The Listener is a Canadian production though season one (but not season two) of it is available in the USA as well…British (and other) viewers, such as myself, have to search out alternative viewing methods. The cast list appears to have frequent “Guest Star” infusions from the, now ended, Canadian series ReGenesis and as ReGenesis was, in its day, one of the best Sci-Fi series out there this is no bad thing. The first season was available in the USA on NBC but the second season is only on Canada’s CTV.
The series is a difficult one to categorise as it is a little to do with the supernatural (the hero is a telepath), but only a little, and only affecting a single character directly; it is more of a thriller and somewhat a crime drama too with a bit of horror in season one but not so much in season two and some fantasy as well…let’s call it unclassified shall we?. For my tastes it is too sugar-coated in many of its story lines yet still there is intelligent plot and a mix of good acting and good direction which, together, raise it above many current series.
The premise of the series is that a 24 year old paramedic is gifted, from birth, with telepathy and may be the product of a government funded breeding programme from which he and his mother escaped and which (in season one) is attempting their recapture…it is unclear, as yet, if it was a government programme or that of some secret organisation. His name is Toby Logan (Craig Olejnik) and he is aided by a small group of friends who know of his power…principally his co-worker on his ambulance (played by Ennis Esmer as Osman ‘Oz’ Bey) and his former girlfriend ( played by Mylene Robic as Dr. Olivia Fawcett) who is a doctor in the hospital at which they are based.
In the first season much of the recurring plot had to do with discovering Toby’s past and uncovering details of the organisation who created/housed/imprisoned him in his early years as well as trying to find his mother but this has not been developed at all in the second season leaving a nasty hole in the substructure of his character development…if the writers don’t fix it soon the hole may begin letting in water and could cause the ship to sink…I hope not though.
Toby has outed his power to two members of a police task force and is, officially, a confidential informant working for them as an analyst of facial expressions et al so as to provide them with insights into criminals but is really, of course, probing people’s minds for the police. The morality and privacy implications of such probing is rarely, if ever, touched on by the series.
Irreverent humour is often evident and helps to lighten some of the otherwise quite heavy and wordy, as opposed to action or special effects based (low budget precludes too much special effects spending), story lines. Doubtless the series budget is not huge but they manage it well and don’t often make a lack of money too obvious.
There is an obvious empathy amongst the cast and this helps raise the overall quality of the series. The series is a Steven Bochco product and this shows in some of the elements that are typical of his work such as the stress points that drive the plot along. This leads to some formulaic moralising, and many episodes play through some moral point or other, but this isn’t too detrimental to ones enjoyment of them.
Season two needs to refocus on character development and the development of story arcs that were set in play in season one. These deficiencies are a problem for it at the moment. Perhaps the removal of American funding and exposure caused the production team to reign back a bit too hard on the scope of the second season.
While actually viewing this production can be a bit of a trial it is generally worth your effort and is certainly much better than the vast majority of the home-grown offerings to which this Brit is daily subjected and better too than most of the US imports.