speak for himself. All of these revelations are told through what Zoey refers to as 'heart songs' and perhaps my favorite running gag of the series is that Zoey has absolutely no idea what the name of the songs people are singing to her are, and constantly asks her friend Mo (the extraordinarly talented Alex Newell) to tell her what they are. ("You were singing about all these issues you were having." "It was probably the song 'Issues'.")
Zoey has a lot of pressure put on her (by herself) throughout the series to use her powers for good. She shows a strong sense of empathy that allows her to ask the people singing to her outright if there's something they need. She helps her boss Joan (Lauren Graham) leave her egotistical husband, sets her best friend Max (Skylar Astin) up with a lonely barista (Stephanie Styles), communicates baby-related apprehension between her brother (Andrew Leeds) and sister-in-law (Alice Lee), makes a new friend and potential romantic partner (John Clarence Stewart) by bonding over mutual grief, and allows her father's last few months to be filled with as much love and connection as possible for her heartbroken mother (Mary Steenburgen).
The charm of Zoey's lies within the chemistry of the cast and the magic of music as a form of communication. Jane Levy is spectacular. She lights up every scene and truly makes Zoey's compassion and empathy come across so well, even in situations where the answer isn't always crystal clear. The love triangle between her, Max (Astin), and Simon (Stewart) is frustratingly relatable. Here, she's torn between her best friend who would do anything for her, and her hot coworker who's engaged and then...not engaged. Personally, I am pro-Max because of my longtime crush on Skylar Astin, but also because I can't resist a friends-to-lovers story.
Here, Max sings "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" to Zoey after a rough night out when she needs to get back home to her dad ASAP. Try not to swoon. I dare you. I hear you, Team Simon shippers, I hear you, but how...how can you not be Team Max after this?
The beauty of Zoey's is that it is so much more than a melodramatic musical. The show accomplishes exactly what it wants to do, and that's tell a beautiful story about a young woman and her friends and family experiencing the hardships of life through...song.
My personal favorite episode is "Zoey's Extraordinary Glitch", where Zoey's powers are inverted to the degree that instead of hearing people sing to her, she sings to them. Out loud. During really inoppurtune moments. Including the most brilliant television moment I have ever seen in which Zoey sings "Pressure" by Billy Joel to a room full of people during a conference meeting. In Zoey's mind, it's this grand musical number and everyone else is dancing too, but in real life it's just her shouting and running around until Max comes in and helps save the day with some improvised dance moves. Shoutout to choreographer Mandy Moore, y'all. What a genius.
This episode just fully encapsulates everything that Zoey's is about, and proves what a badass rockstar Jane Levy is. From foolishly singing love songs to both Max and Simon to crying on her couch singing "How Do I Live?" by Leann Rimes to her dying father, Levy doesn't disappoint. I remember texting my aunt while watching this episode and saying "I can't stop laughing" but then two minutes later saying "I can't stop crying". It's a rollercoaster and I am so thankful to be on this ride.
If you needed anymore reasons to watch this beautiful show, I'll give you some; 1) the relationship between Zoey's parents, Maggie and Mitch, is true love at its finest. These two LOVE each other. And I love them! Their relationship is so healthy and lovely and heartbreaking all rolled into one. 2) Zoey's friendship with her landlord/neighbor Mo. Mo has the voice of an angel and an amazing episode of his own when he sings "This Little Light of Mine" dressed as his truest, most authentic self. Mo also serves as the voice of reason Zoey so desperately needs. 3) Zoey's coworkers, Leif and Tobin. They remind me a little of Troy and Abed from Community with their shenanigans and love for one another. They aren't used just for comic relief either, Leif's relationship with his boss Joan gives him emotional layers that on any other show would go unnoticed and untouched. 4) Howie!!! Zak Orth plays Mitch's caretaker and the father of a deaf woman with coding skills just like Zoey. Howie is wholesome, protective, and just all around a great addition to the cast. The scene where his daughter signs "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten to him in a fit of rage is so moving and beautiful and such a great story to tell. More Howie in season 2 please!
***REAL SPOILERS HERE!!!***
Last night's season finale (and possible series finale if NBC doesn't do the right thing and renew this bad boy!) was a lot to take in. Zoey's dad Mitch's declining health is in its final stages, and there's no twists and turns or ifs and buts to it; he's going to die.
