Canadian actor Craig Olejnik sports choppy black hair and gazes with 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 beginning at 9 p.m. EDT Thursday), 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’s 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. Thursday night, 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 triangle. But the characters are not interesting enough to care about.
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.
Rob Owen is a TV critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette.