The Listener: “Emotional Rescue”

Beige. I’ll Paint the Series Beige.

The Listener

“Emotional Rescue”

Thursdays, 9/8 C, NBC

Written by Russ Cochrane

Directed by Ken Girotti

We’ve been following the adventures of the knight errant since Sir Galahad first appeared in medieval romances, so there’s not much new to be found in The Listener’s Toby Logan. His armor is an EMT uniform and his steed is a city ambulance, but his mission seems to be the same: rescuing the forlorn and championing the downtrodden. This second episode shows some improvement over the pilot but highlights some of the flaws in the concept—at what point are audiences going to get bored with repetition?

Played by Canadian native Craig Olejnik, Toby is an EMT working in Toronto with his partner Oz, played by Ennis Esmer. Toby can hear minds and apparently see some few minutes into the future, which comes in handy when he’s trying to figure out a trauma case’s problems or solve a crime, such as the explosion and fire he “sees” minutes before they happen—long enough to go to the right building, but not in time to stop the fire and explosion. Caught in said fire is an old former foster-care buddy of Toby’s, Vince Pirelli (Michael Miller, Kojak). Everyone seems to think that Vince started the fire by cooking meth, but Toby is convinced his friend is innocent. His investigations step on quite a few toes, to the extent that, by the last act, Detective Marks is pulling a gun on him and accusing him of having a god complex. If anyone is entitled to a god complex, it’s certainly a guy who can hear thoughts, but the irony of this scene zooms right over the writers’ heads, apparently. It’s not the first bit of unintentional humor in the show, which lends a certain self-mocking flavor to the show.

For example, this episode involves Detective Marks, fireman Tom Crawford (Diego Klattenhoff, 24), Marks’ boss Lt. Becker (Anthony Lemke, The Last Templar), and victim’s rights champion Kyle Elson (Matt Gordon,Flashpoint). None of these worthies has figured out yet that a series of fires set in adjacent neighborhoods in the city could be the work of a serial arsonist. The city of Toronto can’t be happy with this portrayal of mass incompetence. Nor am I pleased to see writers yet again relying on the hoary cliché of making cops look bad so an amateur can look good—this was old when Sherlock Holmes spent his evenings making LeStrade look like an idiot. Yet here we are again, sitting through another tale of the hero going boldly where angels and fire marshals fear to tread, being lectured on procedure by detectives dressed like streetwalkers, and forced to (badly) lie his way out of awkward situations contrived for the sole purpose of… making him lie.

I guess it’s a good thing this is a summer show. I don’t have to compare it to, say, Fringe, because that would be depressing. As it is, there are some moments to like. Oz’s play-by-play commentary on Tom’s attempts to pick up Olivia was cute. Weird as it is, I was amused by the fact that the opening of this episode was a reverse of the opening of the pilot. In the pilot, our hero rescued an actual victim from an actual car accident and was later revealed to be out of uniform. In this episode, he helps not rescue a fake victim from a fake car accident, all while in uniform. The bad guy in the pilot conveniently fell to his death during the final confrontation; ditto in this episode. While it gets our hero off the moral hook for killing off the bad guy, even the dumbest cop in the history of dumb is going to start looking sideways at Toby if suspects keep falling from high places when he’s around. Plus, I was delighted that the obvious bad guy turned out to be innocent, while the real villain was cleverly hidden in plain sight throughout. It is refreshing not to be taken for an idiot now and then.

As I said in my review of the pilot, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this show other than it being pretty beige. The actors are decent—Olejnik in particular shows promise of being one of those low-keyed actors who works his character under your skin while you’re not looking. The plot this time around was tighter, and Toby’s ability was handled with a little more consistency. Production values are adequate and the editing workmanlike. If the writers can spare us long diversions into Toby’s love life, which interests me not at all, I look forward to some passable summer entertainment.

This episode aired in the US directly after the pilot, and lost viewers in the second hour. I’m not giving up on it quite yet. The Jell-O has not quite set with this series, but it’s getting there.