There's nothing wrong with U.S. networks picking up the occasional Canadian import, but to have a chance at working, such a show can't be as bland and colorless as "The Listener," which NBC is throwing onto Thursdays with a back-to-back episode launch. Built around a young paramedic with the telepathic ability to hear thoughts, the show looks chintzy, isn't particularly well acted and feels plucked from the 1970s. One needn't be psychic to anticipate where this review is heading, but inasmuch as we've come this far, please read on.
Toby Logan (Craig Olejnik) has wrestled for years with his power, in part with the help of a knowing mentor ("24's" Colm Feore), who's sort of his Professor X.
Toby's ability allows him to play junior detective, in the premiere trying to help an accident victim whose young son has been kidnapped. He does this without sharing his secret with his riding buddy, Oz (Ennis Esmer), or his ex-girlfriend (Mylene Dinh-Robic), a doctor whom Toby has kept at a safe emotional distance.
The final ingredient is an ever-present detective played by Lisa Marcos, who takes the popular trend of cops that resemble Victoria's Secret models to almost comical extremes. Even Oz refers to her in a subsequent episode as "Detective Delicious," though Toby seems too intense (or dense) to notice.
How one might use a power like telepathy remains an interesting concept, but "The Listener" can't intuit a single original thought -- including the surprising absence of humor in exploring Toby's situation. Nor could Olejnik be much more colorless, although to be fair, he's asked to do little more than stare intently while sound effects do most of the work, as others' thoughts echo (echo ... echo) inside his head.
Canada remains a favorite destination for U.S. filming, but in terms of programs flowing in this direction, they ought to have more going for them than simply being in English, eh? "This isn't a curse; it's a gift," Toby says during the premiere, as if that represents a grand revelation.