THE LISTENER: That’s Not the Color of His Parachute

Susannah and I were recently talking about the set-up and structure of serial storytelling. It makes sense that we see so many cop and doctor shows, because cops and doctors are so much more likely to stumble across a dramatic situation than are, say, retail workers or pickle-dehairers. Sure, we occasionally get a show set in, say, the White House or a pie shop (and even then the latter is in many ways about solving crimes), but it’s generally easier to get a conflict that can be resolved in 42 minutes rolling with a cop or a doctor at the helm.

So it’s no surprise that The Listener focuses on a central character (Craig Olejnik as Toby Logan) who is a paramedic, as his job can bring his psychic talents–oh, did I mention he’s a psychic paramedic?–to bear on cases where people are already in trouble. One of the problems with The Listener–in addition to the fact that it’s neither terribly well acted nor designed–is that our psychic paramedic isn’t content being a psychic paramedic. Instead, he has to be a cop, too. It’s one thing to assume that Toby can solve cases more quickly than the cops because he can hear people’s thoughts, but it’s hard to swallow the idea that Toby can solve cases more quickly than the cops because he thought to look up some records on the computer. I’d prefer to see the show about the psychic retail worker who solves cases by hearing people’s thoughts while they’re struggling into the wrong size in the dressing room, but if we get The Listener instead, could we at least get a paramedic who wants to be a paramedic? If I get in an accident in his general vicinity, I’d prefer to think Toby Logan is more worried about my vital signs than about reading my thoughts to solve the mystery of who took my baby Babybel cheeses out of the communal work refrigerator.

Summer Premieres Abound on Thursday Night

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New summer TV is busting out all over! If you’re like me and are waiting out the audition process on So You Think You Can Dance (why does the producer manipulation in the audition rounds work so much better on American Idol than on SYTYCD? How can they possibly think I want to see the entirely constructed tension of putting the adorable Kasprzak brothers on the stage together to hear about the last slot?), there’s still plenty of new TV for you tonight. USA leads the pack with a brand new season of Burn Notice, which presumably finds Michael out of the ocean and on the run. More Bruce Campbell, please! They follow the Burn Notice season premiere with the bow of new Mark Feuerstein medical dramedy Royal Pains. To be honest, I’m not sure I care about the cuts, bruises, and face lifts of the rich and famous Hamptons residents who need house calls, but I love me some Mark Feuerstein (Cliff Calley! ), so I guess I’m there (also: bonus Campbell Scott!). Burn Notice and Royal Pains might be a good match–good guys who lose their good lives and try to reconstruct new ones with help from wacky friends and family? Hmmm. Maybe I just favor the Campbells.

If you just can’t get enough medical drama, NBC also debuts The Listener, about a psychic paramedic (Craig Olejnik, sporting unfortunate hair). Yep. The lead character referring to his psychic ability as God setting him up with free cable is kind of cute, I suppose. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’m that impressed with paramedics who see a major car accident out their window and are surprised by it, as psychic ability apparently drowns out huge noises. The latest in an increasingly long line of Canadian imports, The Listener‘s cast isn’t as instantly interesting as Mark Feuerstein (few are!), so we’ll be waiting for Colm Feore to show up. Unless we’ve given up and are watching the early showing of The USA Network Campbell Evening instead. Burn Notice and Royal Pains on USA Network at 9pm and 10pm Eastern and Pacific, respectively, and a double dose of The Listener on NBC at the same times.