Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (NBC)

Jake Lipson

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No one wanted to talk about this past weekend's episode?

I again thought it was great. It's dramatically interesting that they let Zoey fail, in that her attempts to help in previous episodes almost always ended up working out for the people who sang to her by the end of the episode. This time, her brother isn't talking to her and his marriage is worse off than it was before she heard their duet; she's gotten into a real situation with Simon, who is obviously attracted to her despite being engaged; and the anonymous peer reviews at work blew up in her face. Just about her only win this week was convincing her mom to take that job after hearing her dad sing "It's Your Thing." I'm very curious to see where all these stories go heading into the next episode. Also, Max breaking up with Autumn (which wasn't unexpected on my part) probably means he still has feelings for Zoey. So she's going to have to decide how she wants to deal with that, as well, because setting him up with someone else clearly didn't work.
 

Jake Lipson

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Did anyone else watch tonight's episode yet?

It's a big episode so I don't want to say anything spoilery just yet until I know more people have seen it. But I will say that even when Zoey is having a tough time, the show is a lot of fun to watch. It is the biggest blast of joy I've had this week, and we all need as much joy as we can get right now. I can't wait until next week.

 
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Adam Lenhardt

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Just caught up with last night's episode. I loved it.

One of the things that this show does better than just about any other I've seen is captured what it's like to be a family when one member has a long-term debilitating illness. The scene at the end, when they got back from the hospital and Maggie's beating herself up about leaving Mitch home with his friend Paul, and Zoey's talking her mother down, everything about that scene rang so true to me. And I love that Zoey was able to be Mitch's voice in that moment, saying everything that he undoubtedly would have said had he been able.

The love triangle with Simon blew up in spectacular fashion, but I thought it was really well-handled. Zoe didn't really do anything wrong; the suicide of Simon's father really impacts his relationship with Jessica, and they've been dancing around that fact for a while. Zoey's musical power and what she's going through with Mitch allowed Simon to be emotionally intimate with Zoey in a way that he hasn't been able to be with Jessica. In that moment, Zoey making the decision to exit stage left was exactly the right one for all involved.

As for Max, I think Zoey really wants to like him as much as he likes her. But I don't get the sense that she's really feeling it. That being said, the "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" march to the hospital was absolutely spectacular.
 

Jake Lipson

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I agree with pretty much everything you said. Regarding her father's fall, I suspected that would happen as soon as Paul said he had to get him upstairs. Moving the bed downstairs should have been done a long time ago for that exact reason. Although I am not paralyzed, I do have a disability and use a wheelchair. Our current house is all on one level and completely stairs-free specifically for my ease of use.

I think the issue with Max is that he is that friend for her who she has never thought of in a sexual capacity, and she can't make herself change that image of him. I have female friends who I am very close with who I would never consider in a romantic context, not because they're not wonderful people but because our platonic friendship has been in place for such a long time that it's just not how I think about them. Since setting Max up with Autumn clearly didn't erase his feelings for Zoey as she intended, I think she's going to have to confront him directly about it, unless she wants to keep hearing him sing love songs to her forever. Given how wonderful his song this week was, I certainly wouldn't complain about that as a viewer, but I'm guessing that it doesn't interest Zoey.

Similarly, you're right; Simon and Jessica's relationship problems existed before he met Zoey and don't really have anything to do with her, but they're going to have to figure that out on their own. She and Simon still work together, though, so it will be interesting to see how this affects their dynamic at work. I doubt it will be good.

Also, Alex Newell said in that Live at Five interview a couple weeks ago that they filmed 12 episodes this season, which makes this episode the midpoint. They've certainly gone through a lot in half a season. A lesser show might have allowed the Simon/Zoey situation to burn longer before blowing it up.
 
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Pretty key episode, that avoided a lot of the obvious moves.

Zoey's musical empathy does give her an advantage over those around her, and it was nice to see Max call out the inequity that introduces into their dynamic.

The show does a really good job of showing that all of the supporting characters have things going on in their own lives; they don't just exist to service Zoey's storyline.

