What amazes me is that NBC bought the show for its summer schedule. I’m not saying Canadian television is superior to American television – for every Slings and Arrows there are five to ten Gutter Ball Alleys. The Listener was bought by NBC due both to the WGA writer’s strike and its abandonment of the traditional development process.
The Canadian shows floated on American networks aren’t the best, either – Flashpoint is workmanlike and entertaining, but it’s a cop procedural in a sea of cop procedurals. The Listener seems more suited for a SciFi (I’m sorry, SyFy) airing than a summer slot on NBC. Of course, NBC’s prime-time ratings are almost the lowest they’ve ever been, so any edge, I guess.
Toby Logan (Craig Olejnik) is the central protagonist of the series. The first episode sets up Logan’s world – his coming to terms with his mind-reading, his relationship with mentor Dr. Ray Mercer (Colm Feore), his personal life and day job as a paramedic. The Listener establishes its premise, gives the viewer a few characters to love/hate and fucks around for an hour.
It’s standard dramatic sci-fi television, Early Edition with mindreading taking the place of a magic newspaper. I also get a Millennium vibe from Logan’s mind-pictures. The Listener could have easily debuted in 1996, so well-worn is its premise.
The second episode, which NBC decided to pair with the first on the same night, strengthens Logan’s relationship with Detective Charlene “Charlie” Marks (Lisa Marcos), a tough cop who can’t discern how someone like Logan is able to anticipate events better than she can. Small spoiler: someone falls from a large height in both episodes. The Listener is the very definition of cookie cutter.
Aside from Dr. Mercer and fellow paramedic Osman Bey (Ennis Esmer), The Listener‘s characters aren’t very interesting. Feore and Esmer do what they can with their material, as they are the only two convincing actors on the show. Olejnik isn’t horrible as the lead character, but he’s too slight to focus on week after week. He’s only there as The Listener‘s main himbo.
NBC is placing a lot of faith in The Listener since it recently gave the show a two-hour block to debut in. Despite this, I wonder about The Listener‘s success. Either NBC’s hoping for The Listener to become a summer hit or it’s burning the show off like flash paper.
CTV has joined in the rescheduling madness, so I’m leaning towards the former scenario. Hell, I’m hoping The Listener hits big. I just wish The Listener was a less generic, more interesting show, but that’s the American prime-time bran tub for you.
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