Procedural drama's elements fail to intrigue
Thursday, June 04, 2009

Canadian actor Craig Olejnik sports choppy black hair and piercing blue eyes -- the only standout attribute in NBC's "The Listener," an otherwise generic procedural drama.

Producers understand that the eyes have it. The show's opening credits include several close-ups of Olejnik's baby blues.

But a bold look only gets a TV show so far, and "The Listener" (two episodes air back-to-back at 9 tonight, WPXI), a Canadian import shot in Toronto, lacks any of the requisite elements -- the charm of "The Mentalist," the characters of "CSI," the twisty stories of "Law & Order" -- that encourage viewers to come back for more.

Olejnik stars as Toby Logan, a 25-year-old paramedic with telepathic abilities that he has kept mostly to himself, except for confiding in a college professor friend (Colm Feore). But his secret skill begins to evolve and, at the same time, he starts remembering more about his murky past.

Often his memory is jogged by cases he finds himself involved in. Yes, even though he's a paramedic by trade, Toby routinely gets involved in criminal cases. Tonight it's a kidnapping. In a future episode it's a possible murder that takes an unexpected detour.

Of course, Toby's buttinski nature causes police detective Charlie Marks (Lisa Marcos) to suspect he has nefarious intentions. There's tension between them that could turn sexual but Toby also has an ex-girlfriend, Dr. Olivia Fawcett (Mylene Dinh-Robic), which sets up a potential love triangle. But the characters are not interesting or unique enough for anyone to care.

That's the thing with procedurals: They must have a hook that's rooted in something more than a gimmick (e.g. telepathy), even some minor but noteworthy character elements would help. But "The Listener" is tone deaf to that need.

Contact TV editor Rob Owen at or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at
First published on June 4, 2009 at 12:00 am