NBC has officially premiered its latest show Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, which stars Jane Levy as computer coder Zoey Clarke. The season kicks off introducing Zoey, who’s living her life in the tech world of San Francisco. Surrounded by a male-dominated workplace, a music-loving next-door neighbor, and a family who are making amends with her ill-struck father, Zoey is learning to balance and weave her way through life, as one does. When she experiences multiple headaches, she sets the record straight with an MRI test which goes unusually wrong, but unexpectedly gives her the power to hear people’s wants and desires through song.
Throughout the first two episodes of season one, Zoey is navigating her new role at her job while understanding the reason for her newfound “powers.” Similar to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, song numbers are performed out of nowhere and Zoey is brought back to reality without anyone else having realized what just happened, all except for Zoey.
As a former fan of Glee, I was excited about the idea of a network’s new take on musicals. We’ve seen the aforementioned Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Star, but those series relied on handcrafted music made specifically for the respective shows. The closest comparison to Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist would be Empire or Smash. However, right off the bat, the NBC series gave off the same appeal Glee once did back when it first premiered.
One huge difference between the series, though, is that the focus isn’t on an entire cast of high school classmates. Instead, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist focuses its attention on the female protagonist in an unconventional way. Zoey has absolutely no background in music and the possibility that she would participate in musical numbers seems very unlikely. (But, we’ve only seen two episodes, so anything can happen!) The storyline I’m keen on learning more about is her relationship with her father, Mitch Clarke (Peter Gallagher) who has Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP).
However, there is one minor thing that I can’t seem to let slide by so easily. I’m from the Bay Area and, since this takes place in San Francisco, I do have a bone to pick with how the show is aiming to pass the setting off as San Francisco. If Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is trying to hone in on the “startup tech” idea, it would have been better if it was set in Silicon Valley. More specifically in Santa Clara or Mountain View, where there are budding companies claiming their land right this very minute.
That said, NBC has had a track record of canceling series a bit too early before it building an audience. But, it seems like the network’s marketing team is branching out to bring viewers in to watch the show live. For instance, the pilot aired back in early January, way before its intended release on February 16. With that, the network continued to premiere the episode for free on YouTube and press hard on promoting the show in any way possible.
Did this marketing strategy work? It seems to be getting there. It’s currently ranked 76% on Rotten Tomatoes, which gives us hope for the show to pick up its stride as more potential viewers continue to hear more about it. Fun fact, you can still watch the first two episodes free on YouTube! Perhaps it’s too soon to tell if Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is the Glee of our time. We just hope you’ll give it a chance to get there.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist airs Sundays at 9/8c on NBC.