Sometimes a show comes along and manages to find a special place in viewers’ hearts. Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is one of those shows.
For 12 episodes, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist Season 1 has sung viewers its heart songs and proved why it deserves to sing them for many more.
With network shows, it is almost impossible to predict who will make the cut after their first season, but if there is one show that truly deserves it for the 2019-2020 season, it is this one.
We can usually define freshman seasons of shows as a work in progress. It's a time for actors to settle into their roles, for writers to find their voices and for the audience to get to know a new world.
It isn’t often that a show gets everything right, right out of the gate. Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is one of those exceptions.
When Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist first premiered, we discussed whether or not it could be the perfect musical TV show. Since then, it has exceeded all expectations.
One of the defining aspects of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is its ability to combine its quirky premise with a huge emotional punch.
Right off the bat, on Zoey’s Extraordinary Season 1 Episode 1, we were introduced to storylines like Zoey dealing with her father’s progressive and terminal disease and Simon coping with his father’s suicide.
It was nearly impossible not to shed a tear as a nonverbal Mitch played by Peter Gallagher sang True Colors to Zoey -- a moment that she desperately needed.
They delivered the emotional weight behind that moment with barely any knowledge of the characters we were watching, but it was so easy to relate to the feelings portrayed.
Those types of moments have only gotten better as the show has gone on. We have come to know and love these characters.
When they laugh, we laugh. When they cry, we cry. When they do something stupid, we yell at them through our screens like it is one of our best friends, and we are trying to knock sense into them.
Creator Austin Winberg has worn his heart on his sleeve with Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, and his deep connection to it shows each week.
Winberg’s father suffered from the same disease as Mitch. He brings an honesty to the experience of these characters that no one who hadn’t been through it could do.
It cannot be easy to relive such a painful experience, but Winberg’s reflection on his own experiences has helped to create a show that feels deeply personal, yet universal at the same time.
On a show with a premise as outlandish as Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, you would not think that it would be as grounded in reality as it is. Still, the writers and cast have done an impeccable job at making it completely relatable.
You may have never had a family member suffer from a debilitating disease like Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. Still, if you have ever felt the loss of someone you cared about, you can relate to the feelings Zoey and her family are going through.
Maybe you never accidentally told your best friend that you are in love with them like Max did, but we have all had feelings for someone who didn’t reciprocate.
You might not be married to a super successful “genius” like Charlie, but you have felt underappreciated in a relationship in your life before like Joan.
These everyday emotional experiences that they have been able to bring to our TV screens each week is a massive part of what has made viewers fall in love with the show.
These emotional storylines are brought to life by the dynamic characters that the writers have created.
It is easy to instantly love characters like Zoey, Max, Mo, and Maggie. It isn’t nearly as easy to do so with characters like Joan, Leif, and Tobin. The writers managed to make it happen, though.
It would have been simple for the writers to make Joan the typical cruel female boss on a power trip. Instead, we got a woman who is tough because she expects greatness and brings it out of those around her.
Zoey’s friendship with Joan ended up being one of the highlights of the season. They may have opposite personalities, but their bond is rooted in a deep respect for each other.
When we met Leif and got his amazing, yet aggressive rendition of “All I Do Is Win,” it seemed like he would be Zoey’s adversary throughout the season. After he fell head over heels in for Joan, though, he became surprisingly endearing.
Everyone is just trying to succeed in their own way.
Tobin is one of the true gems of the show. He went from Leif’s sidekick to a man for which most would sign a petition to get more often.
Well-rounded character development isn’t just reserved for the “villains.”
The writers have shown us on more than one occasion that Zoey herself is far from perfect
Whether it be fixing Max up with Autumn, so she doesn’t have to address his feelings for her or attacking those she loves when she can’t deal with Mitch’s declining health.
Zoey has been able to show us that life is messy, and we are all imperfect, and that is okay. Jane Levy has done an exceptional job showing off all these sides of Zoey and making us root for her.
The incredible characters and fantastic storylines would have been enough, but they elevate them with one of the best soundtracks on television and elaborate productions.
On Glee, you could get performances that had nothing to do with what was going on in the show; they just met the theme that Mr. Schuester chose for that week. That is never the case with Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Every single performance is purposeful.
The songs define what these characters are going through. It gives us insight into what is going on beneath the surface more than standard dialogue ever truly could, and it does it in a way that can be incredibly moving and entertaining as hell.
Mandy Moore is a true genius in her ability to bring these outstanding musical numbers to screen.
She has brought us epic dance-offs, beautiful contemporary pieces, a powerful piece working ASL into the choreography, and even a quiet yet heartbreaking ballroom dance between father and daughter.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist Season 1 Episode 12 was a culmination of everything great that defines this show. It was one of the most moving hours of television I have ever seen.
Some moments made us laugh, moments that made us cry, and a little bit of everything else in between. More than anything, though, it did what this show does best -- it made us feel.
Viewers want to continue this journey with Zoey.
We want to know how she and her family find a new normal after Mitch’s death, to see David and Emily’s baby born, to watch Joan kick ass in her new position, to see Mo and Eddie give it a real go and to yes, find out who Zoey chooses.
The show not getting granted a second season after that finale would be a colossal mistake on the part of NBC. Shows like Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist are few and far between, and when you manage to find one, you need to hold on to it.
It is the type of show that has a lasting effect on the viewers and stays with them long after the credits have rolled. It can speak to viewers on a deeper level and make them feel if even for one hour, they are not alone.
With so much chaos and uncertainty in the world right now, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is the type of show we need on TV.
How about you, Fanatics?
Were you hooked by this gem of a show?
Are you already chomping at the bit for me?
Share your thoughts below, and if you aren't caught up on Season 1, you can watch Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist online at TV Fanatic!
Meaghan Frey was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in September 2020.