I also appreciated the storyline with the home health aides, and the show's awareness of Mitch's needs as a person rather than just a medical specimen. The RN would have been the right choice for someone recovering from a serious injury, where rehabilitation is the goal. But Mitch has a terminal illness. He's not going to get better. He's only going to get worse. He needs someone who can not only see to his physical needs, but make the time he has left more enjoyable rather than less enjoyable. The aide played by Zak Orth made Mitch laugh. He listened to Mitch and saw Mitch rather than Maggie as his client. He understood that quality of life matters more than quantity of life. And to Maggie's credit, she understood and appreciated the difference too.

My one frustration with the episode was Zoey walking in on Leif seducing Joan. Leif elbowing out Zoey and gaining an advantage with Joan's favor would have been an interesting challenge for Zoey to have to deal with. It would have required her to utilize her newly developed interpersonal skills in ways that she is not accustomed to. But Leif and Joan hooking up is an HR nightmare. And it's a trump card she can keep in her back pocket, ready to deploy whenever she wants. It feels easier and cheaper for Zoey, which makes it less interesting. And it lessens Joan as a character. She's never been warm and cuddly, but she at least seemed like a competent boss.
 

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I have to say the flash mob being real, rather than a manifestation of Zoey's power, was a fun surprise. I was not expecting that at all, and it was a nice way to box her into telling him about her power.

But Leif and Joan hooking up is an HR nightmare.
My first thought about thug was actually that it might be a way to write Lauren Graham out of the show. She is technically a recurring guest star, but I think she has been in pretty much every episode thus far. She is signed onto be a series regular on the upcoming Mighty Ducks show for Disney+, so if Zoey is renewed, her presence might not be as significant next year. If Leif (or Zoey) turns the situation into an HR issue, it could result in Joan's firing, which would be an effective way to take her off the canvas. I want to be clear that I don't know any spoilers, and all of this is purely hypothetical, so if I end up being right I don't want anyone to get mad that I ruined it. But that would make sense to me.

Also, remember that Leif still thinks that Zoey wrote his negative peer review. If he finds out that Joan is the true author of it, and then slept with him, he might take that news particularly badly. If Zoey doesn't do so -- and I don't think that would really be her style -- this would give him a reason to report her to HR, even if he instigated the sexual situation. Zoey very much looked like that was not a song she wanted to be hearing (even moreso than usual) and the hookup was not something she wanted to be watching. But Leif took the negative review very hard, and he is probably still fragile about it.

Zoey's musical empathy does give her an advantage over those around her, and it was nice to see Max call out the inequity that introduces into their dynamic.
It does, so his mentioning that was justified. However, it's also not a power that she asked for or wants. Even though she has become closer to other people as a result of it, I think she would probably turn it off if she knew how to do that. So I can't really fault her too much for it. As she noted at the beginning, if her power had never made Max sing to her, their friendship would have gone on uninterrupted (at least until the flash mob.)

He was upset that she knew about it for months and didn't say anything. To be fair to her, I also question how she should have told him about it earlier; his reaction to being told about her power proves how difficult that is to hear. We also know that she is not particularly comfortable with hard conversations. If she wanted to tell Max she knew about his feelings in the beginning, how would she have been able to explain where she got that information? I'm not saying that she is totally blameless here, particularly due to setting him up with Autumn. But it is a complex situation. Because she always thought of Max as her friend, her learning about his romantic feelings was quite a shock, and that's understandable too. So I understand Max's point. But I also understand why Zoey did what she did, both in previous episodes and now.

Also, remember, technically, Zoey is Max's supervisor. So even though they were close before she got the promotion, technically it would be an HR issue if they were to become romantically involved, the same as with Leif and Joan.

