‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ finds heart, song in tragedy


The NBC TELEVISION series “Zoey’s Remarkable Playlist” has a not likely origin



February 14, 2020, 7: 22 PM

5 minutes read

The zestfully titled, song-and-dance filled “Zoey’s Amazing Playlist” has a not likely origin. The NBC series, about a young woman who channels other people’s thoughts through pop tunes, was inspired by the terrible health problem of creator Austin Winsberg’s dad.

In the months before a rare neurological condition declared Richard Winsberg’s life in 2011, the 68- year-old architect who had been participated in a full, active life was left immobilized and unable to speak.

” We would attempt to determine ways to interact with him, however we didn’t constantly know what he was thinking, what he was processing. And I was also becoming a dad for the very first time, while losing my daddy that I was truly near,” Austin Winsberg remembered. “It was a really, very agonizing time in our lives.”

The range of years enabled Winsberg, 43, to attend to the loss in his writing.

” One day I thought, ‘What if the manner in which my daddy saw the world throughout that time was through musical numbers?’ And somehow the idea of that made me smile, and it brought a little delight out of something that felt extremely sad and terrible,” he recalled.

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” Zoey’s Remarkable Playlist,” which previewed in January and starts its full 12- episode perform at 9 p.m. EST Sunday, stars Jane Levy as Zoey, a computer system coder whose life is changed throughout a medical test. She becomes the one-woman audience for such unscripted numbers as work friend Max (Skylar Astin) exclaiming his unmentioned affection for her with the Partridge Family tune “I Believe I Love You.”

There’s choreography in addition to the vocals, undetectable to all but the confused Zoey. But the problem turns into a gift when she gets entry to the thoughts of her father, who is disabled with a disease like that of Winsberg’s father. Peter Gallaghand and Mary Steenburgen play Zoey’s parents, Mitch and Maggie, with Lauren Graham as her manager.

Musicals are familiar turf for Winsberg. He composed the book for “First Date,” which was on Broadway in 2013-14, and offered three other music-centered TELEVISION pilots to networks that didn’t make it to series. However producing what are essentially a lots musical productions on a tight schedule showed logistically daunting, he said, even with steadfast network assistance.

” We have eight days to shoot episodes, and we do somewhere in between five and 6 musical numbers an episode,” he stated, all within stringent creative guidelines. “We didn’t want them to feel like music videos. We didn’t desire to make them seem like fantasy numbers, where the lighting and the outfits and whatever modification and with people singing straight at the camera.”

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Instead, the goal was to produce “an external expression of the individual’s internal desires and desires,” Winsberg stated. “So, in a manner, it’s an extension of the comedy or the drama that’s happening in the scene. It’s not just a musical number for a musical number’s sake.”

That high bar found the choreographer who might jump it: Mandy Moore, who shares her name with the “This Is United States” actress but is a star in her own field. Her credits consist of the film “La La Land,” stage projects, and the Oscar, Grammy and Emmy events. She’s also a double Emmy winner for her choreography on “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing with destiny.”

” Zoey’s Remarkable Playlist” brought its own difficulties, Moore said.

” These numbers that we’re developing are distinct to each character in each scene. It’s not like the type of show where you’ve got a cabaret club, and whenever you’re in the club there’s a band. These dancers live in so many different worlds within the show,” Moore stated. “It is physically various worlds, since you do (a number) in a bedroom, or in a coffee bar. However we’re likewise able to physicalize emotion: Something can be a really sad tune, and so how does that appearance? What kind of shape, what kind of dance relocations throughout an unfortunate song, versus one that’s speaking about being jealous or one that is somebody poking fun?”

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What may be amusing and touching for viewers stays personal for Winsberg.

” Every episode, something that takes place to (Mitch) or occurs to the household is something that we went through over that time. And it’s raw and susceptible, putting yourself out there like that,” he said.

It’s likewise proved rewarding. Considering that the sneak peek episode aired, Winsberg has actually heard from dozens of people whose families are afflicted by diseases akin to progressive supranuclear palsy, which took his daddy’s life within a fairly brief time after it was finally identified (the disease can be misinterpreted for the more common Parkinson’s, according to Johns Hopkins Medication).

It’s heartening that viewers are “seeing the reflection of what they’re going through,” he stated. It likewise makes his family’s loss count for something.

The worth of bringing awareness to the illness is “part of my dad’s tradition,” he stated.


Lynn Elber can be reached at lelber@ap.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.

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