Tuesday, February 18, 2020

"Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist" Needs Rules

We all know I love a singing show.  I do.  But, it turns out there are things you need to know to do a singing show.  One of them is what are the rules of the singing.  It seems silly right?  Like musicals make no sense, why would you need rules?  I hear you.  But they do.  And not because I am secretly bossy.  
See, in most musicals, songs are like monologues.  They provide emotional exposition, but also the scene is set up to provide audience cues as to the following:  Is this song between the singer and the audience?  (Ie, no one else knows what we now know.)  Is this song a duet perhaps, where two characters are sharing feelings too amazing to be expressed with mere words?  Is this ensemble number essentially scene setting?  Some sort of let's all have a picnic song?  
This is why, for example, the "High School Musical 2" song "I Don't Dance" is a little jarring.  Because yes, just as we the audience understand that singing stands in for talking, and dancing only happens when you sing, Chad has been dancing for a movie and a half.  
It's also why yes, on the one hand it can be amusing that in 'real life', Rebecca Bunch in "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is actually a terrible singer, it's also why the trope of the person who is ill or disabled being able to express themselves physically because now it's a dance number, is kind of icky.  
"Zoey" and titular character Zoey, are trying to have it both ways.  Zoey can hear people's inner thoughts, but apparently so can everyone else?  Or apparently in her visions of their song, they sometimes but not always require ensemble assistance?  Or sometimes have the same inner song? Rebecca Bunch was, well, you may have heard crazy.  It made sense that people just got used to her zoning out for a dance number.  When the whole cast uses song to express their feelings, you can assume that time moves differently or something.  But in "Zoey" the whole cast sings (yay for Skylar Astin singing again!) but only Zoey knows and hears this.  But in her vision of this, random strangers on the street participate in other's songs that are apparently the deepest thoughts of that one person. 
Also, Zoey is a control freak.  And sure, you could argue dramatic irony in her revelation of a super power that does nothing but interrupt.  But the balance is off.  Zoey hates this power and dislikes it's disruptiveness.
The show is careless in other ways too.  In the pilot, Zoey is up for promotion, which she has been told she can likely get if she solves a coding bug, so she goes and visits her family.  Also, apparently none of them know what an office where everyone's pitching in before a big launch when there's a huge problem looks like.  (Hint, not clean.  Covered in food containers.) The show is afraid you won't notice Claire is a control freak, so has her do a thing in the second episode with a poster that has a CTRL button on it, in case you weren't sure.  
Also, I would like to say that honestly the song being deepest desires is going to haunt them in about three episodes, because characters have a limited number of deepest desires, and there are also a limited number of completely straighforward songs they can steal from pop culture.  Sure, you can say "Glee" went multiple seasons.  And I will tell you that yes, "Glee" did.  Their characters were wildly inconsistent from episode to episode, and they also had the show choir excuse so that some of these songs were ones that Mr. Schue picked for them, that just ended up having some relevance.  
So, it sounds like I hate it, and I don't.  I have concerns.  I have concerns that they have painted themselves very quickly into a corner. I have concerns they think the audience doesn't understand anything they haven't told you six times.  It's a great cast, I want Lauren Graham and Skylar Astin and these other people to get the chance to sing all the time.  
But there need to be rules.  How can a show ostensibly about a control freak lack rules?