I also appreciated the storyline with the home health aides, and the show's awareness of Mitch's needs as a person rather than just a medical specimen.
I don't have a terminal illness, but I do have a disability and I have had home health aides before. I know both of those aides and have had both sets of experiences, so it was nice to see that reflected in the show. I also appreciated that the aide they ultimately ended up going with (whose character name I forget) was shown to be competent after all, even if he didn't make the best impression in the interview. He doesn't have to be as rigid as the RN was, but he does need to be competent. I've had many aides over the years, especially when I was in college, who were extremely varied in their competency and personality. I'm glad that the show doesn't seem to be making either of these characters idiots at their job because most aren't (although I have had a couple occasional bad apples.). All of this is good, positive representation on television, and Zoey has done the best job of integrating a disability storyline since Speechless sadly went off the air.

On another note, are @Adam Lenhardt and I the only ones here still watching this on a regular basis, or are we just the only ones commenting with regularity? I hope more people find the show. It's a joy to watch. I enjoy reading Adam's posts about it, but it would be nice if more people wanted to join in on the discussion.

I also have to note the full-screen credits and lack of previews for next week. So far, the listings grid on my TV has a new episode scheduled for next Sunday. We also know courtesy of Alex Newell in the interview video I posted a while back that they are already done filming this season, so the shoot won't be interrupted by the coronavirus situation. However, just because they're finished shooting doesn't mean they're finished editing and have all the episodes ready to air. I wonder if this is indicative of a plan to stagger new episodes, if current events are preventing or delaying work on the latter episodes of the season.

I really hope they can get everything finished. I would be sad if this season ends early. I've always loved the show since the pilot aired, but especially since I haven't been able to go to movies or plays lately, this show has become the entertainment thing I most look forward to every week and I want to see the season through to its original conclusion if possible.

Last thought: I really hope there is a CD for the music at the end of the season. I don't want to pay $1.29 per song for the digital singles -- I did that for the first handful of episodes of Glee, and that got way too expensive really quick -- but I would absolutely buy a CD (my first preference) or reasonably-priced digital album of the entire season at the end.
 
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Jake Lipson

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Jake Lipson

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I loved tonight's episode. It was great for us as viewers to see Jane Levy have a turn to sing, which the premise usually doesn't allow. The only other time she's had a song was the dream sequence at the top of the second episode. She has a really strong voice and singing presence and was a pleasure to listen to throughout.

However, as entertaining as it was for her to be singing, I hated the circumstances for Zoey, which I think is exactly what made the episode work.

I know that by design, she was staying at work to avoid her father, but it did seem odd that she wouldn't reach out to Mo with her powers glitching.
 
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Adam Lenhardt

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I loved tonight's episode. It was great for us as viewers to see Jane Levy have a turn to sing, which the premise usually doesn't allow. The only other time she's had a song was the dream sequence at the top of the second episode. She has a really strong voice and singing presence and was a pleasure to listen to throughout.
Yes, I was looking forward to this episode because her one song on "Suburgatory" was one of the emotional highlights of that series:

What really impressed me about her work tonight is that when the POV is inside her head, Zoey is singing at Levy's full abilities, while when the POV is outside her head, Zoey is singing at an average person's abilities, not terrible but not really excellent either.

However, as entertaining as it was for her to be singing, I hated the circumstances for Zoey, which I think is exactly what made the episode work.
The whole gimmick of the episode, with all of the fun the show had with it, was building to the Diane Warren song she sings to her father at the end, expressing her feelings in a way that she would have been unable to articulate otherwise. And because her powers draft those around her into the choreography, she got to see her father's reaction in a way that would not have been possible in objective reality.

As much as I will miss Mitch, I appreciate that the show is playing out his illness honestly rather than having it operate on "TV" time. Apparently, series creator Austin Winsberg's dad passed away from the same disorder (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy) so a lot of Mitch's story has been drawn from his own life. And much like Zoey's brother, his wife was pregnant while his father was dying. I read an interview that basically said that the family didn't know what was going on inside his father's head for the last six months of his life, one of the influences that led him to create this show.

I know that by design, she was staying at work to avoid her father, but it did seem odd that she wouldn't reach out to Mo with her powers glitching.
I think that this episode had so much going on with Zoey's family and Zoey's work, that there just wasn't enough room for a third subplot with Mo.
 

