Third-episode verdict: The Listener

The CarusometerA Carusometer rating of 4

Time for a third-episode verdict on The Listener, the Canadian TV show that almost everyone in the world but Canadians can watch.

This isn’t a great show. The majority of the acting is bland at best, with no one really infusing their roles with much dynamism (with the exception of the hero’s Turkish best friend). It lacks flair and originality. Scripts come up with events that have to happen and for characters to react in particular ways purely because the script demands they do, not because that’s in any sense realistic.

Characters don’t really have characters, just narrative demands, and anything personal that happens can be predicted miles off with the great big book of sci-fi clichés. Need to convince a trained paramedic you can read minds? He’ll believe you in seconds and not once suspect he has a brain tumour, schizophrenia or had too many weird mushrooms in his lunch.

But it’s not truly awful. It’s obviously got a good budget and there are some beautiful location shots. For a show that’s been pitched from the beginning as an international show, it’s nice to see it’s very clearly Canadian, not some neutered creature like Flashpoint. The characters are Canadian, they don’t try to change their accents and Toronto is the location – in fact, you’d be hard pressed to find an exterior shot that doesn’t have the CN Tower in it and compared with the likes of the “only black if they’re alien” Stargate, Toronto and Canada’s diversity is well reflected, and the roots of our hero’s best friend are used very well.

It’s also quite likeable, with no one being truly bad, although that did start to grate with its predictability by the third episode. But predictability is indeed the watchword of the show. With its formulaic standard plot, the mindreading gift that only allows our hero to hear what’s plot-necessary rather than useful, the insipid romances and the “oh no, I can’t reveal my secret” evasions with the glamorous detective, there’s little here you won’t see coming. The one hint of intrigue and originality is in the hidden memories Toby “the listener” has of his childhood that are slowly being revealed. But way too slowly to avoid the suspicion that their revelation will be anti-climatic and not involve anyone having done anything too bad.

There are more interesting, better shows, although if you do like a syndicated show with minimal development or depth each week (cf Highlander, Friday the 13th), this will be familiar territory at least.

Carusometer rating: 4
Prediction: Will probably last at least a couple of seasons thanks to international sales, but hopefully will expire sooner.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

    View all posts