The Listener: “Some Kind of Love”

Confused in Toronto

The Listener

“Some Kind of Love”

Thursdays, NBC, 10 PM

Written by Phil Bedard & Larry Lalonde

Directed by Clement Virgo

Okay, for the first three episodes of this series, telepath and EMT Toby Logan (Craig Olejnik) has been trying to hook up with his ex-girlfriend Olivia. He whines, he wheedles, he begs for a date, even if it’s only half an hour in a coffee shop. Now and then she grudgingly accommodates him. Obviously, the guy is working hard to win her back. So, naturally, he goes to a bar, picks up a fair stranger, and goes home with her. Of course she ends up dead in the morning. Worse, Detective Marks has to treat Toby as a suspect, despite his assertions that a) he did not have sex with that woman and b) he left when her ex-boyfriend showed up. Worse and worse, it turns out Olivia knew the victim, too–she was a coroner’s assistant. I have to say that Toby’s technique for rekindling Olivia’s interest in him is unique. And dumb.

I really hate it when characters do dumb things in the service of the plot. I know there are plenty of men who act this way (picking up strangers in bars even as they try to prove they are emotionally committed elsewhere), but we don’t usually cast them as heroes. For Toby, who is usually a level-headed, laid-back kind of guy, who has shown remarkable loyalty so far to his few friends and loved ones, it seems wildly out of character for him to be behaving this way. And I’m willing to be we won’t be seeing future scenes of Toby out bar-hopping, even as wingman to his EMT partner and friend, Oz.  So this entire plot hinges on Toby stepping out of character, a character he will return to next week seamlessly. Do I have to point out how lazy this is? I thought not.

At least Detective Marks is starting to take Toby a tad more seriously. At his behest, she arrests first one, then another, and finally a third suspect in the murder. Unfortunately, our pool of suspects was limited to three at the beginning of the show, due to the constraints of formula TV, so it wasn’t hard to guess after the first half hour who the killer would be. The writers even worked in a legitimate role for Dr. Olivia, as she helps Toby ferret out a cover-up involving faked autopsies.

Apart from their roles in the plot, however, these two women completely zero out when it comes to connection with Toby. I sense no chemistry at all between Olivia and Toby, or Marks and Toby. I don’t think this is Olejnik’s fault, as his scenes with Sarah Power, who played Mina, absolutely hummed with sexual tension. Olejnik’s stunning blue eyes and sooty eyelashes could generate sexual tension with a mackerel, so I must conclude that something else is at fault. So far the character who meshes best with Toby, who supports him most effectively and shares his most intimate moments is…Oz. Ennis Esmer is playing a terrific sidekick, who gets his own B-story in this episode, and whose teddy-bear charm plays nicely against Toby’s Lone Ranger aloofness. Characters like these are what led to the invention of the term “bromance”.

This episode has all the ingredients of a good story (if you can buy the idiotic decision to put Toby in a singles bar), but the glacial pacing just kills any momentum the story had. This is a continuing problem in this show. It’s not enough to put a telepath on the screen and turn him loose to solve crimes on his own: MentalistPsych, and Medium have been doing that for awhile, so to stand out, this show is going to have to kick up the tension and the pace a notch. Apart from that, however, I’m still watching after four episodes, so the show is not a total loss. I’m still liking Olejnik’s quiet and modest Toby. I’m still liking the sidekick banter. I’m still liking the idea of a paramedic who can bring that extra something to his job of healing broken people. There’s something here, the ingredients for a good show, and I will stick around to see if they come together.