Jake Lipson

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I think that this episode had so much going on with Zoey's family and Zoey's work, that there just wasn't enough room for a third subplot with Mo.
Right. It makes sense from a storytelling economy point of view and stuck out to me only because Mo is usually her advisor about her powers. It's clear why Max had to find out before they could do this episode so that he could take on that role for her tonight. I do hope there is at least a brief reference to this experience the next time we see Mo, because it would be wrong for Zoey not to tell him about it.

As much as I will miss Mitch, I appreciate that the show is playing out his illness honestly rather than having it operate on "TV" time.
Having this depicted on television in this way has been fantastic, but I agree. It's much more effective to take him away from them than to pretend that's not what would happen. I'm guessing that we probably have Mitch until the end of the season, and then he will die and Peter Gallagher won't return for a potential second season. His death will provide an interesting trajectory for the show when it is renewed, since the natural next step would be to see how the family picks up the pieces and tries to move forward. (The renewal hasn't been announced yet, but I'm considering it a when because I don't want to think about the alternative.)

The choice of songs for Zoey with Max and Simon, respectively, was interesting because I've never read anything romantic into her feelings for Max before tonight, and I don't think she did either. The kiss with Simon was certainly an escalation of their relationship -- so much for last week's "we have to go back to just being coworkers" -- but I kind of felt like he let her off easy relative to why she was singing. I was wondering if she would have to confess about her power to him as well, but I guess they didn't want to do that again so soon after Max found out about it.

Also, my goodness; I haven't seen anything from Suburgatory in years, but I loved that show, too. I wish they would put out a complete series set on disc. As far as I know, only season one was released.

Lastly, the EP for this week's songs presents them in the wrong order. "I Want You to Want Me" appears before "I'm Yours" rather than after. I'm streaming the EPs for now, but still want to buy a full season soundtrack if they come out with a disc when the season is over. However, if they do that, I hope they present the songs sequenced in the correct order that follows the arc of the storytelling in the episodes.
 
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Adam Lenhardt

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I'm guessing that we probably have Mitch until the end of the season, and then he will die and Peter Gallagher won't return for a potential second season.
That's my guess as well, that the season finale will be built around Mitch's death and perhaps also the birth of Zoey's nephew.

I don't think that precludes Peter Gallagher popping up occasionally as a special guest star in subsequent seasons, in flashbacks or perhaps old videos like the wedding video.

The choice of songs for Zoey with Max and Simon, respectively, was interesting because I've never read anything romantic into her feelings for Max before tonight, and I don't think she did either. The kiss with Simon was certainly an escalation of their relationship -- so much for last week's "we have to go back to just being coworkers" -- but I kind of felt like he let her off easy relative to why she was singing.
I think Zoey has a fierce loyalty to Max, and her feelings for him grow out of that loyalty and her appreciation for everything he does for her. On the other hand, I think she's both emotionally invested in Simon and sexually attracted to Simon in a completely different way. Her relationship with Max has a better chance of surviving in the long run because Zoey's at least being up front and honest with him now. But the counter-argument is that Zoey and Simon relate to one another in a way that Max will never understand short of losing one of his parents in a horrible tragic situation.
 
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That's my guess as well, that the season finale will be built around Mitch's death and perhaps also the birth of Zoey's nephew.
That's a good theory. When you put it like that, I wonder if they will name the baby after Mitch to honor him following his death.

I don't think that precludes Peter Gallagher popping up occasionally as a special guest star in subsequent seasons, in flashbacks or perhaps old videos like the wedding video.
Right, sure. But I do not think he would be back in a series regular capacity as he is this season.
 

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... I know both of those aides and have had both sets of experiences, so it was nice to see that reflected in the show. I also appreciated that the aide they ultimately ended up going with (whose character name I forget) was shown to be competent after all, even if he didn't make the best impression in the interview. He doesn't have to be as rigid as the RN was, but he does need to be competent. ...

