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.