"Marred by LGBT Political Correctness"
What You Need To Know:
Like the first three episodes of ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Neighbor” has a fun bounce, beautiful sheen and a great sense of joy. It also shows Zoey’s parents’ marriage in a highly positive light. The episode is fairly clean, but there are three brief verbal references to sleeping with someone. Even more regrettable, however, is that the episode has a false, strong antinomian, lawless worldview taking an emotional approach to Christian faith instead of focusing on what the Bible actually says. Thus, the episode promotes the acceptance of cross-dressing and homosexuality. This Non-Christian worldview is mitigated, though, by some overtly positive Christian, moral content.
ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST is a musical comedy series on NBC-TV about the manager of the computer programming department of the high tech company who has the power to see the innermost emotions of the people around her performed in song and dance. The pilot episode was one of the best, most moving and most uplifting pilot episodes in recent memory, so MOVIEGUIDE® screened the first four episodes. This review examines the fourth episode in detail.
Zoey is a millennial woman in San Francisco who in the first episode is in line for a promotion to manage the computer department of her high-tech company called SPRQ or “Spark.” Her father, Mitch, suffers from an ALS-type disease where he can’t talk and can barely move his face and hands. Because of stress at work, Zoey is suffering some headaches, so she takes an MRI in the first episode to see if she might have the beginnings of her father’s neurological disease. The doctor starts playing some music from an Internet app for her, but an earthquake during the MRI causes the device to load all the app’s songs into her brain. When she walks out into the street, a woman starts singing to her. Then, as she keeps walking, she can hear several other women ogling a guy while singing “Whatta Man” by 1990s rap stars Salt N Pepa. The sequence ends with Zoey being chased through the streets of San Francisco by dozens of people singing and dancing their way through the Beatles’ “Help!” The same thing starts happening to her at work and with her family, including her paralyzed father. What makes Zoey’s ability even more powerful is that the songs she hears, which she dubs the people’s “heart songs” in the second episode, are the tunes that appear to express their innermost feelings.
Zoey’s unique gift, and the universe of people surrounding Zoey’s vibrant spirit, forms the heart of ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST. Packed with elaborate, entertaining musical numbers yet still possessing a huge heart, the show presents a bold stylistic move that makes it one of the very few musical comedies in TV history. The reason for that is that the genre is expensive to pull off well, but ZOEY’S succeeds in doing just that in spades.
Zoey, played by Jane Levy in a star-making role) has plenty of other things to contend with besides her newfound ear for what she calls people’s “heart songs.” For example, she discovers that her best friend, Max (Broadway star Skylar Astin), one of the male programmers at her work, is secretly in love with her (a fact that’s revealed in his stellar rendition of the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You”). Meanwhile, Zoey pines for Simon, a quiet African-American colleague whose rendition of Tears for Fears’ 1980s classic “Mad World” hides the fact that he’s devastated by the loss of his father, who committed suicide.
Zoey feels Simon’s pain because of her own father, Mitch’s (Peter Gallagher), condition. Zoey’s mother (Mary Steenburgen) puts on a happy face while masking a deep sadness at the loss of her love. Mitch’s rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” in the first episode is powerful, as Gallagher explodes into full-throated singing and dancing that only Zoey can see and hear. It’s a conceit that creates a beautiful emotional subtext to the first episode, and the entire series.
Lauren Graham of “Gilmore Girls” fame plays Zoey’s boss, Joan, with fiery comic zest, a woman who’s had to be hell on wheels throughout her career and is now slowly burning out and hoping to pass the reins slowly to Zoey. Graham displays fun comedy acting chops, but episode three’s focus on her contained the series’ only annoying songs so far, thanks to her annoying renditions of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” and Katy Perry’s “Roar.” Her rendition, however, of “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus, was powerful.
The list of song titles in ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST is an indication of how impressively eclectic the program’s songlist is. Most episodes usually just barely discuss romance and affairs in the slightest of sexual terms, maintaining a relative innocence that’s refreshing and unfortunately rare in today’s TV and film landscape. The fourth episode, titled “Zoey’s Extraordinary Neighbor,” has both good and bad qualities. On the one hand, it followed Zoey’s discovery that her landlady and neighbor, Mo – who appears to be a large black woman – is actually a guy who dresses as a woman but performs as a man in his church’s choir. The fourth episode is about how Zoey helps him embrace and be open about his true desire to present himself to the world as a woman. She’s surprised by the revelation that he’s a man dressed as a woman and strives during the episode to help Mo build the confidence to appear as a woman at his church to sing a big solo number during a special church benefit service for children. This revelation in the fourth episode also shows that Mo’s earlier comments in previous episodes about seeing men were, in reality, references to the man’s homosexual lifestyle as well. This is an unexpected twist that drips with leftist political correctness. The role is played by a man named Alex Newell, who often appears in drag on screen, not just in ZOEY, and who identifies himself as a homosexual male and “gender-nonconforming.”
During the fourth episode, both Mo and his church’s pastor are unsure about how the congregation will treat Mo if they realize he’s a homosexual man who prefers dressing in women’s clothes. Mo tells Zoey that his past experience with other Christians haven’t been positive because of his homosexual identity, but he also tells her he loves church and loves singing in the choir. In previous episodes, Mo made several references to God. In fact, in Episode 2, after getting frustrated by Zoey’s reply to a question, he says, “Jesus take the wheel!” Mo’s Christian faith, such as it is, sparks an interest in religion for Zoey. Sadly, though, her parents didn’t bother to raise her with one. Her father is a lapsed Catholic, and her mother is a self-described “seeker” who seems to be interested in everything but Christianity. Eventually, Zoey’s own faith encounter in Episode 4 leads her to believe she should continue to use the songs and dances she hears and sees to help people, but to be more discerning about the signs that accompany the musical numbers.
Like the first three episodes of ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Neighbor” has a fun bounce, beautiful sheen and a great sense of joy. It also shows Zoey’s parents’ marriage in a highly positive light. “Zoey’s Extraordinary Neighbor” also continues to treat the father’s illness in a very moving, compassionate way. The fourth episode is fairly clean, but there are three brief verbal references to sleeping with someone. Even more regrettable, however, is that the episode has a false, strong antinomian, lawless worldview taking an emotional approach to Christian faith instead of focusing on what the Bible actually says. Thus, the episode promotes the acceptance of cross-dressing and homosexuality. This Non-Christian worldview is mitigated, though, by some overtly positive Christian, moral content.