Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Song Is Her

I recently watched the new NBC show Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist.  The pilot is available, though it won't go into its regular timeslot until mid-February.

It's an hour-long starring Jane Levy. She plays Zoey, a coder who works at a tech firm in San Francisco (there was some location shooting in the pilot).  The twist is she gets an MRI during an earthquake, and all sorts of music goes into her brain.  When the earthquake is over, she has the ability to know what's going on in people's minds because they suddenly (and only to her) break out into song (and dance) expressing their innermost feelings.

Even if you accept magical things can happen, there are certain questions about the logistics.  For instance, while she hears these songs, and sees the dances, is time passing for the rest of the world?  Is she moving or standing still during the number (since she's sometimes moving in her head)?  Do the people performing have to know these songs, or is it enough that Zoey has the numbers stored in her head?  But why look a miracle in the mouth--there's no show without this power, so accept it.

The music she hears are actual hit songs.  One of the earliest is a big production number, performed by a whole community, of The Beatles' "Help"--so I guess it expresses how everyone around her feels. (That song's gotta be pretty expensive.  Will each show feature such well known titles or was that only for the pilot?)

Before we get to the twist, the show seems to be a relatively conventional comedy-drama about a young women trying to make it in the world.  She's got a whacky next door neighbor (Alex Newell) who plays and sings along to very loud music in the morning.  At her job she's got a quirky boss (Lauren Graham) and a quirky co-worker (Skylar Astin) who's secretly in love with her. (We find this out when she hears him sing the Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You.")

She's also lusts after a handsome coworker (John Clarence Stewart).  They bond when she finds out, through song, he's secretly in great pain, but later she discovers he's engaged.  She's also got a mom (Mary Steenburgen) taking care of her dad (Peter Gallagher) who's suffering from a neurological degenerative disease.  This role would seem limited, since he can't talk and can barely move. However, as you may have already guessed (spoiler alert), before the hour is over, he sings to her (Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors"), expressing his feelings in ways he can't otherwise.

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist is hardly the first series in recent years to have a strong musical component--in fact, another new NBC show this season, Perfect Harmony, is about a choir and features musical numbers.  And even if I hadn't known about the premise (or the title) of Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist beforehand, I might have guessed there would be music, since a number of its actors are known for their work in musical theatre.

The show is charming, though not yet compelling.  So far, I'm not sure how intriguing Zoey's adventures will be, or if the gimmick will get tiresome before too long.  But I'm a big enough fan of Jane Levy that I'll give it a shot when it starts up again.


Anonymous Denver Guy said...

Just letting you know we loved the pilot and will following along come February. I liked that she notes (during the number) that she doesn't even know the David Cassidy hit "I think I Love You," so rather than magic, they are leaning on a semi-scientific explanation that the MRI downloaded the contents of Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, etc. to her brain during the earthquake.

I liked the first season of Glee, but had to give up on Perfect Harmony. I'm hopeful we've got at least a couple seasons of good content here (especially with the loss of the Good Place soon).

12:56 PM, January 20, 2020  

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