“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” hits the right notes


Photo Courtesy of Rolling Stone Magazine

Zoey (Jane Levy) in the midst of a musical moment during “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”

“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” may coax some viewers away from streaming services to indulge in a soon-to-be NBC classic. The broadcasting company played upon several audience favorites — a star studded cast, mixing drama and comedy and, of course, a ‘playlist’ of tireless, catchy tunes — to illustrate a timeless story with a twist. 

The series kicks off with Zoey (Jane Levy) needing “Help!” after an earthquake induces a magical, musical MRI machine — a rather far fetched introduction. However, the storyline immediately snags a practical audience back in by adding Zoey’s relatable qualities — daydreaming about a love connection, crossing her fingers for a promotion and caring for her ailing father. 

Both storylines tie together when Zoey realizes the MRI gave her the ability to definitively hear other people’s emotions, but there’s a catch — her impeccable reception is only available through song. This new “Mad World” is distinguished by musical flash mobs revealing clues into her’s and other people’s lives with popular songs that only Zoey can discern. These songs quickly transform into episodical climaxes that are Zoey’s cues to help someone or herself throughout the series. 

Episode one continues by adding three more performances including, “All I Do Is Win,” “I Think I Love You” and “True Colors.” Each following episode (14 total) introduces a new score of music that ties to the show’s overall storyline. 

One character that consistently belts out flamboyantly funny and heartfelt solos is Zoey’s best friend, Max (Skylar Astin). Astin is no stranger to musical movies and series — his experience extends to “Pitch Perfect,” “Pitch Perfect 2,” “Trolls: The Beat Goes On!” and “Glee.” Through these musicals, Astin has dove into many roles as likable yet quirky people and his performance in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” continues to compel the audience with the same lighthearted persona and corresponding songs. 

“Shows often make attempts to be a source of comfort.” Astin said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “And I think that our show actually has that. It has that feeling of comfort and familiar faces that you’ve seen in other things, even in other musicals, and brand-new faces.”

Although the show begins with an unconventional, magical moment, collectively, the theme hovers around unwrapping and sorting out real feelings. All the characters — along with Astin — produce a feel-good story that also keeps the audience humming throughout each episode. 

The only critique that may be considered is that “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” does follow a storyline formula. There are several elements and turning points in the show that would be expected from a traditional NBC dramedy. Even so, weaving musical numbers throughout the show gives its baseline format a fresher take. 

“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” offers something for almost every audience — music, drama, comedy and romance. Although the series began airing on NBC in January, now audiences can catch up and watch season one on Hulu too. Confirmation for season two has been put on hold due to precautions surrounding COVID-19, but, for now, audiences can dive into season one’s heartwarming story and hum to each timeless tune.