Zoey spends the episode knowing bad news is on the horizon, yet not letting it overwhelm her. She's still torn between Simon and Max, telling Simon he doesn't need to be jealous one minute and then kissing Max in her apartment the next. Ultimately, she recieves word that she needs to go say her goodbyes to her father, and in the classiest way to end (or perhaps stall) a love triangle I have ever seen, with Max calling Simon to tell him to reach out to Zoey, and Simon thanking Max for thinking of him.
Zoey asks Howie the important questions about death, Zoey's brother David and his wife Emily say/sing a heartbreaking goodbye to Mitch and don't hide their disappointment that he will never meet their unborn child, Max tells Mitch exactly how he feels about Zoey, and Maggie curls up next to Mitch in a final goodbye. I'm crying writing this, guys.
Of course Zoey's goodbye is a little unorthodox because she can still talk to her dad through song, and the two of them dance to Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" (a callback from the pilot, I love!) in the living room, holding each other close and emboding true father/daughter love. Wow, the tears just will not stop coming.
The final scene of the episode and the season is a seven minute one shot take of all the characters singing "American Pie" at the reception of Mitch's funeral. I can't stop watching this scene, so now you have to watch it too. This cannot be the end. It simply cannot be. I need more of this show.
In closing, I will leave my best friend Austin Winsberg (he doesn't know we're best friends but we totally are) with my suggestions for season 2 of Zoey's. Please take them very seriously.
- Please have Peter Gallagher continue to return in either flashbacks or still singing to Zoey. He is so integral to the story and adds such warmth to the show.
- More Lauren Graham! I know her return is kind of a question mark right now and they set up her departure in the finale, but Joan is so funny and such a delight and good friend to Zoey. I also surprisingly loved her relationship with Lief.
- For the love triangle to not go on forever. I understand it needs to play out some more, but I'd really love Zoey to pick a man and stick to him, with drama ensuing elsewhere.
- More David and Emily! I love Zoey's brother and his wife and am interested to see them adjust to being parents and Zoey being an aunt.
- And finally, perhaps most importantly, consider adding me to the cast as a new coder at SPRQ Point and a love interest for Tobin. Come on! The man is just too sweet and adorable and deserves a love story. Here are my credentials: I already love the show, I can sing, I can kind of dance, I have almost a whole degree in Media and Theatre Arts (I'll be done in December with the entire degree), I have acted most of my life in theatre projects, I really really want to be on this show. Okay, there's my plea. Thank you for your time.
There you have it, folks. This show is the best thing network TV has seen in a while. It has been a joy to share my Sunday evenings with this talented crew and I'd like to continue to do so. NBC, please renew this show! I need it, my aunt needs it, you need it, we all need it! And thank you to Austin Winsberg, Mandy Moore, and Jane Levy for this greatness and sharing your talent with the world. We need art right now, and this is it.
Perhaps I'm 15 years late to watching one of the greatest (and shortest lived) shows of all time, but that doesn't mean I can't gush over it now. Especially when it's movie and Hulu revival are incredibly timely (Season 4 premiered on the streaming service last Friday).
Season 1 of Veronica Mars is a near perfect season of television. It has a season-long mystery that leaves you wondering who killed Veronica's (Kristen Bell) best friend Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried). The show's first season doesn't just focus on this awful tragedy, but dives into the mysteries of high school in general, and the emotional trauma that can come from such a devastating event at such a pivotal time in one's life.
Season 2 certainly took things up a notch, further complicating issues even if Lilly's murder case was solved. If you haven't watched it, this is your firm SPOILER ALERT to not read any further if you don't want to be, you know, spoiled. If you don't plan on watching it but just want to read my lovely writing, that's kind of weird, but I'll allow it. And if you're on the fence about watching Veronica Mars and need a reason to, go ahead and read on as I explain why you must.
For clarity purposes, I’ve divided this episode up into two sections; recap and review.
TRIGGER WARNING: The rest of this article contains a storyline revolving around murder, suicide, child molesting, and rape.
Veronica Mars tackles senior year in Season 2, and after capturing her best friend's murderer seems to be doing pretty well for herself. Except for nearly a week into her last year of high school, a bus that she was supposed to be on crashes and kills 9 students and faculty members. She spends the season searching for who did it and why, but can't seem to put the pieces together. Until this episode, that is.
Mayor Woody Goodman (Steven Guttenburg) is a child molester, targeting the boys on his little league baseball teams over the years. Two of those victims happen to be those who passed along following the crash of the bus earlier this season. Veronica, on the heels of graduation day is on the search for another victim, one whose voice can be heard but is unidentifiable on a tape sent to Goodman in preparation to out him as the abuser he is.