On another note, are @Adam Lenhardt and I the only ones here still watching this on a regular basis, or are we just the only ones commenting with regularity? I hope more people find the show. It's a joy to watch. I enjoy reading Adam's posts about it, but it would be nice if more people wanted to join in on the discussion.
When we were watching the episode my wife said they should have gone with the poker guy who made Mitch laugh. I predicted that they would change their mind and go for him before the episode ended. We were glad to see that was the case.

We're watching on Dish Network and since we can't hop over advertisements until the episodes are a week old and we have plenty enough to watch anyway, we usually don't watch until a week later.

My wife had one biting comment earlier in the episode, she thought Maggie's song to Zoey and David was painfully embarrassing to watch.
 

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A behind-the-scenes look at this weekend's episode, featuring members of Deaf West Theatre:

 

Jake Lipson

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We're watching on Dish Network and since we can't hop over advertisements until the episodes are a week old and we have plenty enough to watch anyway, we usually don't watch until a week later.
In that case, I suggest that you read the posts above yours that discuss the more recent episode than the one you are discussing. I don't want to spoil it for anyone.
 

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A behind-the-scenes look at this weekend's episode, featuring members of Deaf West Theatre
I'm really excited for this episode. Deaf theatre is amazing, and Deaf West is particularly well regarded. Anthony Natale, one of the all time great Deaf actors, is an alumnus. Deaf West was also behind the 2015 Broadway revival of Spring Awakening, performed in both ASL and English by a mixed cast of Deaf and hearing actors.

During my college years, I had a lot of contact with the Deaf community. I was never fluent in ASL, but by the time I graduated I could at least carry on a conversation entirely in sign language, albeit with the bulk of the heavy lifting coming from the Deaf person. One of my first assignments when I got hired at the New York State Education Department was coordinating State reimbursement to school districts for costs incurred to send students to the State-supported and State Operated schools for the visually impaired and Deaf.

Unfortunately, like so many things, I didn't use ASL regularly and my skills and vocabulary quickly atrophied. I can still finger spell, but that's about it. It's something I've long regretted.
 
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I was a bit bummed that we only got one ASL musical number (performed to an instrumental version of "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten) but I still enjoyed the episode a lot.

Unfortunately, a lack of closeness between hearing parents and their Deaf children is all too common. Howie is actually ahead of the game because he is one of the less than 20 percent of hearing parents of Deaf children who actually learned sign language. But Abigail's complaints about him -- that he saw her inability to hear as a problem to fix, turned to hearing aids and cochlear implants to try and drag her into the hearing world, and that he saw her Deafness as impairment rather than as an alternate way to live -- are all common complaints that many Deaf children have about their hearing parents.

The special education framework isn't particularly helpful to Deaf children, either; the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires committees on special education to place students in the least restrictive environment that will meet the student's educational needs. For Deaf children, this usually means a hearing classroom with hearing aids or a cochlear implant, or in cases of profound hearing loss, a hearing classroom with an interpreter. This arrangement conveys the material being taught, albeit imperfectly, but denies them all of the less tangible benefits of a learning environment surrounded by peers. The first time I visited a school for the Deaf, I was instantly convinced of the inadequacy of mainstreaming Deaf students. Seeing a school where the teachers taught in ASL, the kids chatted in the halls with one another in ASL, it completely eliminated disability as a framework for viewing Deafness.

In Abigail's case, going to UC Berkeley and living in a Deaf dorm was probably the first time in her life that she had that experience, and experiencing what she'd missed out on for her entire childhood and teenage years probably fueled her resentment toward Howie and was a significant factor in their estrangement.

The choice of Kenya as the place she wants to go reflects long-time U.S. involvement in Deaf education in that country, particularly through the Peace Corps. Kenyan Sign Language has its roots in two schools for the Deaf set up by Dutch missionaries in the early sixties, at the tail end of British rule in that country. American Sign Language and Dutch sign language both have their roots in French Sign Language, and roughly a fifth of KSL signs are the same as ASL signs.

