Christmas is coming early for fans of NBC’s canceled musical comedy “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” Roku has confirmed that it has picked up a holiday-themed, feature-length film based on the Emmy-winning show to air exclusively on its ad-supported The Roku Channel in the U.S. later this year. There’s no official premiere date yet for “Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas,” but Roku says production on the TV movie will begin next week in Vancouver, with an air date in time for the festive season.
“Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas” will also be available to stream on Roku in Canada and in the U.K. As part of the deal with production studio Lionsgate, Roku has also acquired streaming rights to all 25 episodes of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” which will also be available to stream later this fall on The Roku Channel in the U.S.
The deal represents the first film greenlight for Roku, which has been expanding its originals arsenal in the months since it acquired programming assets from Quibi. Roku has already picked up additional episodes of the revived “Reno 911!” as well as new seasons of Kevin Hart’s “Die Hart” and the thriller “Most Dangerous Game” (with Christoph Waltz) on top of those shows’ original Quibi runs.
“It’s a transcendent show, it’s something that connects with people across the country,” Colin Davis, head of original scripted programming at Roku, said of “Zoey.” “That connection with the audience is what makes bringing a holiday-themed film like ‘Zoey’ to life with the original cast so special.”
Davis said the decision was made to pick up a “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” movie, as opposed to more episodes, in order to get the revival to audiences as quickly as possible to capitalize on the demand.
“It’s what can be done quickly,” he said. “We wanted to not slow down the momentum that exists around the show and the fandom for this show and make sure that people get an encore quickly.”
Roku also wanted to premiere a movie that might be sampled by viewers who weren’t familiar with the show. That’s also why it’s set during Christmas.
“We wanted to do something that has an entry point for people who hadn’t seen the show before,” Davis said. “A lot of people were never exposed or had a chance to sample it, and we believe that a Christmas movie creates an easier entry point.”
“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” was canceled by NBC in June after two seasons on the network; it nonetheless went on to earn five Emmy nominations this year — the second-most for any primetime broadcast show (tied with ABC’s “Black-ish,” and just behind six for NBC’s “This Is Us”). The show had a devoted but small following, if Nielsen ratings were any indication. There was talk that NBCUniversal might attempt to move the show to Peacock for a third season, like it had with “A.P. Bio,” but that ultimately didn’t happen and Lionsgate began to shop the show elsewhere. The cancellation triggered an intense “Save Our Show” campaign among fans, and Roku happened to be in the market to make a strategic programming investment.
“This is a continuation of our test-and-learning strategy, probably a thing that you’ve seen in the past with Netflix doing ‘Arrested Development,’ or Hulu getting ‘The Mindy Project’ [two shows that originated on Fox]. I will say that our intention here to do this as this encore movie is a little bit different, because you don’t have to have watched those first two seasons to enjoy this movie,” Davis said. “The movie is very much an encore for those who have invested in those first two seasons, and will be a really satisfying conclusion of those two seasons but simultaneously, it’s just a joy on its own. I think being able to court new audiences that way is a real advantage to the way that we formatted this.”
Whether this could serve as a trial run for more episodes or an additional season for “Zoey,” Davis isn’t ready to say. “I’m just focused on the encore right now,” he said. “We think this wraps everything up into a nice holiday package. Everything we’ve done so far has been with some real education behind it. [But] we’ll never say never.”
Roku said the film will pick up where Season 2 left off. Jane Levy stars as Zoey Clarke, a San Francisco computer coder who — after an accident — starts to hear the innermost wants, thoughts and desires of the people around her through popular songs. Besides Levy, also returning are stars Skylar Astin, Alex Newell, John Clarence Stewart, Andrew Leeds, Alice Lee, Michael Thomas Grant, Kapil Talwalkar, David St. Louis, Mary Steenburgen, Peter Gallagher and Bernadette Peters (Emmy nominated this year in the guest comedy actress category for her role).
Lionsgate produces “Zoey’s” in association with the Tannenbaum Company, Feigco Entertainment and Universal Music Group’s Polygram Entertainment and Zihuatenejo Productions. (Universal TV, which had co-produced the series when it was on NBC, is not attached to the movie.)
“I am so extremely grateful to The Roku Channel for helping us get Zoey to sing again,” creator Austin Winsberg said in a statement. “I can’t think of a more appropriate time to hear someone’s heart song than the holidays. And ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas’ will be an opportunity to provide the fans and new viewers alike a chance to all tap their toes and get in the holiday mood. This show has always been about empathy, compassion and the triumph of the human spirit. The Roku Channel has sure lifted mine and I hope that our film can have the same effect on viewers everywhere.”
The show, which first debuted in 2020, won an Emmy award last year for outstanding choreography for scripted programming, and also landed a Golden Globe nomination for Levy.
Winsberg will write and executive produce the film, which will be directed by Richard Shepard (who helmed the show’s pilot). Kim Tannenbaum, Eric Tannenbaum, Paul Feig, David Blackman and Daniel Inkeles are also executive producers. Dan Magnante, Jason Wang and Mandy Moore are co-executive producers, while Michele Greco is producer and Sam Laybourne and Samantha McIntyre are consulting producers.