Veronica goes looking at pictures of previous little league teams. Not pictured in one of those photos, our good friend Cassidy ‘Beaver’ Casablancas (Kyle Gallner). And suddenly everything makes sense. Veronica's rape, something explained in season 1 as a roofied-induced consenual encounter with her ex-boyfriend, is now proven to be just that, a rape. The rapist? Beav. How does Veronica know? Let's just say that Vinne VanLowe (Ken Marino), god I love Vinnie Van Lowe, like so much, obtained Woody Goodman's medical records and discovered that he had twice been treating for chlamydia, the STD Veronica was treated for a couple episodes back, something she contracted from her rapist, one of Woody's victims. Everything hits Veronica at once, as she and the audience solve the mystery together.
At the end of season 1, Cassidy's involvement with Veronica on the night she was given GhB and wakes up without her underwear in a guest bedroom is almost dismissed too easily. He claims his older brother Dick (Ryan Hansen) pressured him into sleeping with an unconscious Veronica, but he politely abstained, and a flashback revealed him placing her skirt over her thigh and tucking her into bed. It's too easy. And too odd of a memory to sweep under the rug.
After figuring out exactly what happened, both on the night of Shelley Pomroy's party and the day of the bus crash, Veronica rushes to the Neptune Grand to rescue her friend Mac (Tina Majorino) from sleeping with the Chlamydia given-mass murderer-rapist Beaver, whom she is dating. My only wish here is that Veronica NOT text Mac, "Stay away from Beaver. He's a killer." Because like, what if he sees it? (Spoiler alert: He does). But as far as writing goes, this is fantastic because it's something so true to Veronica's character. She's smart as hell, but only 18, and naive in thinking it'll be easy to reach her friend or that she will even believe her. She is, as presented in the rose-colored fantasy sequence at the beginning of the episode "too trusting", for her own good.
Veronica meets Cassidy on the roof, where she explains the mystery of the entire season to the audience, ehrm, Beaver. I need not explain it here, but basically Cassidy is a jackass. He admits to raping Veronica and crashing the bus in an effort to silence two of Woody's other victims. He then tells her that she has one minute to call her father before he blows up the plane that he and Woody are both on, and then he will shoot and kill her. The whole scene takes place on the rooftop in the dead of night, incredibly eerily as Veronica screams at him, “You RAPED me!”.
As Cassidy talks her ear off about bombs and how she has nothing to live for now that he’s killed her father, Veronica sneaks a text to Logan (Jason Dohring) urging him to meet her on the rooftop of the Neptune Grand.
Logan, who doesn't have Veronica's number saved in his phone for some reason (?) goes to the rooftop and tackles Cassidy with the gun pointed at his ex-girlfriend. Cassidy shoots at Logan, and misses, and Veronica lunges back and escapes with the gun in her possession. In quite possibly the most heartbreaking and raw acting I've ever seen on television, Veronica points the gun at Cassidy, with Logan standing nearby, and yells, "HE KILLED MY FATHER. HE CRASHED THE BUS. HE RAPED ME." Goosebumps. Silence. Logan in true prince-charming epic LoVe (that's their ship name, obviously) fashion, assures Veronica that she is not a killer, and to hand the gun over to him. For a brief moment I thought he might shoot Cassidy himself, and prayed that he wouldn't, adding more damage to his resume.
But Logan doesn't shoot. Instead, he pulls Veronica in close and consoles her as Beaver makes his way to the edge of the building. As LoVe embraces, Logan watches as the season’s antagonist gets ready to fall. “Beaver, don’t!” He screams, stepping toward him.
“My name is Cassidy!” He cries. Logan takes another step and pleads, “Cassidy, don’t!”
But he does. He asks Veronica and Logan, “Why shouldn’t I?” And when neither of them offer up an answer, the silence is deafening. He falls to his death, and Veronica cries into Logan’s arms. The pair run to check on Mac, who has been stripped of everything but a shower curtain. Cassidy took her clothes and everything in the room, leaving her alone and scared.
Veronica wakes up the next morning surprised that her father (Enrico Colantoni) is alive and wasn’t on the plane that killed Woody Goodman. Whew. What a relief. The two embrace and she explains to him everything that happened.
Obviously, this is the main plot of the episode, but other things that happen and will be discussed include: Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and Jackie’s (Tessa Thompson) whirlwind romance coming to an end, the death of Aaron Echolls (Harry Hamlin) orchestrated by Duncan (Teddy Dunn), the arrest of Weevil (Francis Capra), and the return of Kendall Casablancas (Charisma Carpenter).
