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The Listener episode reviews

The Listener, Craig Olejnik, Lisa Marcos

Episode 1. "I Am an Adult" Paramedic rescues a woman, hears her thoughts about a missing child, but she says nothing to nobody...

Pretty good start. I immediately liked the hero (Craig Olejnik is perfect casting) and I was entertained not only by the story, but by the way the story was told.

First off, I was curious as to how they would make the hook (missing child) make sense. But they made it work. Next, I was impressed by the way that the narrative followed the injured mother (the guest star) for large chunks of the episode, and we got to see what she was doing herself to rescue her child, while our hero tried to figure out what was going on.

Worst bit? The dreadful dubbing in the first scene with Colm Feore.

The Listener, Lisa Marcos

Best bit? Lisa Marcos is very sexy as the cop working the case.

Episode 2. "Emotional Rescue" Arsonist.

Yes, we've seen this done before (Early Edition springs to mind) and yes the plots are average. But...

I like it. The don't overuse the gimmick and - when they do use it - the use in in an intelligent way. The cast are great. The cop is written as being very smart and the hero is written as often being wrong. So, it's interesting to watch them working.

Also, the show looks fantastic. All the buildings seem lit with different colours, or something.

One major complaint. The Colm Feore scene was badly written. He popped up, delivered exposition, and vanished. Awful writing. And a dreadful waste of a truly fantastic actor.

Episode 3. "A Voice In The Dark" Kidnapped girl.

The stories are still pretty lame, but I still really like this show. Besides it reminds me of shows like Early Edition and The Pretender and most of the stories on them were pretty lame, too. And I loved those shows, particularly The Pretender.

There are other reasons to watch:

Craig Olejnik is a great leading man. He sells the idea of hearing people's thoughts and he's very likable and sympathetic. He's got that whole wounded dove thing going on, yet he's Alpha Male enough to carry to mild action sequences.

Toby Logan is a great lead character. His power is cool and the show doesn't overuse it. In fact, they underuse it and - when you think about it - it has very little impact on the stories. In this episode, the power is used to kick start the tale but after that it is of no use. The audience at home knows who the real bad guy is long before Toby cottons on to it. But, powers aside, I like the guy. His messed up love life, desire to help/save people and his mysterious past make him worth watching on a weekly basis.

Ennis Esmer is a great sidekick. Very likable and funny. He should get more screen time. At the end of this third episode Toby tells him his secret and this will hopefully increase his involvement in future stories. It's a good move. Also, it makes sense that Toby would have someone to talk to. He's needs a confidant so that the audience can hear his thoughts (ironically). This episode was just a lot of silly running around. Toby wandered around Toronto. Spied the mysterious street kid and chased after him. Only to lose him and return with a clue. This happened, what, three times in the hour. Hopefully future stories will avoid such idiotic storytelling by giving Toby somebody to share his thoughts with.

Lisa Marcos is crazy hot. And, whatever flaws the show may have, they are doing a great job of writing this particular character. Both Listener and Castle have paired the hero with intelligent female detectives who seem capable of solving crimes without the help of the lead guy. Too often shows fall into the trap of making the hero 'special' by making everyone around him dumb. So, I really like the approach of making both leads smart/special.

Episode 4. "Some Kind of Love" Toby's date is murdered.

I like this show, and it's better now that his friend knows his secret, but some of the story elements are clumsy. Very clumsy. Most of the conflict, in this episode, with the sexy detective lady didn't make much sense. It was just a case of the writers making Toby say something stupid to annoy her (and create false conflict). Also, the trail that led to the first dead man was badly written: Toby's awful composite image and his ability to sneak into a patrol car and - within two minutes - mind the man in question were... really, really stupid.

But, it's not a bad show and the elements that I like... I really like. So I'm gonna stick it. It's light entertainment. A fun, summer show.

Episode 5. "Lisa Says" Toby tries to help a street kid with an unusual past/problem.

The best case-of-the-week for Toby so far. The twist at the midpoint really surprised me, and made the episode more interesting. Toby's powers are, when you think about it, pretty useless to him. They never tell him anything useful.

The show's real strength are the scenes between Toby and his best friend. Great writing and acting/chemistry make for some hilarious and believable scenes of a friendship.

