Have you heard or watched the new show “The Listener”? I was wondering what you thought about it.
-Blog Reader Who Prefers Not to Have Her Name Used
Dear Blog Reader Who Prefers Not to Have Her Name Used
I am going to call you BRWPNHHNU, no wait… even that is too long… how about Trixie? Trixie it is.
No, I have never heard of this show, but a quick search turned it up. In order to answer your question about what I think of it, I will have to watch it. Here I go!
Since the Castle treatment was so popular, here is the same sort of thing for The Listener. (blow by blow recap of the first scene, general recap following, and snarky review along the way.)
We open on a young man standing on what at first looks like a roof during sunrise. His voice over asks us if we ever wonder what people are thinking… he doesn’t (apparently he tells us… and then our young man (OYM until they give him a name) gets a bit cryptic because that is what every show needs… a long slow buildup to pique your interest and make you salivate for the treat. OYM, by the way, is not saliva worthy in my book. Seems OYM is a telepath who can turn off (or mute) his ability by making a fist… sort of a physical technique to mirror brain activity that hopefully won’t ever be any more symbolic than that. (I don’t want anyone thinking that the way to shut up someone else is with a fist, thank you very much) and who also refers to his gift as God giving him “free cable.” Who wouldn’t want free cable?
His intro is complete with sidewalk swagger set to piano music but with horrible lighting in which he scans the people who walk by; the semi flirty thoughts of a woman and the fashion misgivings of a man. The man, at least, is totally valid in his fashion misgivings and I crack a smile. Then OYM proves that he is a good guy who uses his powers for good by giving an old man in a diner the extra buck he was just realizing he needed. Intro complete its time for the exposition as OYM sits down at a table and strikes up conversation with his friend (Cute Friend) in which we learn that he was with a girl named Olivia last night, he is habitually late to things, he is a first year paramedic, and the lighting crew really want us to notice he has pretty eyes. Also, he might have girl trouble but doesn’t want to talk about it with Cute Friend and they head off because now they are both late and we get more voice over (because voice overs teasing of framing devices that never actually show up are such good ways to shorthand actual storytelling….). He doesn’t want to be a freak he tells us (who? Who cares.) even as he gently touches the old guy from a minute ago and tells him to have a nice day. The old guy has a look like, “Hey… where you going cutie?”
In Cute Friend’s car with adorable mirror hanger doo-dad of course, the boys discuss their mutual lack of plans for the night while OYM texts someone and describes his fights with Olivia as two people with “unique points of view.” Cute Friend is not convinced as his thoughts betray him. And then OYM has a seizure of sorts while getting flashes of a car accident with someone trapped inside. Cute Friend pulls over (there is no traffic in this part of New York [CORRECTION: Toronto] it seems) and does that whole snapping of fingers and such while naming OYM who will now be Toby. Toby assures Oz (Cute Friend) that he is okay, it isn’t a brain amorism or a migraine. (If they are such good friends, how is it that he has never seizured up like this before?) Cute Oz is about to pull away when he notices a block away the same car accident Toby had just Sam Winchester-ed about*.
The boys jump from the car and run over to help. Despite Oz being the first to notice and run over, it is Toby who breaks the window and frees the girl while Oz stands back and says helpful things like “The car’s on fire” and “Be careful Toby.” He gets the girl and carries her heroine style away from the car with Oz saying ‘I thought it was gonna blow” and Toby responding “It’s not a movie, it doesn’t happen that way.” and then of course it does. BOOM! The boys share a look and the blond in Toby’s arms faints and credits roll.
And that ends my play by play portion except to say that the credits are horribly lame with nothing more than bright lights and a very intense scowling Toby staring off into the distance. I am guessing that they spent the budget on exploding cars.
Throughout the rest of the episode we learn that they are both Emergency Medical Service people, and that Toby likes to use his “free cable” for more than the occasional charity buck. He uses it to solve crimes… to set right what once went wrong… to kiss up with the boss, to stroke the ego of Oz, to waylay the aggravations of an ex girlfriend … We also learn that Olivia is a pretty doctor with a stick up her ass, She doesn’t seem to like Cute Oz while I find myself liking him more and more (his background pantomime of the adventure involving the car was perfect) and I wish he had been in more of the episode.
Oh and the lighting never gets better.
The police detective by the way is hot in one of those “I’m a model pretending to be something else” sort of way who doesn’t ever really do any detective work and in the end all but throws up her hands in a “I don’t know what just happened, but there is happy-ending-music playing, so it’s all good.” ort of way and exits stage right.
There is also a scientist professor mentor for Toby, named Ray who knows Toby’s secret. See, Toby’s powers are increasing and that freaks him out a bit.
We get the obligatory “I have to do something, I might be the only one who can help” and the “No one can know about you.” (from Ray.) and Toby is off to be the hero, to rescue the kidnapped son of the car accident mom.
What I didn’t like about the show:
It makes the same classic reading mind mistake most shows do. It implies that people only have one thought at a time and it is super concentrated. Toby looks at a woman for 5 seconds and she only thinks one sentence? Right,. Ok. Also, Toby seems to be able to visualize what the person is thinking… living in their flashback. So, then shouldn’t the show be called something besides “The Listener” since he is doing more than listening? His gift seems to have no real set parameters and thus it makes it hard to buy the whole “my gift is evolving” plot device.
Also, the lightening really sucks.
Another thing, no one ever brings up the idea that reading people’s thoughts is a bit of a huge violation of personal space. (Is this a FOX show?**) Also, the plot devices kind of overworked the plot… when car accident mom ditches the hospital it is Dr. Olivia who confronts Toby saying that the patient is in a bad way, with a concussion. (But this was the day before… and she can’t be the only person who has ever left the hospital AMA with just a concussion right?) If Dr. Olivia is so concerned why doesn’t she go to the patient’s house to check up on her, why give Toby (an EMS worker who wasn’t even on the case) the patient’s address. Why why why? Oh right. Because the script says so. I am so sick of TV’s depiction of doctor’s without morals. Gah!
And then Toby breaks into car accident mom’s apartment!!!!!!! I mean holy crap on a two foot stick! Yeah, he can justify his bump key because he is a EMS, but still!
The time sequence seems a bit rough around the edges, a lot of coincidences and even some huge time lapses.
We never see any actual calls the boys make being all EMS-y… too much time being all detective/hero.
They change narrative devices at 19 minutes, suddenly showing us things in real time that are happening to other characters. Which… seems… like cheating. And also disrupts the flow (such as it was) of the show.
Having the poor adorable little boy with his huge eyes calling his mommy “I miss you mommy” was a bit excessive. And the way in which the bad guy is dealt with was all sorts of lame.
Mostly though, the problem is with the acting of Toby… who… can’t act. Widening your blue eyes under big bushy brows does not you an actor make. And the way he talks, bleh, all low tone and intense feeling that feels overly phoned in.
What I liked: (much shorter list)
The cop who might be too pretty for realness but who kinda didn’t take anything from Mr. Intensity (Toby). Also, she wears totally inappropriate clothes but with the figure she strikes, no one seems to mind. Is that sexist? Nope… It’s true.
Vigilante mom buys a gun and has no idea how to hold it, this was unintentionally funny and totally sad.
The hints at creepy back-story involving a “gifted” mother and repressed memories for Toby.
I give this show a C- and will probably not watch it again.
*Supernatural dig there, ignore me.
**No, it is a Canadian show that has been picked up by NBC. -sigh-