The beauty of Veronica Mars is the complexity and simplicity. Season 2, at its beginning, seemed to bite off more than it could chew. Lilly’s killer was in custody and awaiting trial, Logan was accused of murdering a PCHer, Veronica was in a love triangle, Wallace had a troubled love interest, the bus crashed, and probably like 5 other things I’m failing to mention. But by the end of the season, I’m forgiving of the complicated twists and turns because just like life, Veronica Mars is messy, and the cleanup is difficult but rewarding.
What I love most about the events in this season finale is the fact that while all the loose ends to tie up, it's not an easy road to get there, nor is it a comfortable one. Now, I'm not saying it's obvious upon a rewatch that Cassidy "Beaver" Casablancas is this psychotic villain, but the way the shows explains itself sure does make a lot of sense.
I've read a lot that people don't love the retcon of Veronica's rape here, painting Cassidy to be an even eviler sack of shit than already established once you realize he killed nine innocent people in an effort to stop two of the victims from dragging him into the assination of Goodman's character. However, I think it's brilliant. Veronica’s GhB consenual sex with Duncan was too simple (ha, I know that sentence is ridiculous and not simple at all). But in a series filled with trauma and terrible people in a terrible town, it seems as though the only explanation for that night was rape. It’s uncomfortable to watch Veronica confront her rapist, more uncomfortable to watch him confess and then most uncomfortable to watch her point a gun at him.
It’s for our entertainment value, sure, but there’s something so heartbreakingly real about Veronica’s realization that she was assaulted and that she has finally captured the man who did it. For the past year she has been healing, for lack of a better word, from the wounds she suffered her sophomore and junior years of high school. As she uncovers the truth (something she does so well), she is stripped down and proved to be only human. She is unforgiving and out for revenge, but Logan is right, she is not a killer. She cannot kill Cassidy Casablancas.
The show never makes light of Veronica’s sexual assault, nor does it make light of Cassidy’s molestation. Is Cassidy ultimately a sympathetic villain? I don’t know. I can’t forgive him for the deaths of nine innocent people or for raping our titular character. But the pain in his eyes as he decides to fall off the building is somehow heartbreaking. Is it hard to believe that sweet little Beaver raped Veronica after all he has been through himself? Yes and then no. Cassidy proved himself to be the opposite of Veronica this season. While she took her trauma and turned around and helped others, he let it manifest and inflicted it onto others.
Veronica’s trauma is too much for one person to handle, I’ve concluded. As she takes the elevator to meet Cassidy on the roof she encounters Aaron Echolls, the man who bashed her best friend’s head in with an ashtray and last season, trapped her in a burning refrigerator. I was shocked in the last episode when he was found not guilty, but I was even more shocked to see him side by side with Veronica, and the absolutely mortified look on her face as she realizes she’s stuck in an elevator with him, unable to escape, once again.
It’s all good, though, because in the episode’s final moments he is shot dead by Clarence Wiedman (Christopher B. Duncan). It’s one of my only real complaints about the episode, because it’s super anticlimactic. Basically, he sleeps with Kendall following his release from prison, and then while she goes to the bathroom Clarence sneaks in and shoots the back of his head. The show’s (previous) biggest, baddest villain is dead in two seconds with no follow-up.
Which brings me to another poorly tied loose-end, Wallace and Jackie. Jackie goes back to New York to live with her mom who is not an Upper West Side model, but instead a waitress at a diner. She confesses to Wallace that she must stay in New York to raise her son so that she doesn’t turn into the man her father is. I get that Tessa Thomspon’s time on the show had to come to an end, (I really disliked her for most of the season), but this just felt like such a cop-out. They didn’t need to give Jackie a kid to prove that she needed to stay in New York. They simply could’ve written her off, but instead I have to watch my sweet baby Wallace Fennel struggle as he learns the truth about his first true love.
Despite its few flaws, “Not Pictured” does a great job at keeping viewers on the edge of their seats and enticing them to keep watching. We never get to know what happened to Weevil following his arrest at graduation (I love that the ceremony continued as he got cuffed because that’s just the kind of town Neptune is) and we have no idea what kind of proposition Kendall Casablancas is trying to make Keith as he tries to leave for his New York trip with Veronica. We don’t know how Dick will react to his brother’s suicide, and how Mac will cope with learning that her (now ex) boyfriend was a murderer and rapist.
