In Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, the titular Zoey starts to hear the thoughts of those around her – but expressed in song. Sam Brooks investigates what would happen if Zoey took a trip across the Pacific to sunny ol’ New Zealand.
If you could pick any superpower, what would it be? Flight? Maybe, but all those power lines and dirtbag birds flying around, no thanks. Teleportation? Sure, but then you’d never have an excuse for being 15 minutes late to a meeting, which is a necessary part of life. Reading people’s thoughts? Yeah, but what if they hated me, or worse, hated what I was wearing? No thanks.
Let’s go back to that last one: What if you could hear people’s thoughts but they were expressed through the medium of popular pop songs and dance numbers?
That’s the premise of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, the new comedy that shows what would happen if you chucked Glee into a blender with Joan of Arcadia (underrated show). After being in an MRI machine during an earthquake, truly my worst nightmare, computer programmer Zoey (a luminous Jane Levy) finds that the people around her are expressing their innermost thoughts, desires and needs through musical numbers. Singing, choreography, the works.
These include the guy at the office she has a crush on (‘Mad World’), her secretly creepy workmate (a very white ‘All I Do Is Win’) and a group of women who watch a hot man walk by (‘Whatta Man’, relatable!). The musical numbers are high energy, often very literal and sung directly to Zoey. People sing what they’re feeling, and my gods, people are feeling a lot in this show.
So! What if, and hear me out here, Zoey visited New Zealand? What would she do, what people would she run into and, more importantly, which New Zealand bangers would be played out in front of her? Never fear, reader (and also Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist creator Austin Winsberg, if you’re reading), because I’ve come up with a few of New Zealand’s best hits, and how they might pertain to what Zoey is going through.
Warning: Some of them are, um, quite literal.
‘Drive’ – Bic Runga
The lyrics: “You know it’s late now, you know I’ve got to go”, “No boy don’t speak now, just drive, drive, drive”.
The situation: Zoey is on the last bus home, and because this is New Zealand it’s probably at some early time like 8:30pm.
The singer: The only other person on the bus, sitting in that one awkward seat up the front that’s just behind the door. You know, the one that means you have to make eye contact with everyone who steps on. They stare mournfully at the bus driver, the one constant in their workaday office life, and then, yes, they start to sing.
‘How Bizarre’ – OMC
The lyrics: “Ooh, baby, ooh, baby, it’s making me crazy, it’s making me crazy, every time I look around (look around), every time I look around (every time I look around), every time I look around, It’s in my face”, “How bizarre, how bizarre”.
The situation: Zoey ends up in Wellington for a programmer’s conference (they have those, right?) and walks past our country’s most famous sculpture, loved and hated equally: the bucket fountain on Cuba Street.
The singers: A cross-section of Wellington stereotypes – civil servants, baristas, slightly employed artists and ambiguously qualified professors – sing this as they walk past the bucket, constantly and annoyingly splashing litres of water everywhere.
“Green Light” – Lorde
The lyrics: “I do my makeup in somebody else’s car. We order different drinks at the same bars”, “I got that green light! I want it!”
The situation: Zoey is in the backseat of an Uber with her friend Mo, who looks out the window into Auckland suburbia. Against all odds, they manage to get a string of green lights on Dominion Road as they rush into the city for a night hitting the dance floor.
The singer: Mo! Of course. Mostly because this would give us the chance to hear Alex Newell, one of the finest singers on network television, the chance to sing ‘Green Light’, one of the best pop songs of last decade.
“Loyal” – Dave Dobbyn
The lyrics: “Call me loyal, I’ll say you’re loyal too. Know you’re loyal, I feel your loyal truth. Call me loyal.”
The situation: Zoey’s flown to New Zealand for one important gig: to fix the online application process at StudyLink. She takes a visit to the StudyLink offices, and walks by the call centre… only to hear the strains that will be familiar to any New Zealander who has ever applied for a student loan.
The singer: A call centre worker called…. Loyal.
‘Six Months in a Leaky Boat’ – Split Enz
The lyrics: “I just spent six months in a leaky boat, lucky just to keep afloat! Aotearoa, rugged individual. Glisten like a pearl, at the bottom of the world.”
The situation: Jane is on the Interislander Ferry, to go and see the beautiful South Island. Look, she’s got a lot of ground to cover in this one episode, you guys.
The singer: A hardened old grizzled mariner – that’s right, not a boat captain, not even a boatswain, he’s a mariner, so you know he’s serious. He stands on the side of the Interislander, thinking about the times when he used to sail the strait in his own vessel, and how one time, yes, he spent six months in a leaky boat. I warned you some of these would be literal, and I am not apologising!
‘Royals’ – Lorde
The lyrics: “We’ll never be royals, it don’t run in our blood.”
The situation: The year is 2019, so maybe it’s a flashback episode! On her way back to Wellington, Zoey stops off at the Maranui Cafe in Lyall Bay only to find that it’s crammed with people because, why, it’s the day that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are visiting! Luckily, Zoey manages to get a seat, and before you know it, someone starts singing. That someone?
The singer: Meghan Markle herself, baby! It’s the former Duchess’ return to the small screen, and what better place than on the delightful Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, in her soon-to-be favourite country New Zealand. I’m sure she’ll be up for referencing her very public exit from the royal family in this lightly satirical way!
You can watch Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist on TVNZ on Demand right here. Episodes go live on Mondays at 9PM.
This content was created in paid partnership with TVNZ. Learn more about our partnerships here.
Go to TVNZ OnDemand, where you’ll find a ton of other great shows (…way beyond just what’s played on TV)