How the Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Shook Up Zoey's Whole World

Creator Austin Winsberg breaks down the Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist premiere's biggest moments.

By Lauren Piester Jan 06, 2021 2:00 AMTags
Zoey's Extraordinary PlaylistNBC

Sometimes, there's nothing that a little singing can't fix.

Okay, there's a lot of things that singing can't fix, like global pandemics. But it can at least make things feel better for a minute, and that's exactly what Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist is finally back to do: make us feel better for a minute, or for an hour. 

Tonight's season two premiere picked up a good six weeks after the end of season one, when Mitch (Peter Gallagher) passed away. Zoey's (Jane Levy) spent that time grieving the loss of her dad, and while the show exists in a fantasy world with no global pandemic, there's still a sort of parallel to what's happening in real life. We're all grieving and we're all getting used to a new kind of normal, which series creator Austin Winsberg recognizes. 

"Season two was kind of all about recovery," he tells E! News. "Season two was all about what do we do after a tragedy and how do we pick up the pieces and move on and try to create a new normal for ourselves. A lot of those ideas became more and more relevant as this pandemic has raged on. What is it like to return to the world? How do we return to the world?" 

2021 TV Premiere Dates

For Zoey, that world is one without her dad and without her mentor, Joan (Lauren Graham). Graham was originally supposed to be able to film both Zoey's and Disney+'s Mighty Ducks show, but the pandemic caused a scheduling conflict that made that impossible. That means Joan is headed overseas with a promotion, leaving Zoey as the new director of the Fourth Floor. 

"We had to recalibrate and readjust a lot of our plans to not include Joan," Winsberg explained. "It was a bummer because we love Lauren Graham and we want her back. She wants to come back, but for the time being, we had to figure out how to not have her as a part of episodes...She's not gone, she's just away." 


Zoey's new normal also includes makeout sessions with her best friend Max (Skylar Astin) as she seemingly picked one corner of the love triangle to head towards. Zoey's approaching 30 (which is a storyline this season) and the writers wanted her to be a little less "flip-floppy." But as Winsberg says, "the road to love may not be as simple and easy as we want it to be." 

That's partly thanks to the fact that Max, Simon (John Clarence Stewart) and Mo (Alex Newell) are all BFFs and business partners now, further adding to the changes in Zoey's life. 

At first, another change was the loss of Zoey's musical powers, but as soon as she returned to work, the powers returned too. That lead to a massive "Hello Dolly" performance in the office that simply made everything feel a little more okay, even if we know the hard parts aren't all over. 

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Is Finding Its Own Voice in New Key Art

The show skipped past much of the immediate grief after Mitch's death, but Winsberg, who lost his father to the same disease that Mitch died of, said there's a long journey ahead for Zoey and this new life she has to live. 

"Grief isn't finite. There's no end point. It's kind of a non-circular road," he said. "I didn't go back to work for three weeks after my dad died, so I felt like we needed to have some period of space between the end and the new beginning. We needed a little bit of distance, because if you come in right at the beginning of the grief, I just feel like it's so sad and so raw. I also liked the metaphor that Zoey had been home for six weeks and hadn't left the house." 

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC. 

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)