This episode also marks the last appearance of Teddy Dunn as Duncan Kane and Amanda Seyfried as Lilly Kane. In Veronica’s rose-colored dream about her graduation day, her mother has not left, she’s dating Logan (epic), she doesn’t know Wallace, and most importantly Lilly is still alive. Veronica approaches her best friend as she questions the Lilly Kane Memorial on the side of the school building. It’s a sideways world where everything is seemingly perfect (except Veronica not being BFFs with Wallace! We can’t have that!) but it also proves in order for Veronica to be the person and private investigator she is, Lilly had to die and her mom had to leave. It’s heartbreaking in many ways but reassuring in some.
Veronica has far from a great life. But she has a wonderful father, an epic LoVe story, and great friends. She’s been through Hell and back, and arguably shouldn’t be put through any more (it’s really a wonder she’s still standing, seriously Rob Thomas give the girl a break). She gets knocked down a lot, but “Not Pictured” proves that she has the ability to get back up, turn on the charming wit, and march forward.
It’s hard to create the perfect season finale of a television show, but “Not Pictured” is so freaking close. It's the most gut-wrenching season finale I've ever seen. The way the stories all connect and make more sense than I ever could’ve thought is unbelievable, and I’m thankful to be able to watch it, even all these years after it aired.
You got thoughts? Give them to me! Comment your thoughts on the season finale of Veronica Mars or the fact that you're impressed with yourself for making it through this horrendously lengthly blog post.
This week ABC's newest drama is airing its season finale and I think we should talk about it. Disclaimer: There are no spoilers included in this post so that means upon reading this you must go watch the show ASAP.
During the Summer, I spent my weeknights watching the absolute beautiful garbage that is Bachelor in Paradise on ABC. During this time, I saw a promo commercial, more times than I could count, for a show about a man naming John killing himself. It made me roll my eyes every single time. I was never going to watch this show, because it looked as if it was glorifying suicide and mental illness. It looked like a melodramatic This is Us ripoff. But let me say something that is going to absolutely blow your mind, I enjoyed this freshman season of A Million Little Things more than the current season of This is Us. Shocking? I know.
I started watching A Million Little Things because that dumb promo caught my attention. It seemed so silly. How was ABC going to correctly depict mental illness within a group of adult friends who have already neglected the pain of their own enough to let him go? The trick was, they weren't. A Million Little Things tells the story of John Dixon (Ron Livingston), a business man and father of two who, in the very first episode takes his own life. This comes as an absolute surprise to his assistant, his wife, his children, and all of his friends.
John meets all of his closest friends in an elevator (revealed in flashbacks later on) and they become what this show is really about. Among them is seemingly-happy, but ultimately depressed aspiring filmmaker Rome (Romany Malco) and his talented chef wife Regina (Christina Moses), musician who has struggled with alcoholism though this is never really discussed but it's fine Eddie (David Guintoli) and his workaholic wife Katherine (Grace Park), and breast cancer survivor and the Chandler of the group Gary (James Roday), who takes John's suicide the hardest.
In the first episode, Gary meets Maggie (Allison Miller), a therapist and fellow cancer survivor, at a breast cancer support group and the two have sex in the bathroom and somehow that is her initiation into the friend group (I'm kidding of course), but for real, these people love Maggie right away and become her BFF instantly (which is fair, because her and Gary are the best characters on the show).
John's wife Delilah (Stephanie Szostak) is kind of the glue that holds the group together, and also what is tearing them apart. You see, she's been shacking up with one of John's besties, and basically she is just hella problematic, but it makes for such great TV so who cares, really? But seriously, f you, Delilah, you make very, very bad decisions.
This show has become a highlight of my week. It's filled with mysteries and real talk about mental illness. Rome is struggling with depression and nobody knows; the only thing that encourages him to get help is the death of his dear friend, and that hurts. These characters are also incredibly flawed; Gary is cynical and a little over-emotional, Maggie mistakes hurting her loved ones for protecting them, Katherine struggles to feel seen in anything she does, Rome and Regina don't communicate enough, Eddie's hot, but kinda sucks, and Delilah is a very messy friend. But they're all so human, which I feel is something we don't see enough of on TV.
16 episodes of this show have aired and we still don't quite know why John did it, but somehow that isn't the point. The point is that it is a conversation that those around him are having. The point is his depressed friend is seeking help. The point is that we get to see a beautiful relationship develop between two people with so much to live for and a relationship break down between two people who have no business being together. The point is Delilah is the worst character ever. The point is that this show is GOOD.
So please, do yourself a favor and check out A Million Little Things. It's a great show with a lot of depth and an emotional rollercoaster that doesn't overdo it. It's a show that is flawed and messy and perfect all rolled into one. This show deserves more praise and recognition. Trust me, you'll thank me later.