The show's worst weakness are the scenes with the lady cop. The script tries so hard to create romantic tension between them that much of what they say to each other is nonsense and she can come across as a heartless bitch. In this episode he asks for her help with the missing kid and she is really horrible to him, for no logical reason.

Episode 6. "Foggy Notion" Murder in Chinatown.

It may have fairly pedestrian case-of-the-week tales but I can't escape the fact that I really like this show.

There are two main reasons for this.

I like the angle of the hero who cares about people he meets and wants to butt into their lives and help/save them. It's the whole Pretender/Early Edition thing, I suppose. Toby keeps running around getting involved in stuff that has nothing to do with him. He's a goodie-goodie. Like Tru on Tru Calling he knows stuff that he shouldn't and he uses that knowledge to try and save lives and stuff. I dig that stuff. It makes him a very old fashioned TV hero.

I also like Lisa Marcos a lot. A whole lot. I really like to watch her body move as she, you know, walks around and stuff. Sure, it's a pretty lame reason for liking a TV show but - Hey! - I'm being honest. Don't mark me down as being hopelessly shallow. I'm not: I also like her hair!

The show always writes to write the scenes between her and Toby really badly (which I'm starting to find charming, not annoying) but it does manage to write her as a smart character in her own right. She gets a lot of screentime and she's very much a lead character in the show. Also, as of this episode, they bring her in on 'the secret'. Very cool. Makes me very, very keen to see the next episode.

The Listener, Lisa Marcos

Episode 7. "Iris" Faith healer.

This is a strong and enjoyable tale, but it's a very, very frustrating and unrewarding episode following last week's cliff-hanger.

At the end of Episode 6, Detective Marks (the utterly gorgeous Lisa Marcos) figured out that Toby could hear her thoughts. So in this episode... the writers barely feature her at all!!! And - worse than that - when she shows up to talk to Toby, the conversation that follows is... off-camera.

What the frak?!!

I mean, that's a guaranteed way to annoy and alienate your viewers. C'mon, the only thing that we are tuning in to see (after that cliff-hanger) is how Toby and Marks deal with one another, now that she knows his secret. And they don't show it??!!

That's just inept.

Aside from the lack of story/character development, I'm annoyed that Marks doesn't feature in the episode very much because Lisa Marcos is too sexy for words. (Hence the abundance of pictures!!)

Even without Detective Marks, this is pretty strong and enjoyable episode. Toby is pretty cool in this one (leaping a hotel reception desk, at one point, to get the information he needs) and the story has a nice twist to lift it from the norm: the girl he's helping has powers, too.

Michelle Adams gives a terrific performance as the girl with the powers. She brings a great sense of being 'above' everything to the role. Just like Craig Olejnik, really, who makes a fantastic lead.

But my favourite cast member is Lisa Marcos.

Episode 8. "One Way or Another" Charlie tracks a serial rapist.

Flawless. The first episode to nail the show's formula to perfection, and the first superb episode.

What did they get right?

Toby's powers were useful and without them there would have been no story. The show often makes the mistake of (a) Toby only hearing part of the truth and jumping to the wrong conclusion, or (b) Toby totally picks up nothing from the real bad guy and you wonder afterwards why the show didn't take that direction instead. This time out, the writer makes brilliant use of Toby's powers. Each use of the power (a) advanced the story, (b) was funny, (c) led to a character moment, (d) was genuinely cool/interesting.

This last one is significant. Being able to read minds would be a very cool power. But the show has never captured this. Until now.

The Listener, Lisa Marcos

They created a strong/excellent b-story for the underused Mylene Robic. The b-story was every bit as strong as the a-story. It had a great patient-of-the-week, it gave us great character insight into Olivia, it had loads of comic moments and a solid resolution. It had nothing to do with Toby, but it still managed to involve Osman in a meaningful way. In short, it was extremely well written.

Charlie was well-written and dynamic and heroic. Lisa Marcos was sexier than ever (my god, but she is crazy hot and I'm borderline obsessed) and she showed considerable acting chops, too. The scene where she revealed the story of her own rape was perfectly underplayed, and did nothing to dimish the character's considerable strength.