One thing I liked about this subplot: Zoey's project to help heal the rift between Howie and Abigail was also a nice little bonding opportunity for her and Mitch. Mitch is the one who instigates her involvement, and there are a few moments where it's made clear that he is interested in the progress being made and aware of Zoey's success by the end of the episode.

The "Sounds of Silence" musical number was a more sophisticated utilization of Zoey's power, with Howie and Mitch singing a duet, but the two of them conveying very different things in the process.

Zoey's love triangle I'm less interested in, at this point.
 
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Jake Lipson

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I was a bit bummed that we only got one ASL musical number (performed to an instrumental version of "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten) but I still enjoyed the episode a lot.
The good news here is that they deliberately left open the door for Abagail to return in the future via the internship with Zoey. Because she is going to Kenya, it clearly won't happen this season. But I absolutely think we could see her more next season. They'd just have to say that she went to Kenya over the summer or something and is back, and that would work out to make her a more frequent presence at that time. If and when she returns, I assume we would get more numbers like tonight's, which was excellent. This could also be a way to keep Howie around as a character even after Mitch's passing, at which point he would no longer need to work with Zoey's family.

Zoey's love triangle I'm less interested in, at this point.
This all still really worked for me. I think Max wanted Zoey to tell him she meant too much to him to let him take the sixth floor job, but I think she said the right thing even if it isn't what he wanted to hear. I assume she would still be friends with him if he works for a different team, and it would actually make things less complicated for them to pursue a relationship if she isn't his boss.

Zoey also said the right thing to Simon, although technically she also said the same thing prior to the engagement party and that didn't stick. Even before she sang to him, they were interacting closely after the party. It will be interesting to see what Simon's breaking the engagement to Jessica does. I liked that Zoey said she won't be a home wrecker, but if Simon goes directly to her after the breakup, isn't she still sort of that? I think it's clear that Simon had troubles with his engagement even prior to Zoey's entrance into his life, but it wouldn't surprise me if Zoey still feels responsible for causing that separation.

Since Simon was on the elevator in the beginning of the episode while Zoey was talking to Max about her power going back to normal, I wondered if he overheard any of that or what he thought they were talking about. I get why Max was being kind of cold to Zoey, but I think him chiding her for listening to other people's thoughts 'whether they want you to or not" wasn't entirely fair. Again, it's not like she asked for this power, and I'm sure she would rather turn it off if that were possible.

The other thing that surprised me was Emily buying the lift for Mitch. It's a lovely gesture, but if he has only "a few weeks left," as per the previous episode, then she spent a lot of money for something that will be rendered useless rather quickly given the progression of his disease.

I was also glad to see Mo reappear this week after taking a week (or, day, in the show's chronology) off in last week's episode. I was also glad that they put in a line saying that Zoey told Mo about her experience singing last week, which feels obvious but I felt like they needed to cover because the two characters are so close.

I will miss the show next week on its Easter preemption. But leaving it on the cliffhanger of Simon's breakup with Jessica is probably as effective breaking point to make sure people won't forget to return in two weeks. I mean, I will of course come back since this is my favorite show currently airing. But it's probably good to have a cliffhanger heading into a two-week break just in case some people less invested in it than I am get out of habit and need an incentive to tune back in in two weeks.
 
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Stars in the House is a charity fundraiser show being done to benefit The Actors Fund in the middle of this pandemic. Tonight at 8pm Eastern (and archived afterwards if you want to watch later), there will be a live-streamed virtual reunion of cast and crew members from Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist to catch up with each other and talk about their experiences on the show.

Those involved include Skylar Astin (Max), Andrew Leeds (David), Peter Gallagher (Mitch), Lauren Graham (Joan), Jane Levy (Zoey), Alex Newell (Mo), Mary Steenburgen (Maggie), John Clarence Stewart (Simon), and series creator/executive producer Austin Winsberg and producer/choreographer Mandy Moore.

It is free to watch but they will be encouraging donations to The Actors Fund, which provides financial assistance for people who work in the entertainment industry who are having a difficult time due to the virus.

 
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Just a reminder that the show returns tonight following its Easter preemption last week.
 

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