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Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: A Little Hokey, but Not Bad

Catholic review of NBC's Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist

NBC’s new musical dramedy “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” premiered recently. I was pretty interested in this one after seeing the teaser, as it looked like a quirky-funny chick-flick type show.

It stars Jane Levy, who played the teenage main character in ABC’s “Suburgatory” a few years back. And it has the guy who played the love interest in Pitch Perfect (Skylar Astin) as her best friend. Plus Lauren Grahm (aka Lorelai Gilmore) as a mean boss.

From watching the first three episodes, I’d say the show looks pretty entertaining so far, but it’s definitely not perfect.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’s premise

Zoey is a twenty-something in San Francisco who works at a techie company as a coder. She is up for a promotion, is close to her immediate family members, and has a less-than-stellar love life.

Her dad has a rare neurological disorder that has left him paralyzed and unable to communicate. So when Zoey mentions to her mom that she’s been having headaches, her mom tells her to go get an MRI to have it checked out, even though worries about headaches are probably just paranoia.

Then comes some freak earthquake/MRI accident in which Zoey gets a huge playlist downloaded into her brain, along with the ability to hear people’s inmost feelings as conveyed through those songs – in huge elaborate musical numbers.

It’s all a little silly…

And hokey. The premise is definitely pretty contrived and kind of out there. 

As I watched this girl freaking out while random strangers perform a Beetles song at her, I couldn’t decide if it was too silly to like or not.

She soon makes a connection with a coworker she has a crush on, thanks to her ability to read his feelings. And it began to feel even more forced.

But it gets better.

There’s some good stuff here

My favorite part of the pilot (and the point at which I decided yeah, I like this) is when Zoey’s comically sexist coworkers break out into a musical number singing, “All I Do Is Win,” and it’s pretty hilarious.

Up to this point, I couldn’t decide whether these musical numbers really worked in the plotline. But this one was perfect and showed exactly where they could go with the premise. 

Apart from this, the relationship between Zoey and the Pitch Perfect guy best friend is believable and fun (and no, he’s not gay).

Another high point is her close relationship with her family. You don’t see a lot of shows about twenty-somethings who go home to hang out with the fam on a regular basis.

So far, it’s pretty clean

There have been no sex scenes so far (imagine that!). 

There’s some occasional mild profanity here and there, but nothing too noteworthy.

There’s been some light sexual discussion, but nothing graphic. I can also imagine there being some more light sexual content in future episodes (since that’s the way these things typically go), but so far there’s been very little that’s objectionable here.

The biggest moral issue is that there’s a neighbor character who is called “gender ambiguous” on the Wikipedia article. I honestly thought it was a rather unattractive woman when I watched the pilot, but the character is played by a man.

There’s no mention of this person’s gender until the third episode when they call him “he” and one character asks, “He is a he, right?” Another character responds, “He’s not into labels.” I thought maybe they weren’t going to make a big deal out of it since the first two episodes mentioned nothing, but I won’t be surprised if it keeps popping back up.

*Update: There’s now a whole episode specifically about this character, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Neighbor.” It deals specifically with his gender/identity etc. in the context of religion, and it does a very poor job of showing what Christianity really teaches on the matter (though not really worse than what you’d expect). It’s very “you do you” and glosses over A LOT, which is unfortunate.

I’ll be watching this one

I don’t think the writing in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” is a total home run, but the show has enough good pieces that I’ll be giving it a shot.

“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” airs on Sundays at 9 pm on NBC.

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