Toby (Craig Olejnik) is a paramedic. During the course of his work he speeds around Toronto saving lives and bantering with his friend Oz (Enis Esmer). Also, Toby reads minds. “If I could read minds,” we bet you’re thinking right now, “I’d go out and fight crime.” And that’s exactly what he does.
While his motives are largely altruistic, there’s also a personal subtext. You see, Toby doesn’t remember much of his childhood beyond fleeing a villain and his mother’s death by drowning. So maybe between fighting crime and reading minds, he can begin to uncover his own murky past.
As a premise, it’s not the most inventive, blending Heroes-style sci-fi with generic case-of-the-week police drama and while it shows reasonable competence in both, it’s more Tru Calling than Ashes To Ashes.
The show’s biggest fault is that the exact nature of Toby’s abilities remains fuzzy at best – not in a way that suggests clever twists to come, but as if the mythology is a little slapdash.
In the second episode he sees a building explode before it does. Yet, while he often comments on how his power is changing, he never again bothers to mention that he once saw the future.
His method of fighting crime also veers into the cavalier, using a technique that sees him run headlong into danger while hoping for the best.
At least the crimes themselves show promise: rather than relying on the Jessica Fletcher book of storytelling with a murder every week, the unusual array of devilish deeds offer up some interesting and unexpected resolutions.
Throw in some bubbling cast chemistry, as Toby befriends a detective (Lisa Marcos) and navigates an on-off relationship with a doctor (Mylène Dinh-Robic), and this has potential.
Shame, then, that it’s directed with too many looking-up-at-tall-buildings shots and over-the-top dramatic music.
Overall, this first season of The Listener has its teething troubles. However, some half-decent scripts and a good cast mean there’s a chance it can improve. Perhaps a second season might even offer up some DVD extras.
A vanilla set for a shaky show – it’s for hardcore sci-fi crime fans so far, but worth keeping an eye on in case it improves.