See no evil. Speak no evil. Hear all evil.
That is the premise of the new Canadian-produced drama “The Listener” which premiered on CTV last night and premieres on NBC as a summer series with a two-episode introduction tonight.
Craig Olejnik is Toby Logan, a paramedic with a gift. Toby is telepathic; he can read other people’s thoughts. After years of blocking the thoughts of others, he is blasted at the site of a car accident where a young woman’s pleas for help blast through his mental shields.
As he investigates why this happened, Toby is drawn into the cause of the car accident and discovers that the victim’s son has been kidnapped. Deciding to tune in rather than tune out, he helps her recover her son, who was kidnapped after she witnessed a shooting.
Toby has only let one person in on his secret, long-time friend Dr. Ray Mercer (Colm Feore). Even his ex-girlfriend Dr. Olivia Fawcett and his EMT partner “Oz” Bey don’t know what he can do. And he certainly isn’t going to tell Detective Marks; she’s already suspicious.
The pilot was a little slow but had a lot of promise. Aside from the unresolved relationship between Toby and Olivia, the only other subplot was of Toby’s forgotten history. Somebody from his past knows what he can do and may be looking for him; thus the need for secrecy. Not even his old friend Ray knows what happened as Toby can only remember bits and pieces of his childhood.
I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into from the commercials and I was right. “The Listener” is a less-saccharine version of “The Ghost Whisperer”. Unlike Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Melinda Gordon, Toby Logan does not have a Pollyanna life, surrounded by people who know his secret and will help him use his gift to the benefit of others. And I was glad, because frankly knowing somebody can read your mind would definitely be more offputting that having a friend who sees dead people. Toby’s decision to help – and continue to help – others will have some benefits but he knows it is going to cost him in the end. Craig Olejnik walks this line quite well. He’ll eavesdrop to get a date or suck up to the boss when there is no fear of being caught but using his gift as a practical tool will mean accepting a part of himself that he’s fought his whole life. Additionally, if he acts on what he knows, he will also be responsible for the results of his actions whereas before he was willfully ignorant and innocent.
This isn’t the first Canadian series in recent years to be bought by an American networks. Last summer after the WGA strike, CBS acquired and aired the series “Flashpoint“, which was later picked up for a second season. Hopefully, NBC’s luck will be as good.
“The Listener” isn’t going to blow you away but it definitely has enough good points to bring you back for the next episode. It will make a thoroughly enjoyable summer series – intriguing characters, a couple laughs, a few thrills and some “what would you do if’s”.
“The Listener” airs as a two-hour premiere on NBC tonight. The pilot episode aired on CTV in Canada on Wednesday and the second episode will run tonight.