It's Sunday night number who-the-hell-knows in self-quarantine and a few things are happening; I'm crying, first of all, and I have an overwhelming desire to call my dad even though we spoke earlier in the weekend. It's because I just finished another episode of Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist -- by far and away my favorite show of the moment -- and the simultaneously endearing and heartbreaking relationship between Zoey (Jane Levy) and her father Mitch (Peter Gallagher), who suffers from progressive supranuclear palsy and can't speak, consistently makes me desperate to hear my own dad's voice.
The bond between Zoey and Mitch is the soul of a show about a woman gains the ability to hear the people around her's "heart songs" after an MRI-gone-wrong. As Mitch's condition worsens, Zoey's new power becomes one of the few ways she can still understand her father and be there for him as she and her family watch him lose basic motor functions and his health steadily declines. Zoey's overwhelmed face every time she gets to hear her father sing is an emotional trigger for anyone wishing they could talk to someone no longer here, physically, emotionally, or otherwise, just one last time.
When I pick up my phone to send a text for my dad to read in the morning, another thing happens. I find that half a dozen of my friends have also watched the episode and they're crying, too. Even though we are emotional messes after every episode of this show, I find myself so grateful in these unprecedented times to have a series that not only feels so cathartic, but brings me closer to people while we are mandated to physically stay apart. I would give up so many things right now to have a movie night with the people on my weekly Zoey's text chain, or to get a cheesequake (whatever that is!) with them, but I'll settle for us getting to love this beautiful show together.
I fully believe that Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist would resonate even if most of the world wasn't in quasi-lockdown. The top-notch performances in every episode would be enough to warm my musical-loving heart. (Also, hi Skylar Astin, if you are reading this -- I am available for marriage or any pop ballad serenade of your choosing. OK, thanks, bye.)
Every chapter of this story is threaded with ear worms and enthralling dance numbers thanks to Mandy Moore -- no, not that one, the La La Land choreographer one. Shoutouts also go to the show's brilliant cast including Levy, Astin, Alex Newell, John Clarence Stewart, and so many more. However, watching a woman forge deeper relationships with her friends and family via the ability to hear their inner most thoughts and feelings through song feels especially profound in a time when the majority of our eye contact with other humans is being had through computer screens.
As we search for ways to stay connected while social distancing, the true beauty of Zoey's messages about love, family, and really listening to each other shine like a warm, welcoming, beacons in these dark times.
"The show mixes a bunch of different tones; it's comedic, it's dramatic, it's musical," series creator Austin Winsberg told TV Guide. "Musical television, or musicals in general, tend to have a pretty rabid fan base, especially if people respond to them... The show wears its heart on its sleeve a lot, and I think that people respond to the authenticity and the realness and the emotion of that."
Zoey's Extraordinary Playist is a feel-good, captivating show with a passionate audience and great returns in digital viewing. Those qualities make great arguments for a Season 2 renewal that has yet to come from NBC. This week and next is typically when broadcast networks would be making final decisions about next season's lineup, but while Zoey was able to finish filming and air the first season as intended, the pilots the show is competing against for a slot in next year's schedule did not. That leaves NBC, and the other networks, in an unprecedented predicament as they decide what shows to pick up and what to leave behind. It also leaves more times for fandoms, especially dedicated ones like Zoey's, to campaign for sophomore efforts.
"I pitched Season 2 to the network a couple weeks ago, and [am] just kind of waiting with bated breath. We have a lot of internal support at the network and I know we have a lot of external support from fans and from different media outlets," Winsberg said. "Everyone's just feeling cautiously optimistic. It's just a question of their needs and timing and all sorts of other stuff."
We do still have at least one episode left, with Winsberg hoping the finale "fires on all those cylinders between the comedy, drama, emotion, and the music." But there are still so many questions about Zoey, her future, and her new powers that can't all be answered in the remaining hour.
Even if the Season 1 finale feels like the end of one part of Zoey's story, it would be a true tragedy to say goodbye to the Clarke family and those they hold dear this soon. Even in a post-quarantine world, Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist's messages of acceptance and trying harder to walk in someone else's shoes are incredibly important and inspirational themes. This show isn't just an escape when everything feels miserable, it's emblematic of how good television could and should be as the outside world becomes more and more difficult to process. It wouldn't be nice for Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist to be renewed for Season 2 -- it feels imperative, especially right now.
So it's late April and a few things need to happen; NBC should renew this beautiful, dazzling gem of a show for all of our sakes. The network should also send out cheesequakes, or at least post the recipe because we've earned them, damnit. And I still need to call my dad because if this show has taught me anything (and it's taught me a lot), it is that I am very lucky to be able to do so.
Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist airs Sunday at 9/8c on NBC.