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"It was a very painful time." The bittersweet story behind Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist.

If you’re looking for a good TV show to cheer you up, they don’t come more joyful than Stan’s new series Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.

Described as “the cool older sister of Glee,” the musical comedy/drama captured our hearts when it danced and riffed its way onto the Aussie streaming service earlier this year.

A quick recap for those who aren’t already obsessed – Zoey (played by Suburgatory actress Jane Levy) is a coder at a San Francisco tech startup. At work, she’s up for a big promotion against her all-male colleagues. At home, she’s coming to terms with her father Mitch’s (The O.C.’s Peter Gallagher) rare neurological condition that’s left him unable to speak or move without assistance.

You can watch the trailer for Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist below. Post continues after video.

Video by Stan

Between working long hours to prove her worth to her boss Joan (Gilmore Girls’ Lauren Graham) and spending the rest of her free time helping her mum Maggie (Mary Steenburgen) care for her dad – and being woken up by her neighbour Mo (played by Glee’s Alex Newell) singing noughties hits every morning – Zoey’s got a lot going on.

So after weeks of ignoring painful headaches that won’t go away, she books herself in to see a doctor. There, lying in an MRI machine during an earthquake, Zoey’s life changes forever.

Zoey, a woman who sees life in black, white and HTML, is gifted the power to pick up on the hidden feelings, thoughts and grievances of the people around her, who now break out into songs only she can hear and perform dance numbers only she can see.

From finding out her best friend Max (Skylar Astin from Pitch Perfect) is secretly in love with her, to getting an unwelcome insight into her brother and sister-in-law’s marital sex woes, watching Zoey navigate her new ‘gift’ is a musical rollercoaster, complete with jazz hands and acapella harmonies.

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zoe's extraordinary playlist
This show is pure joy, as is evident from these epic dance moves. Image: Stan.

In these uncertain times, it's the perfect show to watch if you're in need of a pick-me-up... or just really love a well-choreographed musical number. But as it turns out, the show was inspired by a sad true story.

In an interview with The Hollywood ReporterZoey's Extraordinary Playlist creator Austin Winsberg said he was inspired to write the show several years after his father Richard Winsberg passed away. In 2011, Richard died of progressive supranuclear palsy, the same disease Gallagher's character Mitch has in the series.

"Eventually, I got to a place where I felt like I need to write about this, I need to write about what that experience was like. I started thinking about the different ways in which I could tell that story, and what is a way that can make it feel hopeful and optimistic rather than just sad and depressing?" he told the publication.

"I didn't know how much [Dad] was processing, what he was processing, especially the last six months that he was alive. And then I started thinking, well, what if during that time he was able to see the world as big musical numbers? What if that's what was going on in his head? I had been living in this musical space and the idea of my dad seeing the world as musical numbers made me smile. It gave me some hope."

zoe's extraordinary playlist
"Every episode, something that happens to Mitch or happens to the family is something that we went through over that time." Image: Stan.
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Although the show is fictional, Winsberg said everything Zoey and her family experience throughout the series, are things his family had to deal with in real life. If anything, Winsberg himself most mirrors the character of Zoey's brother David (played by Andrew Leeds), who is expecting a baby at the same time as dealing with his father's illness.

"Every episode, something that happens to Mitch or happens to the family is something that we went through over that time. And it's raw and vulnerable, putting yourself out there like that," he told Shoot Online.

"We would try to figure out ways to communicate with him, but we didn't always know what he was thinking, what he was processing. And I was also becoming a dad for the first time, while losing my dad that I was really close to. It was a very, very painful time in our lives."

Despite being inspired by grief and loss, Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist is a delightfully cheesy, uplifting show about what happens when sh*t hits the fan and your whole world is turned upside down in a moment.

That, plus banger renditions of hits from Miley Cyrus, The Beatles, Katy Perry, The Jonas Brothers, Whitney Houston, Elvis, Bon Jovi, Destiny's Child and more, make it excellent isolation viewing.

You can watch Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist on Stan now. Feature image: Stan.

Have you watched Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

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