Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist season 1, episode 1 recap – “Pilot” Listen Up

March 4, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
TV, TV Recaps
4

Summary

A funny and surprisingly moving comedy-musical with a great premise and a game cast.

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4

Summary

A funny and surprisingly moving comedy-musical with a great premise and a game cast.

This recap of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”, contains spoilers.


The concept behind NBC’s comedy-musical Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is simple enough in theory but near-genius in execution. In it, Jane Levy plays the titular Zoey Clarke, an introverted hotshot programmer who, thanks to an accident involving an earthquake and an MRI machine, can suddenly hear everyone’s innermost thoughts in the form of big song-and-dance numbers. It’s a funny, breezy show right up until it’s emotionally crushing, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The reason Zoey is having an MRI in the first place is that she experiences headaches and her father, Mitch (Peter Gallagher), suffers from a degenerative neurological disease that might be hereditary – he’s pretty much immobile and mute and it isn’t a fate anyone would enjoy. Along with her family issues, Zoey is also vying for a big promotion at work, though she remains terrified of her boss Joan (Lauren Graham), her living situation with noisy neighbor Mo (Alex Newell, a clear standout) is stressful, and her only real friend, Max (Skylar Astin), is quite obviously besotted by her even before that becomes a plot point. (Astin is a bit too handsome and slick for the dorky, smitten bestie role, but we can work with it.)

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist season 1, episode 1 recap - "Pilot"

Naturally, then, for much of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist Episode 1, her newfound power is a bit of a hindrance – just something else to deal with. But she quickly learns how to make the best of it, most notably in how she’s able to deduce why her happy-seeming co-worker Simon (John Clarence Stewart) is singing “Mad World” as his desk. His father committed suicide; hers is dying. They’re able to bond over this shared trauma despite Simon having a fiancé, Jessica (India de Beaufort), who apparently relates to what he’s going through less than Zoey does.

This is all fun relationship drama stuff, but the curveball comes when Zoey sits down with her father and unburdens herself to him, describing her worries and anxieties, her new ability, and how much she misses him and his advice. It’d be a tear-jerking sequence anyway, but when Mitch gets up and sings Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” to her, the potential power of this idea reveals itself. I watched this while I was eating and almost choked to death. Realizing that Mitch is still processing everything, even if he can’t respond to it, Zoey suggests that he, his wife Maggie (Mary Steenburgen) and Zoey’s brother all go sailing, and when Mitch lovingly squeezed Maggie’s hand I was in bits all over again.

All of this meaningful emotional family drama blessedly gives way to some more clichéd relationship business by episode’s end, which is probably just as well. Zoey, buoyed by her recent experiences, gets the promotion at work. And just as she’s ready to embrace her new responsibilities, Max breaks into a song – “I Think I Love You” – confessing his undying feelings for her. Perhaps this hearing everyone’s thoughts thing might not be smooth sailing after all.


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