The Listener, Lisa Marcos

The climax was perfect on many, many levels. Toby's mind-reading powers were used in a very clever way, as Detective Marks was able to 'think' instructions to Toby and his following of these instructions was enough to distract her captor and allow Marks to escape and beat the living crap out of the creep.

It was a great climax on many levels. Toby and Marks were equally responsible for beating the bad guy. Which makes sense. Toby is a paramedic, not a cop and not a fighter. Marks is both a cop and a fighter. So, the writers made the absolute right choice by allowing her to rescue herself, by using Toby as a distraction.

Very, very good writing. And much more interesting than a clichéd Toby comes to the rescue ending.

It was also cool.

Indeed, all of the uses of Toby's powers were cool and fun. For the first time. My favourite bit? Toby chuckles at Olivia's thoughts and - when questioned about it - credits a passing Osman with being very funny. Osman, of course, takes the credit and keeps walking. This was a wonderful scene on many levels. It was cool. It was very funny. It showed that the writer has a great take on these characters and their dynamic.

I also love the way the show doesn't go for cliché "How could he know that?" moments. The Olivia storyline (a) was good, (b) had nothing to do with Toby or his powers, (c) took up loads of screentime. I feared that Toby would appear, read something and - in some way - affect the resolution of the story. No. The show wisely kept him peripherial to events in Olivia's story and let it find it's own resolution. In this way, they make the show a rewarding enemble show to watch.

But Lisa Marcos is my favourite.

Episode 9. "Inside the Man" Did a teenage boy murder his own parents, or was it the home invaders he let into the house?

Not quite as superb as Episode 8, but not flawed like the early episodes, this is a solid and very enjoyable outing. The twist that the kid has more than one personality is predictable, but well handled.

For the second week in a row, the show excels in giving all four regulars an abundance of good scenes and Olivia gets a really good subplot for the second week in a row.

Even better, the show seems to have gotten a complete handle on Toby's powers and has figured out a way to show/use them that is interesting, cool and logical.

Detective Marks has completely changed her views on Toby and uses him like a valued partner in this one. Their mutual trust/reliance is a key element in the enjoyment of this episode.

I really like Olivia, too. And her sister. And that whole storyline (which had nothing to do with Toby or his powers) was good fun. The show seems to be evolving into something that has four great regular characters and a way of telling low-key, ordinary stories in an honest, amusing way that avoids cliché and false conflict. Not bad.

Episode 10. "Missing" Toby and Oz try to help a man imprisoned for killing his wife.

Mid-way through the season, The Listener completely hit it's stride and started to deliver superb episodes. This is yet another superb episode. It doesn't feature Lisa Marcos very much but I love this show so much at this stage that I don't even mind. Much.

There are many reason to love this episode.

1. Toby's powers. The show has totally figured out how to use Toby's powers in a way that is totally cool, and totally serves the stories and makes them far more interesting. The guest actors in this episode play their parts with conviction, so we get that rarity in shows of this ilk: bad guys who can tell lies really well. Most liars on TV shows are really crap at telling lies, so much so that the hero doesn't need super powers to tell they are lying. Most of the suspects in this tale were telling lies and none of the actors played their part as if they were lying. This made Toby's powers all the more cool and interesting.

I also love the way the show has decided to manifest his powers: visions that might be memory or fantasy or intent or random nonsense. And it's up to Toby to interpret. Wonderful. Early episodes didn't make this clear. But it's the way it works now, and I love it.

2. Oz. Without making it a stated aim of the script, the show has found a way to show us how Toby's friends 'use' him and his power. He wanted to help Marks last week, so it was okay. But Oz was totally forcing him into using his power this week, and it was great to see how their friendship rides the rough waters of these moments without any self-conscious moments of discussion. Kinda like a real friendship. The Toby-Oz friendship has always been one of my favourite elements of the series, and it continues to be.

3. The story. It's a cracker of a tale from start to finish. Oz's parents are suffering the effects of the current financial crisis and Oz wants to use Toby to make some money fast. Their attempts to win money from cheating at poker were both funny and interesting and made perfect sense. A great answer to the question of why he doesn't use his power to make himself rich.

