Well this truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
Though NBC’s beloved dramedy Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist was cancelled last June, here we are six months later with Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas, premiering on The Roku Channel.
Usually by the time a cancelled-too-soon show gets a second chance the audience might have begun to move on, the plot twists and characters already fading from our memory. But most Zoey fans are probably still in the denial phase of the television grieving process.
Yet still the question remains: Can a movie be everything the show’s devoted fan base needs it to be? Can there be a satisfying resolution to the big Season 2 cliffhanger? Will it leave us wanting more? If you’ve never seen a single episode of Zoey will you still be able to follow the movie?
The answer is “yes” on all counts. Creator, writer, and executive producer Austin Winsberg has pulled off a Christmas miracle. Also if you’ve never seen the show before, get on that. All 25 episodes of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist are currently airing on The Roku Channel, so catch up!
Picking up not too long after the second season finale, Zoey (Jane Levy) is determined to keep her family together and celebrate Christmas the way her late father Mitch (Peter Gallagher) always did: His decorations. His traditions. His favorite foods—her type A personality wants to keep everything exactly as it was when Mitch was alive. “I want us to have the most Mitch Christmas ever,” she confesses to Max (Skylar Astin). Anyone who has ever experienced the death of a loved one knows how difficult and challenging the first holidays can be without them, and the movie explores that loss from all different perspectives.
Meanwhile Max, who gained the “heart song” power in the Season 2 finale, thinks dealing with the power is easy peasy. He hears someone singing Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and all he has to do is give them an umbrella. How fun is that? “I think I got them so I could tell you how awesome they are.” Max tells her. “I have no idea why you’ve had so many challenges in the past because they’re kind of the best thing ever.” Max’s cocky confidence would be incredibly grating if not being played by the ever charming Astin. Of course, Zoey knows the underbelly of the powers all too well. “You do not understand the complexities like I do,” she tells him.
Elsewhere, Mo (Newell) and Perry (David St. Louis) are still going strong—so much so that Mo is shopping for Christmas presents for Perry’s kids and helping them with their Christmas pageant. Maggie (Mary Steenburgen) and Deb (Bernadette Peters) are planning a Hawaii vacation, while Zoey’s brother David (Andrew Leeds) and his wife Emily (Alice Lee) are trying to one-up a frenemy with their Christmas card.
Even though they get to rock out to Motley Crue, we don’t see nearly enough of the SPRQ Point crew. But honestly can there ever be enough of the SPRQ Point crew? (If anyone is looking for what to get me for Christmas, I’ll take a SPRQ Point ugly Christmas sweater. Thanks.) My one quibble: No longer part of the show’s central love triangle, Simon (John Clarence Stewart) doesn’t get much of a storyline. Although Simon does get some closure too, most of his arc in the movie is just him reporting to Zoey what he’s been up to. I missed him having his own musical number.
The show’s true gift was always its ability to seamlessly blend beautifully choreographed and executed musical numbers with romantic angst, work strife and one of the most searingly honest portrayals of grief. There’s so much joy and so much pain in the show—often in the same scene. Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas effortlessly ricochets from ebullient Christmas songs (the movie kicks off with a showstopper from Alex Newell) to a heart-wrenching take on Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” Choreographer Mandy Moore’s work in the movie is truly spectacular.
With Max’s newfound ability, Levy gets to sing and dance her heart out on heart songs. It’s a true delight to see her rocking out to Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.” “You acted a bit like a matador,” Max says to her incredulously. Vocally Levy is up to the challenge, and when Max and Zoey go back and forth in dueling heart songs, well, the show pretty much evolves into its peak form.
What I really love about the movie is how it brings an extremely satisfying ending to all the dangling plot points while also leaving the door open just a tiny crack for possible future movies. I have some suggestions if they are looking for them—Zoey’s Extraordinary Wedding and Zoey’s Extraordinary Baby Shower immediately come to mind.
But, if this is the end of the road for Zoey, what an incredibly high note to end on. Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas is the perfect gift for fans.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas premieres December 1 on The Roku Channel.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and a member of the Television Critics Association. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).
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