Review : A telepath learns why his gift cannot be denied in The Listener

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Is it a gift or a curse? No, not the ability the main character has to read minds on NBC's new paranormal series The Listener. Rather, is this new series itself a gift or a curse when it comes to our summer viewing? That's the real question.

The Canadian/NBC production from creator Michael Amo makes its American premiere tonight, June 4, with back-to-back episodes at 9 p.m. ET/PT, before taking up its regular spot on Thursdays at 10 p.m.

The pilot episode, "I'm an Adult Now," introduces us to the world of Toby Logan [Craig Olejnik], a telepathic paramedic who for the most part has shut down his gift to the outside world. That suddenly changes when he's driving to work with his partner, Oz [Ennis Esmer], and a cry for help shatters his carefully crafted shield which has allowed him to control his ability. Toby and Oz spot a car that's flipped over and the men rush to the aid of the woman trapped inside. They are able to get her out, but Toby gets a glimpse into her mind and discovers her son has been kidnapped.

When the woman refuses to talk to police at the hospital, Toby finds himself drawn into a mystery in which the life of a child is at stake. For the first time in his life, the young telepath can't turn away despite the risk of having his talent exposed.

So back to the question. Is The Listener a gift or a curse to viewers? Well, much like Toby's gift, it's a little of both. Craig Olejnik is likeable as Toby and we root for him to succeed. As for Ennis Esmer as his partner Oz, Mylène Dinh-Robic as his doctor girlfriend Olivia, and Lisa Marcos as Detective Charlie Marks, they are bright young actors. They do a good job with their individual roles, but Olejnik's best chemistry is with Colm Feore, who plays Dr. Ray Mercer, the one person who knows about his gift and who helped him survive his childhood. No doubt the characters will mesh better once they more screen time and get past being the jovial partner, the annoyed girlfriend, and the hard-ass cop.

As for the story, "I'm an Adult Now" offers some really nice moments despite the procedural feel of the series. No, there aren't a lot of surprises about where we end up. But scenes including Toby using his abilities to help or empower others, the young mother buying a gun, and the flashes into Toby's past, give us a look at the potential The Listener has.

So gift or curse? Let's go with gift and see where the summer takes us.