Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist is a live action comedy series premiering on January 7, 2020 on NBC. The story focuses on Zoey (Jane Levy), a young coder working at a tech firm and up for a promotion in the near future. Several months ago Zoey's father was diagnosed with a brain disorder, leaving him in a partially paralyzed state. In fear that she might one day suffer the same, Zoey goes to have an MRI. While in the machine there is an earthquake which causes a Freak Lab Accident.
From then on, at seemingly random moments, people around her, stranger, friend and family alike, suddenly seem to burst into song and dance for no apparent reason while everyone else cannot see or hear anything of the sort. However, the songs and dance routines that she experiences all have to do with the most powerful emotions of the people performing them. Using this new gift she, with the help of her best friend Mo (Alex Newell), have to think of the best way to harness what Zoey can do.
The series also stars Skylar Astin as Zoey's best friend and coworker Max, Peter Gallagher and Mary Steenburgen as Zoey's parents, Lauren Graham as Zoey's boss Joan, and John Clarence Stewart as Zoey's coworker Simon.
This series provides examples of:
- All Love Is Unrequited: Max is in love with Zoey, but Zoey is in love with Simon, who has a fiancée.
- Ambiguous Gender: Mo, Zoey's neighbor played by Alex Newell, prefers feminine dress, but is referred to with male pronouns in-universe and played by Newell, a male actor known for his gender-bending roles. Episode 3 has Zoey tell Simon that Mo doesn't believe in labels when Simon asks about Mo's gender. Episode 4 reveals that, according to the pastor at Mo's church, Mo is genderfluid and assigned male at birth, and uses he/him pronouns.
- And I Must Scream: Mitch has a degenerative neurological condition that causes him to slowly lose mobility. For most of the first season he can only communicate by moving a computer cursor to slowly type out words. His musical numbers show that he is completely aware of it.
- Bonding over Missing Parents: Variation: Zoey's father isn't dead yet but his rare disease is slowly killing him and makes him unable to communicate with those around him. She is able to bond with Simon over this, since his father is gone.
- Can't Have Sex, Ever: Demonstrated when Zoey and Max try to hook up. As you might imagine, sex is a very emotional experience for most people so Max pretty much immediately bursts into song and dance when things start getting hot and heavy.
- Crazy Enough to Work: Invoked by Joan when Zoey accidentally sings "Pressure" during an important presentation for a new product. Joan thinks it's a combination of this and Refuge in Audacity on Zoey's part, which seems to be confirmed when the CEO decides to go forward with the development. In reality, it was not at all part of Zoey's plan and she physically could not stop herself from singing. She has to play it off with a Sure, Let's Go with That.
- Cringe Comedy: All of "Zoey's Extraordinary Glitch," where Zoey's superpower goes haywire and causes her to start singing her feelings... out loud. The scene where she awkwardly bursts into "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" in front of Leif and Joan (whom she secretly knows are having an affair) might drive some viewers to bury their head under their arms until it's over, but it's also pretty damn funny.
- Curse Cut Short: Every episode has one of these before the theme starts.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: In the 8th episode, Zoey herself becomes a lead in a big musical number. Initially thinking it is just a side effect of her ability, she realizes after finishing that it was actually her singing out loud, and that the backup singers/dancers and music were all in her head. For the rest of the episode all of the musical numbers are sung by Zoey and she cannot stop singing when a song comes on, no matter how hard she tries.
- Dirty Mind-Reading: Subverted in episode 2, where Zoey mistakes her father singing Moondance to her mother as a reference to their sex life. Turns out it was a way of saying I love you. Later played straight when Emilys rendition of Buttons makes it very clear why she wants alone time with David.
- Downer Beginning / Downer Ending: It's revealed in the first episode that Zoey's father has an incurable, terminal illness. The season ends with Mitch's funeral.
- The Empath: What Zoey's new abilities make her. The musical numbers she sees are all happening in her head, but what the people are saying through the songs and dances are all an accurate depiction of how they're actually feeling.
- Freak Lab Accident: An incident with an MRI, an Apple Music playlist and an earthquake is what gives Zoey her gifts.
- Hollywood Atheist: Zoey's parents chose to to raise her and her brother without religion, believing it to be important that they find their own spiritual path. Even still, Zoey demonstrates a level of cluelessness about organized religion that's often hard to accept.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode after the pilot is titled 'Zoey's Extraordinary...'
- I'll Take Two Beers Too: The eponymous evening of "Zoey's Extraordinary Night Out" begins with Joan bringing Zoey to a bar and ordering two martinis and two shots. Zoey, surprised, reluctantly agrees to do a shot with her boss, and Joan amends her order to four shots.
- Irony: Zoey is the first to note that she's a music illiterate who barely knows the difference between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and has never heard of half the songs she imagines in her mind. So the idea that she of all people gets these magical musical numbers is equal parts annoying and amusing.Mo: This gift is wasted on you!
- Jukebox Musical: The soundtrack primarily consists of covers of popular songs as sung by the cast.
- Hidden Depths: Basically, Zoey can see peoples depths, expressed through song. She is often surprised by the revelation that people she dismissed as shallow or uncaring are just disguising their own intense emotions.
- The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: The first season finale opens with Zoey's reflection singing Bad Moon Rising, which she takes as a possible omen. She's right; Mitch dies later that day.
- Musical World Hypotheses: It is partially in Zoey's head but not entirely. The dancing and singing are establish to not occur in reality and only Zoey can see then happening. However the songs are established to not be from her head, rather they come from another person. When her father sings Moondance she doesn't know it and has to look up the lyrics in order to figure out what it means.
- Poor Communication Kills: Lack of communication causes many of the problems Zoey and the people around her face. Zoey is able to help by simply approaching them and offering to listen.
- Real After All: The opening of episode 7 has Zoey at a food court with Max when everyone breaks out into a performance of "If I Can't Have You". Zoey is brushing it off with her usual sarcastic lines when it hits her that Max can hear her. When the number ends, Zoey realizes this was a huge flash mob and "this is actual life."
- Reality Is Unrealistic: There really is commercially-released 72 year-old Scotch like Joan has hidden in her credenza. It costs $60,000 a bottle.
- Red Is Heroic: Zoey, the protagonist, is a redhead.
- Resigned to the Call: Zoeys powers wont let her ignore a cry for help. When she hears someone sing about their problems, shes grown resigned to talking about it no matter how uncomfortable it makes herotherwise, the tune will just keep playing.
- The Rival: Leif is this for Zoey at work, since they're both gunning for the same promotion.
- Running Gag:
- The Cold Open for each episode ends with Zoey about to blurt out something like "What the..." and "Holy..." when the title appears, blocking over her mouth with the theme song.
- The snack bar in Zoey's office changes its offerings frequently, including at one point or another cereal, bread, oatmeal, and omelettes.
- Spontaneous Choreography: Other characters' emotions are portrayed through spontaneous song and dance numbers. Zoey's occasionally are as well.