NBC Just Can't Stop Running Shows About Pretty People With Mental Powers

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It seems like telepathy dramas are what funky swingle sitcoms were in the 90s. NBC's latest pretty psychics with powers show, Canada's The Listener, focuses on a lowly paramedic and his brain powers. My kingdom for something different on TV.

The Listener already aired in Canada according to Wikipedia, and NBC bought the U.S. rights to the show a while back. A poor man's Jake Gyllenhaal, Craig Olejnik, is solving crimes and saving lives with his ability to read minds. One day I'd like to see a pilot based on what would actually happen if some schlub was bestowed with this gift — if it was me, I certainly wouldn't waste it on helping people. I'll stay optimistic until I see more but the whole Medium and new series Past Life shtick is utterly wasted on me. I just don't believe that anyone with special powers would use it for good, ever.


Anyhow, here's the trailer and official synopsis.

"The Listener" centers on Toby Logan (Craig Olejnik, "The Timekeeper"), a 25-year-old paramedic who has a big secret — he's a telepath. Until now, Toby kept his ability hidden, exploring its possibilities only with his longtime mentor and confidant, Dr. Ray Mercer (Colm Feore, "24: Redemption"). As he makes the rounds with his energetic paramedic partner "Oz" Bey (Ennis Esmer, "Young People F*#king"), "The Listener" follows Toby as he tries to help people in crisis, and in the process unravel the truth about his past. While his professional life is in check, Toby's personal life could use its own rescue. And with the help of Detective Charlie Marks (Lisa Marcos, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman") and his E.R. doctor/ex-girlfriend Olivia Fawcett (Mylène Dinh-Robic, "Da Vinci's City Hall"), Toby realizes his gift can help others.


Hollywood Chicago reviewed the first episode and didn't like it that much:
This CTV-developed show has a decent premise and talented supporting cast, but it's such two-dimensional, generic material that it ends up feeling more like a syndicated action series that you would see on a Saturday afternoon. There's nothing horrendously wrong with "The Listener" but it pales in comparison to recent dramatic occupants of the same night and network - "ER" and "Southland"...

The big problem with "The Listener" is that unlike "True Blood," creator Michael Amo takes his concept way too seriously. If you're going to have your lead say "It's not a movie, it doesn't happen that way" before the opening credits even run then you better back it up with believable material after that. A show about a telepathic paramedic only has a chance to work if it recognizes its B-movie set-up but "The Listener" plays like a very special episode of "ER".

To be fair, the premiere "The Listener" is never boring. It flies by but only because so much plot and melodrama is crammed into one episode. It's a well-made hour of television without any particularly bad performances, although the overly earnest Olejnik is a little dull to carry his own show.

Ultimately, the downfall of "The Listener" is what makes or breaks nearly all television shows - the writing. Television drama has advanced past the point of shallow dialogue like you'll hear in "The Listener". Honestly, the show reminded me of B-grade programming I used to watch as a kid and with the advancements in television writing that's not a compliment. One of the more unusual writing choices is to have Toby's telepathy play like completely realized memories, as if every time he tries to read someone's mind they are remembering exactly what he needs to know.


Anyway, the show premieres on NBC tonight at 8. Will you watch it?