Review: Zoo 1×1 (US: CBS; UK: Sky1)

CBS's Zoo

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, CBS
In the UK: Acquired by Sky1

Imagine what would happen if all the animals in the world suddenly decided that humans were screwing things up and they were going to run the planet instead.

Well, we’d be screwed, that’s what. Even putting aside what would happen if it was just the ants – they’d win all by themselves – even with overpopulation, there’s only seven billion or so of us and there’s 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 insects, just for starters, and they’re all largely bastards to begin with.

Okay, so let’s dial it down a notch and imagine it’s just zoo animals – and only a few of them at that – as well as maybe some cats. Not quite so worrying, is it? I mean, we’ve always suspected the cats were out to get us, haven’t we?

Yet so far, that’s all the thrills and spills we’ve had from Zoo, CBS’s latest attempt to capture the summer lightning in a bottle that was Under The Dome.

Based on James Patterson’s (Women’s Murder Club) novel of the same name, Zoo is initially set in two locales: Botswana and Los Angeles. In Botswana, US ex-pat James Wolk (Lonestar) is jaded with life and off running safaris for tourists, when he starts to notice some lions acting strangely. They’re ganging up with each other to kill people and are even using battle strategies to do it.

Uh huh.

Meanwhile, newspaper reporter and conspiracy theorist blogger Kristen Connolly (House of Cards, Houdini, The Whispers) is getting all het up about some lions that escaped the local zoo, killing their keepers and some innocent bystanders. She blames the food, but person-hating animal pathologist Billy Burke (Revolution) reckons it’s all just a freak incident – until he goes looking for all the missing pet cats, that is…

Uh huh.

If that sounds ludicrously bad, then you’re right and you haven’t even been exposed to the toxic dialogue and characters yet. Frankly, with TV like this, the world probably would be better off with the animals in charge.

Here’s a trailer. Try not to laugh too hard.

Production has commenced in New Orleans on CBS’s new drama series ZOO, based on James Patterson’s #1 bestselling novel. The series starring James Wolk, Kristen Connolly, Billy Burke, Nora Arnezeder and Nonso Anozie will premiere in summer 2015. Brad Anderson (“The Machinist”) is directing the episode.

ZOO is a global thriller about a wave of violent animal attacks against humans sweeping the planet. James Wolk will play Jackson Oz, a young, renegade American zoologist who spends his days running safaris in the wilds of Africa when he begins noticing the strange behavior of the animals. As the assaults become more cunning, coordinated and ferocious, he is thrust into the race to unlock the mystery of the pandemic before there’s no place left for people to hide.

ZOO is a CBS Television Studios production. Jeff Pinkner, Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Scott Rosenberg are executive producers with Michael Katleman, James Mangold, Cathy Konrad, James Patterson, Bill Robinson, Leopoldo Gout and Steve Bowen. The series will be distributed domestically by CBS Television Distribution and worldwide by CBS Studios International.

Is it any good?
It’s bobbins. Absolute bobbins. An infinite team of fish with an infinite number of typewriters and half an hour could have done better. And they haven’t even evolved fingers, let alone opposable thumbs for the spacebar.

There’s not one level at which Zoo works. It’s not frightening. It’s not plausible in even its slightest detail. It’s not well acted. It has terrible characters. It’s borderline offensive. It’s funny, but definitely not intentionally. You just can’t believe that people even bought the book, particularly as James Patterson says the TV series is better.

The characters are a litany of wrongness. We have Wolk’s ‘white saviour’ out in Botswana, whose crazy daddy predicted the uprising of animals and was quite rightly locked up. He sees his bestest, blackest mate killed by a bunch of five lions working in unison and quite rightly points out that’s not normal.

He then manages to rescue the only other white person in Botswana – a Frenchwoman whose husband was cheating on her, naturellement – whom he equally naturallement manages to rescue from the lions. Despite this the oddness of the special forces lions and the fact the lions had attacked them after having scoffed an entire bus full of people, he uses his advanced knowledge of normal lion behaviour to predict to la femme that the lions won’t come after them because they’ve eaten recently. So off they head off on foot into the savannah.

Uh huh.

Then there’s junior reporter Connolly, who gets fired because the editor of the newspaper she works for has noticed while editing her articles – that’s right, the editor, not the copy-editor – that she uses a slightly obscure word occasionally and spots it’s used in an entry on an anonymous blog “The Girl With The Genie Tattoo” that attacks the feeding practices at a zoo run by another company owned by the company that owns the newspaper.

Uh huh.

Rather than simply ignoring it or wondering if maybe it was someone else’s job to give even the slightest toss about it, the editor decides to fire Connolly and when Connolly denies everything, the editor says “Don’t make me put you through the indignity of asking you to take your clothes off to see if you have a genie tattoo.”

Uh huh.

And then, once she’s fired, rather than getting another job and maybe dialing down the stupid, unpaying blog work, she decides to dedicate the rest of her life to investigating the death-by-lion of two zookeepers. She accosts the CEO of the company about his zoo food and he tells her to go and investigate all the cats that are being kidnapped in her neighbourhood. Which she does.

Uh huh.

Even this could be overlooked if anyone talked like human beings, rather than stock characters who need to impart Very Important Plot Information or ideas to each other. It’s just horrendous.

Zoo isn’t just stupid. It’s Jaws IV stupid. If you watch it, you’re stupid and you’ve only got yourself to blame.