There’s a lot of talent bopping around “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” but all the singing and dancing doesn’t really add up to a full story.
Thanks to an odd event, Zoey (Jane Levy) gains the ability to hear the songs running through people’s minds. It’s a window in – particularly when it comes to co-workers and her father (Peter Gallagher), a man who has been silenced by disease. But it’s also a big curse – something she doesn’t know how to process.
Is she suffering from something? Or does she have a superpower that could be harnessed?
Creator Austin Winsberg doesn’t answer many questions in the first outing, but he does hint at how she benefits from knowing what folks are thinking.
Up for a big promotion at her Google-like company, Zoey realizes what it takes to get others on her team. Of course it takes several songs (and a lot of dancing around the quirky office), but she understands they need propping up just as much as she does.
Winsberg does a fine job with casting – all of the folks involved have facility with music. He hits his peak, though, with Gallagher, a Broadway veteran, who comes out of his catatonic state to sashay around the family living room. There’s a germ of something here. It’s never quite clear what it could be.
Skyler Astin stars as a fellow worker who stacks up as a likely romantic partner. He got plenty of experience in the “Pitch Perfect” films and doesn’t disappoint here. Able to move up and down the steps of various locations, he’s capitalizing on what he did on “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” There, the music was original (and helped comment on the plot). Here, it’s like Boy Band Dance Break and he’s the group’s Justin Timberlake.
Interestingly, those stray characters in the background often bring it more than the original cast of “High School Musical.” They get a line or two that suggests they might be triple threats but Winsberg doesn’t work them into the plot to make you understand if they’re vital or day laborers.
If this gets beyond the initial conceit, look for the future to hang on the skills of visitors.
Alex Newell – as Zoey’s friend Mo – has mad skills. Newell was in the later years of “Glee” and, most recently, rocked “Once on This Island” on Broadway but, so far, hasn’t been given anything remotely close to the work Tituss Burgess got on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” The characters are similar. Mo, however, isn’t fully realized.
Oddly, Levy seems tentative as well. Even though she’s supposed to be thrown by this new-found ability, you’d think she’d be able to lean in a little better than she does in the pilot.
Sticking music with drama, though, is always a bit dicey. “Smash” had a so-so roll of the dice. “Cop Rock” all but put a bullet in the genre.
Perhaps more story, fewer boy band moves and “Zoey’s Playlist” could move from the B side to the hit list.
"Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist" has a preview in January, then it'll premiere in February on NBC.