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What You Need to Know About Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist

Jane Levy's new musical dramedy hopes to break NBC's musical curse.
  • John Clarence Stewart, Jane Levy and Skylar Astin shake a leg in Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist. (Photo: NBC)
    John Clarence Stewart, Jane Levy and Skylar Astin shake a leg in Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist. (Photo: NBC)

    With NBC launching one of its most ambitious new projects this TV season, we asked our resident pilots expert Jean Maxime Renault (who previously reviewed the show's pilot script) to give us the lowdown on what to expect from Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist.

    Will Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist be the musical series that finally breaks through for NBC? Despite several high profile attempts (including Smash, Rise and this fall's Perfect Harmony), the network has failed to leverage its success with The Voice into the launch of a musical series that clicks with viewers.  

    The new series gets a preview broadcast tonight at 10:00 PM ET, before settling into its regular timeslot Sundays at 9:00 PM ET starting February 16th. Here's what you need to know about the show ahead of its premiere:


    The high-concept idea at the heart of Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist is a doozy. Jane Levy (Suburgatory, Castle Rock) plays Zoey Clarke, a whip-smart computer coder living in San Francisco who, after getting an MRI, suddenly starts to hear the innermost thoughts and desires of the people around her through popular songs.  While she initially views this window into people's hearts as an unwanted curse, Zoey will soon realize that it's an incredibly wonderful gift as she connects with the world like never before.


    Can you say corporate synergy? Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist is the first project to come out of a mega deal between Universal Music Group (which is part of NBCUniversal, corporate parent to NBC) and Lionsgate Television, signed back in 2018. Under this multiyear deal, the two companies are developing original scripted and unscripted television series drawn from UMG’s portfolio of labels, artists and music, with plans to release accompanying soundtrack albums for each project. 


    The show's creator, Austin Winsberg, certainly has a musical theater pedigree: he penned NBC's adaptation of The Sound of Music Live! starring Carrie Underwood, as well as the Broadway musical First Date. Director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters) was attached to helm the pilot for a period of time, but as is often the case with movie directors attached to network projects, Feig was said to be too busy with his feature schedule. Instead, Richard Shephard directed the pilot, with Feig remaining on board as executive producer.


    Skylar Astin, Jane Levy and Mary Steenburgen at an upfront event in May 2019. (Photo:Mike Coppola/NBCUniversal)

    Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist boasts some recognizable names with musical theater chops. Alongside Jane Levy's Zoey, there's Max, who's played by Skylar Astin (of Pitch Perfect fame). Max is Zoey's co-worker and best friend, and he also looks to be in love with her. Alex Newell (who portrayed Unique on Glee) plays Mo, Zoey's neighbor, an easygoing, open-minded character who will help her adjust to life inside a musical.  Peter Gallagher (The OC) plays Zoey's father Mitch, while industry vet and award-winning actress Mary Steenburgen plays her mother Maggie. Finally, Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) plays Zoey's boss Joan. Graham was a late addition to the cast, replacing Carmen Cusack, who originally appeared in the pilot. 

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    Jean-Maxime Renault is a TV addict based in Paris who writes about television and movies on AlloCiné (aka "the French IMDB"). In 2015 he created Season Zero, a website about television development and pilot season, which is now a part of Primetimer. Follow him on Twitter @SeasonZeroCom

    TOPICS: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, NBC, The Sound of Music Live!, Alex Newell, Austin Winsberg, Carmen Cusack, Jane Levy, Lauren Graham, Mary Steenburgen, Paul Feig, Peter Gallagher, Richard Shepard, Skylar Astin, TV Musicals