Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Music, the Expression of the Soul

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A masterful mashup of Glee, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Season 1 Episode 1 introduces us to an array of new characters and new voices. 

Initially, based on the trailers, it seemed like it might be another shallow musical show but instead proved to be more impactful and full of raw and truthful human emotions. 

Austin Winsburg created the show as a tribute to his father who died in 2011 from the same disease the main character Zoey's (Jane Levy) father Mitch (Peter Gallagher) is battling. 

Zoey Dancing with Her Father Tall - Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Season 1 Episode 1

The pilot episode took clear flight as it gave an entire poignant glance into Zoey's intellectual workings. Zoey already recevied an entire developmental arc in these first forty minutes!

It's clear her established psyche is analytical and mathematical, seemingly lacking in too much sociability. 

In her first interaction with her next-door neighbor Mo (Alex Newell), she made it clear her preferred audio interests are podcasts, not pop music. 

Well, I'm not really comfortable with anything, that's why I'm a coder.


After she went in for an MRI scan as a precautionary check-up for any signs of progressive supranuclear palsy -- the official name of the disease Mitch is battling, she exited with a strange and surprising new ability. 

Immediately she began hearing and seeing strangers and close friends and family break out into song and dance. 

Mo  - Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Season 1 Episode 1

The majority of the songs were melancholic and expressed the character's deepest and underlying emotions. The inner thoughts that most people keep hidden from the surface of their persona. 

Her office crush Simon's inner song-alogue Mad World struck a chord deep down and led her to develop an emotional connection with him. 

Songs are all just an expression of our deepest wants and desires ... Good music can make you feel things you can't express in words.


After he opened up about the recent suicide of his father, Zoey began to see her ability more as a gift rather than an annoying broken record that would turn on unprompted. 

The show's quirky way of using music as its style of therapy successfully hits the emotional mark intended. 

Zoey and Maggie - Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Season 1 Episode 1

If the final scenes featuring Zoey and Mitch didn't sneak attack your tear ducts, I have no words. 

I don't suspect the disease is reversible, but seeing Mitch as he reached for Maggie's hand during their sailing trip gave me hope for something.

Witnessing a parent suffer from a disease and helplessly sitting on the sidelines is emotionally taxing. 

The next step for Zoey is to open up emotionally about how her father's disease is impacting her emotional well-being. 

Mitch on the couch - Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Season 1 Episode 1

I'm looking forward to Jane Levy's musical debut. 

Trigger warnings to anybody experiencing parental challenges; you will cry.

The balance between comedy and emotional drama work well for the show.

Mo's silly one-liners and big personality offer a Titus-esque presence, bringing in a taste of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Child, I'm completely baked. Ain't nothing going on in my head right now.


The biggest question I have is what keeps Zoey from hearing the inner song-alogues from every person she comes into contact with?

Max singing his love ballad - Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Season 1 Episode 1

It's nice to see Lauren Graham back on TV, it's been a while since Gillmore Girls and Parenthood. I look forward to seeing how her character further develops. 

I foresee a power woman dynamic emerging between Joan and Zoey. 

The musical numbers, unfortunately, don't hold the amount of musical strength as Glee did with its song covers, but then again the music quality isn't necessarily the basis for this show.

Although, I would highly recommend this show to anyone who finds emotional connections within music. 

Joan in her office - Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Season 1 Episode 1

I have high hopes for the show in its first season. It tells a story, and the personal importance of the show for the creator truly shines through just within this first episode. 

There's always a song that can translate emotions into words. The power of song is incredible, and that message is strongly portrayed.

I'm impressed by the big musical numbers included in just this first episode.

Winsburg mentioned in an interview that he was able to obtain the rights for the use of some of these big-name songs directly from the artists themselves.

Simon's inner song-alogue - Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Season 1 Episode 1

It seems like an exhausting task to have each episode center around a character's inner workings through song. I'm curious how each episode will balance this musical storyline. 

How will Zoey continue developing this new skill and magical talent? It'll force her analytical mind to expand its horizons and think more creatively and emotionally.

She already seemed to find a different narrative during her second-round interview with Joan.

She had gained self-confidence, and her ability to connect with others will make her a good team leader. 

Zoey at work - Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Season 1 Episode 1

Additional Music (Side) Notes:

  • It would never be a genuine musical without Skylar Astin.
  • Pandora is still a music streaming option?
  • Microsoft should really consider using Max's love ballad as a new advertisement for its Microsoft Surface Laptop.
  • Woah, did anyone else notice the bangs guest appearance on Zoey that magically disappeared the next scene?
  • We've already got some male chauvinism from Leif and Tobin, but at least Tobin admitted to having mother issues. 
Max gazing at Zoey - Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Season 1 Episode 1

What did you think of this first episode?

Simon's fiance leaves a glimmer of hope for Max's tiptoeing out of the friend zone!

Too bad we have to wait a few weeks until the second episode comes out! 

How will Zoey handle the news of Max's love "confession."

Don't forget to comment down below and rate the episode!

Music, the Expression of the Soul Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (8 Votes)

Inga Parkel was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She left the organization in June 2020.

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