'Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist' is an emotional journey of a self-conscious introvert where she has to learn about empathy

Category: Television

Time does not heal the pain of grief. What does? Austin Winsberg just might have the answer. NBC’s new quirky musical dramedy, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, is based on his painful experience of losing his father to a rare degenerative disease in 2011. At a press conference early January, Winsberg explained the family’s pain and frustration of not being able to communicate with him. “He would show us moments and we felt like his brain was working, but the body was betraying him.” He also revealed that the show “came from wanting to see my dad sing and dance and see my parents dance again.”

After an MRI mishap, Zoey Clarke (Jane Levy) becomes privy to the innermost wants, thoughts, and desires of the people around her through popular songs and big musical numbers. The computer coder sees the world in very binary terms and is uncertain what to do with the newfound power until she starts connecting with people. Could it be a blessing or a curse? And why her? Just like Eli (Eli Stone ABC 2008-09) and Joan (Joan of Arcadia CBS 2003-05) who struggled to figure out what God wanted them to do, Zoey is thrust into an emotional journey where she has to learn about empathy.

I lost my husband twice – once to depression and to divorce. His inward anger turned him into a soulless semblance of the sweet man I married. He was physically there, but emotionally and mentally unreachable no matter how hard I tried. If that wasn’t the most soul-crashing moment of my entire life, I don’t know what is. How I wished my suicidal husband would snap out of his depression, just like Zoey did with her unresponsive father! That beautiful father-daughter scene gets me every time because my pain is honored; it felt like being wrapped in a warm blanket and gently and repeatedly told, “It hurts, I get it.” When you know you are not alone in feeling angry/sad/disappointed/frustrated, you process a loss and heal with every drop of tears you shed. Empathy heals. Empathy neither judges, condemns, nor convinces.

I believe empathy is gained only when you learn radical self-acceptance through great losses – to be more compassionate toward the unforgivable parts of your Self. In this digital and highly divisive off-kilter world, it is inspiring to watch this self-conscious introvert growing into a compassionate leader. In the aftermath of Trumpocalypse, we might as well brush up on human decency gone missing from our society. Why not start with this almost extinct, foreign concept called ‘empathy’?

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist premiered over a month ago, but the encore presentation of the pilot is scheduled on Sunday, February 16, 2020, followed by the second episode at the regularly scheduled time on NBC. You can also check out NBC On Demand or Hulu for the pilot if you can’t wait.

About the Author

Meg Mimura is a TV critic who actually watches shows zealously in search of thought-provoking and paradigm shifting human drama worth our precious time. She is a member of Television Critics Association. Follow her on Twitter.