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.