It sounds like NBC is waiting to see what kind of noise the fandom makes about Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist getting renewed—they say there’ll be a decision by the end of the month—so consider this my part in making some noise. We need more heart songs. We need more Zoey/Max/Simon. And we need more of its unique ability to comfort like Gilmore Girls while simultaneously dealing with grief and trauma in emotionally accurate ways. It’s absolutely deserving of a Season 2 on multiple levels. Renew Zoey!
The first commercials made the show look like a cute little popcorn show that could be a Broadway-style Ally McBeal for today’s generation. Zoey exists on this level, but the initial marketing did not prepare us for the fact that Zoey’s dad would be dying through the initial stages of this show. I admit, there was cognitive dissidence in our house when we found out about that angle. But we also got over it.
At first, the question every week was “do we want to watch a show with a dying father?” And every week it was tentatively watched. But after a few weeks, we began to trust the show, and we figured there’d be enough comfort in it that it’d balance out. And it was so.
By the end of Season 1, it was “Zoey’s on!”
Both Romantic Leads Are Fantastic Options
First of all, Zoey’s two romantic leads are highly emotionally realistic and great choices for her. This is a welcome rarity, and should be celebrated! Besides TV Land’s Younger, I can’t think of another show in recent decades that achieved this kind of balance. Not even Outlander had the balance right. On Zoey, everyone is great, and no one is an enemy.
Let’s encourage a show that gives Zoey two excellent choices for a romantic pairing. I know this is my wife’s favorite aspect of the show. She’s been bothered by the formula in every Hallmark movie and terrible show where there’s a) the amazing guy she’s supposed to be with and b) the obviously worse guy with blatant flaws who she’s already with for some reason. All it does is make it too simple for the viewers, and it ends up making the lead character look dumb. But there is no easy choice on Zoey. It’s an actual decision!
Simon understands what she’s going through because he’s there too. He just lost his father, and was only a little bit ahead of the process that Zoey is in at the end of the season. They have a lot to grow through, and Simon can actually help Zoey in this way. Even Max knows that—when he knew Zoey’s dad was dying, he told Simon to contact her. Because Max knew that was the right move for Zoey.
That is a total baller move by Max. He’s confident enough in his friendship with Zoey that he’s willing to chance it by reintroducing a guy he knew Zoey had a crush on. Confidence on his part, but also putting Zoey’s needs first. Even if Zoey never finds out that happens, you know the audience on Team Max just fell even harder for him. Why’s he so confident? Because early in the season—even before she found out Max was stealth buff—Zoey was trying to figure out if she actually had feelings for him.
Will Zoey end up with best friend Max, eventually growing through her pain enough where she can emerge from a chrysalis, and they can ride off into the sunset as the couple they thought they’d be if only they were on the same page? Or will she end up with Simon, who may not be ready for anything real quite yet, but he’s exactly emotionally where Zoey lives, and they’ll grow out of their pain together, helping each other and forming an indestructible bond in the process? If I had to guess, I’d say “both!” but we’ll never get there with either option if Zoey isn’t renewed, right NBC?
The Heart Songs
If Max and Simon aren’t where the enemy is, where is the enemy? Honestly, no one is ever the enemy, except to themselves. Everyone is trying to get through their lives to the best of their ability, and that’s challenging enough, as their “I Want” songs will attest.
The songs unlock what people are really feeling, and are too scared to loose onto the world. Max was scared of telling Zoey his feelings, and once he started being honest he was revealed as a great leader and someone worth more than he knew. Mo was hiding under veils of art and showmanship, yet cut Eddie out even though feelings for him were scary and real. Mo got over it at the end with help from Zoey and the relationship is back on. If you look at the Heart Songs, they’re all about pushing through the fear of the unknown, just like there’s the unknown of what happens when Zoey’s father dies?
Sometimes music is the only thing that can help you when things are going wrong. Because music can take you places. It can take you away, and give you a place to find comfort, however metaphorical. With the consistent inclusion of Heart Songs, this show is practicing what it preaches. It gives us comfort as it gives the characters comfort. And then it allows the characters to push through to their truth when Zoey asks them about the root of songs.
I love that Zoey’s super power is used this way. There are so many ways to make Zoey’s MRI-enhanced frequency work on a sci-fi level, but they only do it in such a way that it resonates equally well with where she is emotionally. Creator Austin Winsberg and his staff have proven themselves admirably well in knowing how to walk that tightrope without turning it into just a romantic comedy or some technicolor version of The X-Files. The lore leads from the heart rather than the theory-crafting, which is the best way to go.
This show has so much potential left, and all the instincts to achieve greatness. I don’t see any stumbling blocks for the show except the obvious one: