We love Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist around here. A whole lot. And, well, we are in the middle of a quarantine, with very few new content coming till 2021.
So, yes, we are doing a re-watch of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, and yes, we are going to be talking about every episode as if it just aired. Because, we love the show, you love the show, and frankly, what else are we going to do to fill the time?
Joining me this week are Fangirlish writers Jade and Jacqueline as well as guests Amanda, Jacquie, Aubrey and Mary.
Here we go!
This is a re-watch of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, and a re-watch roundtable. So, considering that this is (At least) your second time through the show, what makes Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist worthy of re-watching?
Lizzie: I think it’s just one of those shows that speaks to you. Yes, it’s got great music and yes it’s got great characters, but to me what makes a show worthy of re-watching is how the show makes you feel. And this show is like …a cup of tea in a really cold afternoon, or like an embrace after this hellish quarantine. It just makes you feel warm and loved. We all need a show like that in our lives.
Jade: Everything about the series is simply delightful, from the music, the choreography, the characters, and the honesty with which it tackles some of the hardest emotions and brings the reality of them to light. But there’s also something incredibly engaging about how nobody is entirely what they initially seem. Zoey isn’t the uncaring, complaining neighbor. Tobin isn’t the self-involved douchebro. Leif isn’t simply manipulative and opportunistic. Simon isn’t the laid-back guy without a care in the world, and Max isn’t just the slightly (adorably) dorky best friend who is equal parts delighted by and appalled by Zoey’s history of romantic train wrecks. There’s a lot of nuance – and a lot of parallels – to those character arcs that isn’t necessarily obvious the first watch through. However, I think what really sets Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist apart as a show worth rewatching is that, at its heart, beneath the humor and the grief and the music, there’s a story about connecting with each other. How important those connections can be, and how they can change us in unexpected ways. And that connection, more than anything, is what I think a lot of people are missing right now.
Jacqueline: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist brings me joy. It really is that simple. Right now, I think we all need more joy in our lives and Zoey’s has become my happy place. Whether I’m squeeing about Max and Zoey (which I do A LOT) or singing along to all the awesome songs, the show for the most part leaves me in a happy place. I can’t imagine NOT rewatching this show!
Amanda: For me it’s worthy of rewatching because of the characters and the story. Do I love the musical numbers? Absolutely! They’re unique, emotional, brilliantly choreographed and wonderfully sung. However, in order for the musical numbers to be more than just, “okay this character is singing now.” Something needs to resonate with the audience, which with Zoey’s is wonderful characters and a compelling story. The story is heartfelt, well written and doesn’t shy away from dealing with real and raw emotions, something that not many TV shows are brave enough to do. Throughout the first season you become attached to all of the characters, making you want to learn more about them, their relationships with one another and what the future has in store for them. In rewatching you can catch little nuances and moments that you may have missed before. Leading to more insight into the characters and speculation on what may happen next season. Also now you can sing along with the songs (maybe even learn the dances) as you watch again, because let’s be honest we have them all memorized by now!
Jacquie: I just enjoy it! No matter how many times I watch, or re-watch, nothing ever becomes stale. There’s always some new little detail that sticks out that I maybe didn’t notice before. It’s so enjoyable, I love watching it again and again – especially with new people that I convert to the church of ‘Zo-ality’ (which is a lot) And who could ever get tired of those musical performances.
Aubrey: During a rewatch, I always catch so many details that I previously missed the first time I watched a show. Honestly, I have seen these episodes more than twice already in showing it to friends and family and I still haven’t gotten sick of it! I probably never will. The fact that I haven’t gotten sick of these characters is a testament to this show. With my ADHD, I lose focus easily, however, ZEP certainly has my attention.
Mary: Everything! The music, the cast, the newer details that always get noticed on a rewatch. I’ve probably done at least 3.5 watches of the show and every time I watch an episode again I notice something new. I mean. Before the finale I did a series rewatch to try and document every moment, little or big, that showed Zoey Clarke is in love with Max Richman and though I had a rough idea of what I would find even before that, I noticed so much more in my rewatch once I was looking for it. And the parallels! This is one of those shows that has definitely taken great care to set things up for what we see happen later on in the season, and that ups the rewatch value immensely for me.
Consider the “Pilot” as a separate entity from the rest of the show. Does it hit all the high notes? Why does it work for you?
Lizzie: On re-watch it’s a better “Pilot” than I thought it was when I first watched it, so I’m probably going to say it works, but it isn’t a home-run. I was more or less interested when I first watched it, but I wasn’t obsessed and it took me a while to get to that point. However, I do think the “Pilot” does what it has to do, and it sets up the story to come perfectly.
Jade: I always give a lot of leeway to pilot episodes because they are in many ways separate entities. A good pilot often heralds a good show, but a bad pilot doesn’t necessarily foretell a bad show. I think the Pilot of Zoey’s Incredible Playlist does a pretty solid job of setting up the characters, their dynamic, and the key conflicts that will drive the season. However, I will say that the Pilot is also a little deceptive – in what turns out to be a good way. I remember when I first watched it, even without seeing any ads for the show ahead of time I felt like I could pretty much predict the beats the episode would hit – from Zoey connecting to Simon through his heart song, to hearing Max confess his feelings for her through his heart song, to finally being able to connect to her dad again through song. So if there was one doubt I walked away with after watching the Pilot, the first time through, it was in wondering if the show wouldn’t be a little too predictable. Having seen the whole season, I can safely say…it was not. Yes, the audience can anticipate some things that will happen because of the nature of television shows and because we can follow stories through to a logical conclusion. But particularly in certain character arcs, the first season took some twists that I did not see coming, and I found myself waiting excitedly from one week to the next, to see what would happen next.
Jacqueline: I thought the pilot was incredibly strong. I have to admit, I had my reservations about this show. I thought it will either be AWESOME or completely suck. I was sold on the pilot. Looking at now, after seeing the whole season – I think it really set the season up well. I love the little things you notice now, like Max being ignored by Joan in the pilot. There were a lot of seeds planted and I’m incredibly impressed with how the show grew from here – all puns intended 😉
Amanda: The Pilot does such a great job of drawing you into Zoey’s world, getting you to take an interest in the story and the characters. Well written characters, a great cast and interesting stories are what make compelling television. If you don’t care about the characters or what happens to them chances are you won’t be watching long. With ZEP, by the end of the Pilot you are left wanting to know more about what else Zoey’s powers will reveal, how she will act and what this means for her relationships with everyone. So you have all of this great writing, storytelling and an amazing cast (seriously the whole cast is awesome and I love them all) which itself is enough for me to make sure I don’t miss an episode. But then you add in fun, fresh, interesting and inventive musical numbers, which serve to build on the story and the characters as opposed to detract from them? How can I possibly resist!
Jacquie: This isn’t actually hard for me to imagine. I watched the pilot when it originally aired and then had to wait almost a month for the second episode. Even before Zoey gets her power, the show endears you to its real star – the characters. I think the show could work even without the music. It’s a compelling story about communicating with the world again in an age that has become all too happy not to. I love its humor and its heart which is all laid out for you in this first episode. It entertains you all the while peaking your curiosity at all the different applications of Zoey’s power. Also, who doesn’t love hidden truths expressed unknowingly through song?
Aubrey: The Pilot as a standalone gives you a nice basic understanding of circumstances and the characters as they are right now. You want answers and can’t wait to find them when it’s over. It has humor, love, family, and some heartache. My favorite thing is that it’s not one of those pilot episodes that you have to ‘push through’ to get to the good part of the show. So many shows have rough first episodes and you find yourself thinking, “If I can just get past the first episode, it will get better.” Zoey’s is great from the start. What more could you want in a pilot?!
Mary: The Pilot, even as a separate entity from the rest of the show, is really so incredible because it has so much to set up. We’ve got a pretty huge core cast, and so much happens just in that first episode that when I was first watching it I was like, “Wait, this isn’t over yet? How?!” But only in a good way, of course! We see so much happen, but it never feels rushed. This is not a sloppy pilot. It isn’t one of those shows that takes time to get into (even though there have been so many shows like that which I’ve loved). It establishes the world and its characters beautifully, engaging from the first scene, and I honestly fell in love with everyone from the get go. And the music! It had me sold from the moment those women on the street were singing Whatta Man. And then it ripped out my heart in the best ways with True Colors. But then it put it right back with I Think I Love You.
Who was your favorite character after the “Pilot” and why?
Lizzie: Easily Mo. Easily. I’m not a particularly Zoey person, and so it took me a while to warm up to her awkwardness, and I just loved Mo telling it like it is, at every point, even if Mo wasn’t all that warm and cuddly at the beginning. I also had a soft spot for Max right away, especially considering the song at the end.
Jade: This is super rough, because – again – I think the Pilot did a remarkably good job at setting up all the characters and their personalities from the start. That doesn’t always happen. Jane is incredibly endearing, even at her most cantankerous and confused. Max is so supportive and wonderful. Simon, to be honest, seems like exactly the kind of guy it’s easy to see someone having a crush on at work, but he also has hidden depths most don’t see. Joan is the kind of boss you’d both admire and probably fear more than a little. And Mo. Even though Mo and Zoey don’t immediately start off as friends, he immediately gives off the impression of someone you’d want to befriend. But I’m gonna cheat a little and give it to Mitch and Maggie. Because while everything I said above is absolutely true, the thing that really hooked me on the Pilot the first time around was the scene on the boat, when he struggles to reach out and hold Maggie’s hand. His heart song to Zoey was bigger, more obvious, and I’d predicted it and sort of braced myself for the emotion in it. But that simple scene – and Maggie’s reaction – was such a powerful moment because it was so small and understated. After spending an episode wondering if she’s even getting through to her husband any more, if there’s any part of him that’s still able to understand, he reaches out to her and takes her hand. And you can really feel how much that simple contact means to her. In a way, those few seconds really exemplify the beauty of the series itself – highlighting the importance of our connections to the people we love.
Jacqueline: Zoey! But a special shout out to Mo and Max! This was our introduction to Zoey and have to say she handled all the unexpected singing and dancing far better than I would! Kudos to watching her become the awesome new engineering team leader and keeping it all together. I loved how Mo just told it like it was and simply believed Zoey when she said she heard people singing – yes, he was baked BUT STILL. Max had some great lines, but his interest in Zoey was so adorable even before he sang “I Think I Love You” – so much sighing going on here.
Amanda: This isn’t as easy of a choice as one might think, particularly knowing these characters as well as you do by the end of the season. All of the characters are amazing and I love them all! Max and Tobin are hands down my favorites, but rewatching I was really drawn to Maggie, and I adored Maggie anyway (can she please adopt me?). I am in awe of her strength, and my heart aches for the devastating loss she is facing. She is such an amazing, loving and wonderful character. If I could have reached through the TV to give her a hug when she started crying I would have
Jacquie: I really loved Zoey. She just feels so real and honest, even with her obvious personal shortcomings. The hero of the adventure has to be someone relatable and there were so many pieces of myself that I saw in Zoey. She’s smart, funny, awkward, and often obtuse to the world around her – which makes her a great pitfall to her powers for a nice balance.
Aubrey: I think it’s hard to pick just one character. Zoey is of course the centerpiece of the show, so I love her character. But in watching again, Maggie is so inspiring, as a mother, as a wife, a caretaker. As a Hospice/Home Health RN, I take care of patients like Mitch nearly every day, and Maggie successfully and touchingly shows the strength that those caretakers have to develop to cope and to live their lives from day to day.
Mary: Am I really supposed to pick just one?! This is cruel! Cruel I tell you! I think I’m gonna take the road less traveled, though, and say that when I first watched the Pilot, it was Tobin who was probably my favorite character (besides Zoey and Max, of course, but who doesn’t love Zoey and Max?). What can I say? I loved Tobin before loving Tobin was cool. There was just something about that dudebro facade that pulled me in. He kept making obnoxious remarks toward Zoey and I just kept making hearteyes.
What was your favorite musical number in the “Pilot” of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist? Why?
Lizzie: Eaaaasily “Mad World.” There was something so raw about it, and I felt like Simon was speaking to my soul in that moment.
Jade: Is it weird that I enjoyed all the songs even more through this rewatch than I already had? As a Clarkeman shipper, of course I loved “I Think I Love You.” As someone who’s lost my father and would love to have one more moment with him, “True Colors” gets to me every time. I found myself impressed all over again by the choreography in “All I Do Is Win” and “Help!” I particularly enjoyed Zoey’s facial expressions, because, let’s be honest, the whole city breaking out in song and chasing you down the street in choreographed dance would freak anyone out. But I also have to give a special shout-out to John’s performance during “Mad World.” None of the heart songs that Zoey hears in the Pilot are particularly meant to be shared (with the possible exception of “True Colors” because I think her dad would want her to have that moment). But there is such raw vulnerability to “Mad World.” Simon is a man who is actively trying to hide this emotional truth from the world, and he sings his heart song like it’s being ripped out of him. It’s even more impressive that the scene is so small (just the actor and a photo, with one other actor watching from afar), so John pretty much had to bring all that emotion on his own. His performance left the audience feeling like we’re watching something private that we (and Zoey) aren’t meant to see. And that’s absolutely true for the character. It really is an incredible performance.
Jacqueline: “All I Do is Win” – it was so well choreographed and it just plain AWESOME! It just made me want to jump up and dance with them.
Amanda: “True Colors,” hits much harder on the rewatch, which is saying something since it is already an emotional moment the first time you watch it. But now, oh boy the tears flowed even more freely. But I do also love “All I Do is Win,” because not only is it fun and well done, it also gives both Zoey and the viewers some insight into how Leif really feels, and what he wants. It really showcases that the songs Zoey hears are a person’s true feelings, regardless of how they may appear on the outside.
Jacquie: While it would be really easy to just say “I Think I Love You” – I’m going to give this one to “True Colors”. Imagine thinking you will never hear your father’s voice again, and then he sings to you! Peter Gallagher’s performance is so profound, my heart was truly touched.
Aubrey: The first time i watched the episode, my favorite was “I think I love you.” But, I watched this again with my father and “True Colors” hit a chord that it hadn’t quite struck with me before. It shows the love between a father and child that is so hard to quantify, but somehow, with one simple number, it’s done. Just amazing.
Mary: Of the songs that actually got released as singles? I Think I Love You hands down. That was probably my go-to song whenever I had to drive anywhere for the longest time. But of all the numbers in the Pilot? Whatta Man. What can I say? I dig the realness of how it was used contextually. And those ladies absolutely KILLED what little they sang of it. Can I petition for a full version a la Galavant now that the season’s over? Because I’d pay for it!
The show establishes the “love triangle” pretty quickly. What was your first impression of the two men vying for Zoey’s heart? Was it an easy choice for you?
Lizzie: I’ve never been a friends-to-lovers kinda gal on TV shows, mostly because it’s NEVER DONE RIGHT. It’s just an excuse to make one character suffer. So this is one of those love triangles where, in the “Pilot” I was like, well, the setup says Max, but we’ll see…
Jade: The first time I watched the Pilot, I went in with an open mind. Yes, there are many things even in the very first episode that scream that Max and Zoey are the OTP couple for the show. That said, it isn’t unusual for shows to pursue short-term love interests as they delay the long-term endgame So I really went in ready to accept or embrace either (or both) love triangle ships. I wasn’t even that put off by the fact Simon was engaged, as awful as that sounds. Jessice seemed lovely, but I’ve seen enough television to see that they had the perfect setup for Simon and Jessica to break up before anything really happened with Simon and Zoey. I was sold on Zoey and Max over the course of the season, and so it’s a joy to go back and find greater appreciation in the shipping moments those two share than I necessarily had the first time around. I love Max, and I adored how excited and supportive he was of Zoey in the Pilot. I love that he gets her, and that he cares about her first and foremost as a friend. Together, they are both so adorable and so sweet – and just so perfect for each other, and I just love them.
As for Simon, I absolutely still get why Zoey is attracted to him. I get why she had a crush on him before the episode began, and I understand why she would feel even more drawn to him upon hearing his heart song. The thing I continue to struggle to get past is just how much Zoey is being unfair to him through the course of the season, in not telling him about her superpower. And that’s something that really was only reinforced when rewatching the Pilot, because I’d forgotten how much she realizes she’s being unfair to him in this first episode. Her friendship with him may be built around a similar grief, but it’s founded on a lie of omission on her part. When he jokes that it’s like she can read his mind, she kinda can. When he says it’s a miracle they found each other, even she laughs because she knows it’s not in the way it seems. And knowing what will eventually happen between Simon and Jessica (wondering if even part of that was because he doubted his relationship with his fiance because of this magical “connection” he’s found with Zoey)? It may be the right result for Simon and Jessica’s relationship, but it doesn’t come about for them in the right way. I really hope this is something they address next season, and Zoey finally tells him the truth. Because at this point, he definitely deserves to know it.
Jacqueline: I completely understood Zoey’s initial interest in Simon – have you seen him?! But seriously, he seems so nice and he said things to make Zoey feel special. I get it. But it became kind of a moot point once we learned of the fiancee. Max on the other hand – HE GETS HER. I know they are introduced as being friends but they complimented it each other so well, ON. EVERY. LEVEL. There really is no choice to make – MAX IS THE ONE.
Amanda: I understand Zoey’s interest in Simon, he’s an attractive, confident, sweet guy, and what person doesn’t appreciate being noticed by someone like that. There may have been a chance for Simon, but first off he is engaged, to a very lovely and nice woman. But more importantly the only reason Zoey is able to connect with him is because of her powers, making their relationship very unequal and not based on honesty. I’m not saying that Simon and Zoey wouldn’t have interacted if not for her powers, but Simon wouldn’t feel the “connection” he has with Zoey if not for them. He even mentions that he doesn’t think Jessica understands what he’s dealing with like Zoey does. Which is in part because both he and Zoey are both dealing with loss, but also because of the inside information and insight her powers provided her with.
With Max, from the get go you can tell that his and Zoey’s relationship is more than just work friends. They are incredibly close and they care deeply for one another, and are the kind of friends who stick with one another no matter what. I am always a sucker for best friends ending up together, particularly if both of them are adorable dorks like these two. So before there was even any hint of a love triangle I was already thinking, “Max and Zoey would be such a great couple.” Throughout the Pilot there are all sorts of little moments and looks between them that tell you about how they feel about each other. Then when Max sings “I Think I Love You,” it’s a revelation to Zoey, but to me it was like, “of course he does, he’s your best friend and you guys are perfect for each other!” Max is totally Zoey’s soulmate, so the choice was not a difficult one.
Jacquie: I didn’t know how significant Simon was going to be, Max had the role of best friend so his importance was cemented early on. Once Jessica ‘the fiance’ was introduced, I immediately placed Simon in the no-no pile (not that I was necessarily rooting for him from the start anyway) There really was no choice for me, I loved Max from minute 1:26 in the coffee shop. Just the way his character treats Zoey had me picking him as the metaphorical horse to back.
Aubrey: I thought Simon was a viable option until it was revealed that he was engaged. That just completely makes him off limits in my opinion. I have always loved stories with best friends becoming something more. Who doesn’t want their significant other to become their best friend, so why not the other way around? In the pilot, Max seems supportive and proud of Zoey. He cheers her on for her interview and He beams proudly when she announces that she knows what is going on with the bug in the software. I was a fan of Max from the moment we saw him and thought that if they weren’t a couple, at least she had a great friend, but after that song he sang, I really do think they are great for each other.
Mary: Okay so I’m definitely one of those people who got reeled in with the YouTube promotion, and by that I mean that damn ad of Skylar Astin singing Sucker played on so many of the videos I’d watch as an unskippable before 15 seconds ad that eventually I got sucked (ba dum tss) into just watching it. And I was hooked. And the other ads kept playing and one day (which was coincidentally the day before the second episode actually aired) I just decided what the heck and watched it. So I went in already invested in Max as a love interest. And then Simon was thrown in as kind of an unexpected curveball for me and I liked him. A lot. He had so much potential for me, really, right up until the moment that we found out he was engaged. And I know there have been so many iconic TV couples where one party was engaged. But when have those fiance(e)s ever been as likeable as Jessica Hamilton was?! From there it was no contest. I was #TeamMax all the way. All those little moments in the Pilot sold it. From Max’s little nod toward Zoey when he said “keeping it lean for the ladies” (Was that scripted? I feel like it was unscripted! Somebody tell me if it was scripted!) to the epic closer of I Think I Love You. Zoey and Max were endgame for me and I would not be convinced!
Mo believed Zoey right away – or at least, he pretended to. Would you have? What does it mean for Zoey to have Mo, from the beginning?
Lizzie: Hell no I wouldn’t. I still don’t know why Mo did. Mo’s a saint, and he also clearly needed some entertainment in his life. But worked out for Zoey, and it worked out for us, because without Mo, I don’t think Zoey figures about half the things she ends up figuring out this season.
Jade: I absolutely wouldn’t have believed Zoey right away, though I don’t know that Mo initially believed her as much as humored her. But I think it was incredibly important for Zoey to have Mo right away. Zoey’s powers are – at least initially – incredibly scary. And, although they do help her to connect with others, they can also be incredibly isolating. Because of what she hears in the first episode, she can’t go to the people closest to her and tell them the truth. While her mom and brother would no doubt want to help, I imagine that it would cause them pain, to know that Zoey was able to connect to Mitch during the late stages of his illness when they could not. And though she does seem ready to tell Max the truth in the Pilot, her plan is derailed when she discovers his feelings for her. Talk about awkward! But until she figures out how to process that revelation, she can’t go to him, either. Having someone like Mo – who is supportive while also does not stand to be hurt by the knowledge that his near-total stranger of a next door neighbor has a superpower – is exactly what Zoey needs. It’s also the very first step to showing how Zoey’s superpower will ultimately help her connect to and help other people, which is a huge part of her own emotional growth.
Jacqueline: I have to admit I would have found Zoey’s confession that she was hearing songs interesting but no, I don’t think I would have believed her, might have been worried. Especially, if I was Mo and didn’t know her all that well. I’m so glad he jumped on board with though.
Amanda: I would have at least entertained the possibility that it was something she believed was real, though I probably would need some proof before I was all in. Zoey is normally a rational person, relying on her head rather than her heart, but what she is experiencing is not rational, it’s entirely emotional. Having Mo believe in her powers helps to ground Zoey. It flips their roles allowing Mo to provide rational reasons for the songs Zoey hears, and letting Zoey explore the emotions of them, a new and uncertain territory for her. Mo is the friend that Zoey didn’t know she needed, but now doesn’t know what she would do without.
Jacquie: The hero always needs a confidant. Someone who knows the whole truth and I don’t think anyone is better suited for that than Mo. I would love to have believed Zoey myself – as a huge superhero fan I’ve been waiting for something like that to happen my whole life. But if I was in the same circumstances as Zoey and Mo, I probably would have just placated the crazy girl. Zoey needs that release of sharing her experience and also the valuable insight Mo has that she just doesn’t. People skills are nothing to shake a finger at, and Mo has them in spades. Also he helps Zoey fill in the gaps in her musical knowledge with a sarcasm I truly appreciate.
Aubrey: I would believe that she believed it, but not believe it was real. If I was there and not Mo, I wish I could be that support for her, but as a medical mind, honestly, My first thought was, “CRAP, she has a brain tumor or is in a coma and this is all a vivid hallucination!” I would have a hard time believing it.
Mary: I want to say yes, that I would’ve believed Zoey, but really, I think I just would’ve wanted to believe Zoey because her power would genuinely be so much fun to have, responsibilities and all. But hey, maybe if I were as high as Mo was! As for what having Mo means for Zoey, it means a confidant that understands this new world of music in a way that Zoey doesn’t. Somebody who doesn’t really know her outside of brief, not entirely amicable neighborly interactions that won’t have preconceived notions that’ll affect how they treat her confession. And that was so crucial for Zoey in the beginning when she was just figuring out her powers. And if I ever got her powers (let a girl dream!), I’d hope to find my own Mo.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Zoey’s father, and his illness. Did you connect with that storyline? What does it mean to see a TV show attempting to take us through all the stages of grief – is it cathartic or hard to watch?
Lizzie: I connected a bit too much at the beginning, so I have to admit the “Pilot” was a bit hard. I connected, and I was trying not to, so there was this thing where I just didn’t want to invest in that part of the show. In hindsight, the whole journey was cathartic, but at the beginning it was just super, super hard to watch.
Jade: I definitely connected to the story, and it’s just as hard to watch the second time around as it was the first. Peter Gallagher is an amazing actor (and did I form maybe the tiniest crush on him when I first saw him in While You Were Sleeping? Maaaaaaybe). That he’s able to get the audience to connect to him so much when he has so few lines – and few songs – is a testament not only to his acting individually but to his dynamic with Jane Levy (and, at times, Mary Steenburgen). I connected to Mitch’s story because there was honesty in the writing, brought about no doubt because of show runner Austin Winsberg’s own experience losing his father to the same disease. And because Zoey’s and Maggie’s connection to Mitch was authentic and felt real. In every scene with Mitch, I felt his family’s slow, impending, torturous loss. Both the ugliness of the reality they were facing and the beauty they found in whatever last moments they would share together. So it is ultimately hard to watch, because grief is hard to deal with, it’s hard to watch, and it’s hard to relive the memories of the experience. But it’s also cathartic, because Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist does approach it with such honesty, and not just as a point of drama for the sake of drama.
Jacqueline: I didn’t connect with it as personally as others may have. I’ve lost my grandfather and two aunts to cancer so I’ve been around people dying. I remember being with them near the end and this stirred up a lot of those memories. My heart goes out to Zoey and her family as they process this grief and loss – but really I’m lucky to say I can’t imagine. I think it’s important to show all aspects of life on TV. Even if I haven’t been through this MANY have and it’s important to see the representation. I hope it helped people to see it unfold. I think they did a great job with the storyline. And of course, at times it was hard to watch – but if it wasn’t, it would not have been accurate.
Amanda: The story did connect with me, it reminded me of watching my mother, who for the better part of 2 years, took care of my grandmother after her stroke. Watching someone who you remember as so full of life, slowly slipping away and becoming a shell of who they used to be is incredibly difficult and heartbreaking. Austin Winsberg handles the difficult and very personal story of loss and grief with empathy. He and the writers have created such a beautiful, realistic and heartfelt show that so many can connect with. I am beyond grateful that they decided to tackle grief head on, it is a brave and important choice that should be applauded. On television grief is often shown in simple stages, shying away from anything too raw, realistic or emotional. Real grief is messy, it’s painful, it’s difficult for those experiencing it and difficult for those who are watching them grieve. Grief is not a linear path, there is no set timeline or checklist that people can move on from one stage to the next. Grief can cycle back on itself, it can be multiple stages at the same time, and it can skip over some stages completely. It was rather cathartic to watch allowing for a much needed emotional release.
Jacquie: I’ve never lost someone the way Zoey has. The closest would be my grandfather who died of a brain tumor. As I was so young when he died, I don’t really have many memories of his deterioration. I can’t imagine watching that happen before your very eyes, but I love that Mitch’s illness is so present because it gives the story depth. It’s raw and I think portrayed beautifully by all the actors involved. When you know you’re losing someone, that experience should have as many layers as life itself. There are funny moments, touching moments, and moments that make even the strongest of us break down. I vote on the side of catharsis with this one.
Aubrey: As a Home Health/Hospice Nurse, I absolutely think it is cathartic. Yes, it is hard, but the reality is that life is hard. I think for some it is very difficult to watch. Peter Gallagher’s portrayal of this horrible degenerative disease is realistic and heartbreaking, but people need to understand what he and his family are going through in order to appreciate the good times that they have in contrast to the difficult moments. In order to be truly happy, you have to experience sadness.
Mary: I didn’t connect to it quite as personally as I’m sure so many people have, but I think for me, it was definitely more cathartic than hard to watch in terms of seeing that play out onscreen. Partly because it’s done in such a realistic way, but definitely because, with the introduction of Zoey’s powers, we got this absolutely beautiful moment of Mitch singing True Colors to Zoey in one of her weakest moments, when she really needed her dad but thought he was out of reach, she finally got a way to reconnect with him again.
You’ve already watched the show. Is there any character that, on re-watch, looks better (or worse) in your eyes?
Lizzie: Max, for sure. I missed some subtle moments in the first few episodes that point to how supportive and just good for Zoey he is, and I’m not talking about once his feelings are out, or once he’s determined to do something about them, but always, as her friend, her rock. That means a lot.
But also, David. David. I was still stuck on his Bones character when I watched the “Pilot” and it took a while for him to become David, but when he did …well, I really like David.
Jade: I loved all of them – all of them – even more this second time around. I want to shove Max and Zoey in a room and refuse to let them out until they admit how they feel about each other. I want to give Simon an enormous hug and tell him there are more people he can turn to for solace and comfort and even understanding than he knows (and that none of his pain is his fault). I adore Joan, and how she thinks she’s emotionally distant from her employees, even as she demonstrates that she can’t help but care, in reaching out to Zoey. I loved the brother/sister dynamic between David and Zoey – they may be going through a shared loss, but they’re still siblings who sometimes just want to annoy each other. However, I found myself particularly taken this second time around by Tobin – and, to a slightly lesser extent, Leif. I came to appreciate both over the course of the season, but I had a pretty good memory of Leif’s first musical number, in “All I Do Is Win.” So I wasn’t surprised at seeing his two sides in this episode, although it is those two sides of him that made his later growth as a character completely unexpected to me. I had forgotten Tobin’s admission regarding what’s “wrong” with him in the Pilot, no doubt because on my first run-through, I assumed he was joking. However, having seen how his character will progress and the absolute, unexpected honesty he so often will demonstrate, I found myself completely taken by him in the Pilot, as it really is established from the start that many of his self-deprecating jokes have a more than a little kernel of truth, just below the surface. There are many things I’m looking forward to in season 2 in terms of plot points, but in terms of character growth? Tobin’s may be the one I’m most excited to see.
Jacqueline: Didn’t think it was possible BUT Max looked EVEN BETTER!! I loved his snappy dialogue and how he followed Zoey around….it makes his change to the sixth floor later even cooler. I loved how he wanted to know everything. And I noticed him getting ignored by Joan, which he later brings up.
Jacquie: Despite my eternal love for Lauren Graham, I was unsure at first what direction they were going to take with Joan in the beginning. Knowing what I know now, I’m happy with her progress and growth. She could have easily been a one-note conflict for Zoey to deal with at work. But, this show doesn’t do anything one-note. Joan was a true triumph for the show, and one of my favorites by the end of the first season.
Amanda: Leif definitely comes across as more manipulative and scheming, with his false sincerity in the Pilot. Even though I do have some slight empathy for him later in the season, I still don’t entirely trust him. Which of course means everything he says or does will be closely examined to find an ulterior motive!
Aubrey: Max and Zoey. They both have so much growth over the course of the season and its remarkable to watch the season finale, and then jump to the pilot and see just how different they both are. Especially Max. He has always been there for Zoey, but now, he knows more about what he wants out of life and is confident enough to take the leadership role.
Mary: David. David is definitely the character who my perceptions of changed a lot as the series went on and who I see differently when I rewatch the Pilot. He’s very… I guess prickly would be the best word for it, at the start. There’s a lot of tension between him and Zoey as he shoots down her ideas with a lot of snark. But after seeing the series in its entirety before coming back, it’s a lot clearer to me that his dad’s impending death is just affecting him a lot and he doesn’t really know how to deal with it. And who would?
What are your thoughts on the “Pilot” of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist? Share with us in the comments below!