New NBC musical series introduces sweet, not silly, lead

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NBC’s new musical series, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”, is humorous and heart warming.  Photo courtesy of    variety.com

NBC’s new musical series, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”, is humorous and heart warming. Photo courtesy of variety.com

How many shows have you seen with a cute, quirky lead who just can’t seem to get her life together? Probably a lot. “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” is, luckily, not exactly like all those other shows but does match the heart and tone of them. 

Zoey (Jane Levy) is a sweet character, but she’s not exactly eccentric or bumbling like other common quirky characters. Unlike Jessica Day of “New Girl” or Kimmy Schmidt of Netflix’s eponymous series, Zoey is a little older and seems comfortable in the life she’s made for herself. The 30-year-old software engineer’s story doesn’t seem like it will focus so much on her growth and development in a career as much as it will on her changing relationship with her parents and her quest for romantic love.  

Instead of filling her world with a cast of zany friends, the first episode introduces viewers to Zoey’s family and her close friend at work, Max. While Zoey has a seemingly perfect life (great job, nice apartment, a good friend), her father Mitch’s medical condition is devastating her family. Though his disease is not mentioned by name, viewers can see that he has lost the ability to talk as well as a lot of his motor capabilities. Zoey’s mother Maggie cares for her husband, and Zoey and her brother visit their parents often. 

This dimension of the show — a look at what it’s like when a parent is in poor health — sets “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” apart from other shows with young women leads. Instead of having her new date in the back of her mind each episode, Zoey is always contemplating her father and his worsening condition. It adds a layer of depth to the show while also allowing series creators the opportunity to show a family’s resilience and strength in the face of a devastating condition. 

Billed as a comedy, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” isn’t always all sadness and despair. One of the main features of the show is its musical numbers, which only Zoey can see. When something goes wrong during an MRI Zoey gets after fearing she might have her father’s condition, she can suddenly hear everyone’s inner thoughts in song. Strangers, Max and even her father sing to her their desires and struggles. Admittedly, this element of the show is very contrived, especially since no one but Zoey can see the grand musical numbers occurring obviously in the middle of busy streets or in her office. Nevertheless, this ability allows Zoey to connect to people on another level and reveals to her others’ thoughts and feelings she never would have been privy to otherwise. 

Besides the strengths of the story, the show also benefits from the talents of some notable actors. Skylar Astin, who played Jesse in “Pitch Perfect,” portrays Zoey’s best friend (and shy admirer) Max. Similarly, Alex Newell has some musical credits from his role as Unique on “Glee” and plays Zoey’s neighbor Mo. 

With its heart and humor, you’ll want to catch “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” when it moves to its normal 9 p.m. Sunday timeslot on NBC on Feb. 16.  

Rating: 4/5 


Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.santillo@uconn.edu.

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