4. The twist. I love stories with a twist, and I love shows that opt to end their episodes on a downbeat note. The resolution of this episode was superb. Stephen McHattie is one of my favourite performers and he was a perfect choice for this role. All his scenes were great, but that last one was chilling. Craig Olejnik really sold the shock, too. Great work all round. Maybe the best 'moment' so far in the whole series.

5. Mylene Robic/Olivia. She didn't have as much screentime in this episode, as in the previous two, but I really love her and Toby as a couple. It's about time they brought her into the loop, to, with regard to his powers. Bringing Oz and Marks in on the secret opened the stories up in a major way and it would be cool if they tried to write a TV relationship where one of the characters was a mind reader. (I bet he still gets everything wrong!)

The Listener, Lisa Marcos

Episode 11. "Starting To See The Light" Toby thinks the man who just died was a hitman on his way to a kill...

Another strong case-of-the-week, with lots of cool touches involving Toby's powers and the regular characters. The show has nailed it. They know how to tell stories and use Toby's powers in an intelligent way. All uses of Toby's powers are cool, now. And they either advance the plot in some tangible way or they provide nice moments of insight into the characters in the stories. Class.

To throw Detective Mark's superior off the trail (of Toby's constant interference), Toby is forced to pretend that he and the sexy detective are dating. All scenes driven by this were hilarious. I laughed and laughed. Then rewound and laughed some more.

Episode 12. "The 13th Juror" Toby is a witness in a court case, but he's picking up thoughts for everyone in the room. And another version of the crime arises...

Another great episode. Why?

It's a novel way of telling the story. There are multiple new ways to use Toby's power shown in the episode (a woman appears behind him, at one point). The actual identity of the killer is impossible to guess. All four regular characters are getting quality screentime. There's a great subplot with the great Gordon Pinsent playing a guy who knows about Toby's past.

The final scene/shot is great, too.

Episode 13. "The Journey" Toby finally has a lead on his mother's location.

The first episode without a case-of-the-week. The first half of the episode is slow going and boring (maybe because the stuff that should have happened there was moved forward as a b-plot in the previous episode?) but when it picks up steam, it gets really good before fizzling out in an ending that is probably meant to be intriguing, but is - in fact - very annoying and vague.

The Listener is an unusual series. All episodes were case-of-the-week driven, but the first seven episodes were flawed and uneven. From episode eight onwards, while still being case-of-the-week driven, the show became superb and flawless. The show figured out how to make Toby's powers cool and interesting, and the show also figured out how to use the powers to enhance the story in unusual ways

There's a great example of that in the middle of this episode. There's a stalemate outside a motel. The guy we've been thinking is a bad guy suddenly appears to be a good guy and we suddenly realise we at home have been making assumptions about him that may not be the case. Even Toby's powers don't immediately help him decide what to do, and the show knows exactly how do put this across in a way that makes the story even more enjoyable. Good writing and good acting and the added bonus of an intelligent way of using Toby's powers.

Yes, they have learned how to do this. So, since this is the first non case-of-the-week episode I will forgive them for messing it up and I will assume that next time (if there is a next time) they will figure out how to pace it better. The start of this one was just too much Toby asking the old man all the same questions over and over and over again.

This is also the episode that finally lets Olivia in on the secret of Toby's powers. This show has a great regular cast, and great actors in the parts. I loved all the scenes between Toby and Olivia and I can't wait to see how the show writes their relationship now that she knows.

Lisa Marcos was underused. She hardly appeared.

The episode looked fantastic, with all the snow and the ending looks amazing. Even if I was very, very frustrated by the lack of... anything much happening in that final minute.

I desperately want a second season. But not for the backstory, they haven't made me care enough about the backstory and there are more than enough shows out there about lone heroes up against mysterious conspiracies. No, I want a second season because this show has turned into something that delivers A+ stories every single week and the hero, his powers and the cast are very cool.

The Listener, Lisa Marcos

And Lisa Marcos is the most beautiful woman on television right now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yer absolutely right about every episode. This show is absolutly awesome! I love it sooo much!

And Lisa Marcos IS the most beautiful woman on television right now. If Lisa Marcos was gay, I'd totally switch teams just to have a chance with her ;)

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