The Listener is a 2009 supernatural procedural that ran from 2009-2014 starring Craig Olejnik. The show was filmed and set in Toronto and also starred Ennis Esmer, Mylène Dinh-Robic, Lisa Marcos, Anthony Lemke, Lauren Lee Smith, Rainbow Sun Francks, Peter Stebbings, Melanie Scrofano and Kris Holden-Ried.
The show follows Toby Logan, a paramedic with telepathic powers who finds himself consulting with law enforcement to make a change in the world by helping others while listening to the thoughts of victims and criminals, and seeing images that they saw.
The Listener was one of those shows that I remember seeing commercials for in other TV shows and events. I was a late comer as to me the premise sounded weak. How long could a case take to solve if you had a mind reader right? It was only after I watched a few episodes that the limitations to his powers made the show a bit more feasible.
Filmed In Canada, Set In Canada
Obviously I am writing about this because this is one of the first examples I can think of where I was watching a show made in Canada but also set in Canada. Blood Ties which I spoke about here, is obviously a much earlier show but I only watched it recently via Prime Video. The show is a procedural at it heart though the telepathy aspect might suggest otherwise. It really manages to work though.
The team follow the clues, conduct interviews with victims and suspects, find false leads and eventually the truth. I think though if procedurals are not your thing there isn’t enough outside of that to otherwise hold your interest.
Changing Things Up
One interesting thing about this show is the soft reboot that happens between seasons one and two. There was a delay to production and the entire writing team and the co-creators were replaced. I can’t find any information on why there was a delay other than the changes behind the scenes.
The soft reboot came in the form of a time jump and a change of team. Toby (Olejnik) no longer worked with the police after the fallout from the last case in season one. Toby returns to crime solving after a special criminal unit begins taking a closer look at his old work with the police. Changing the procedural side of the show while keeping the supporting characters like Oz Bey (Esmer) and Dr. Fawcett (Mylène Dinh-Robic).
The new team consisted of Sergeant Michelle McCluskey (Lauren Lee Smith), Corp. Dev Clark (Rainbow Sun Franck) and their supervisor Peter Stebbings (Alvin Klein). The only show I can immediately think of that did this so early was Unforgettable which took the central two characters and moved them to a new department.
The cast is very impressive and likely recognisable. Anthony Lemke one of the stars of cult Sci-Fi show Dark Matter. Ennis Esmer who plays Toby best friend Oz is known for Blindspot, The Flash and many more shows.
It is would be hard to talk about the amazing cast that appeared on The Listener without mentioning one Melanie Scrofano. Yes the same Melanie Scrofano who went on to star in a little summer horror show Wynonna Earp on Syfy that became one of the biggest social media blockbusters of the last decade. Here she plays Toby’s mysterious love interest who is the only person we’ve met immune to his powers.
Lauren Lee Smith plays Sergeant McCluskey and previously starred in Mutant X. She most recently starred in Frankie Drake Mysteries which ran for four seasons. I recognised her when she joined from the former role.
I really liked the first season of The Listener personally I think it worked well though perhaps it was a little too similar to normal police procedurals. Season two and beyond made things a bit more slick, widened the scope of potential crimes and gave Toby and those around him more of a life. Some of that definitely is a change to the first season while the rest is just what happen when a show runs for a few seasons.
While a mind reading EMT sounds a little out there the show was at pains to keep things grounded. I think that definitely helped even going on to suggest that his frequent use of those powers may seriously injure or shorten his life. Though given his first job was as an EMT we always knew he would put saving people first.
While the reboot was overall a positive for the show it did shift away from things like Toby searching for his mom and a reason for his powers. Though they came back to it those stories felt like more of an afterthought than a sincere attempt at a plotline.
Still I would end this article about The Listener by saying it deserves to be seen by a much wider audience. You can watch the show on Prime Video for free in the UK and via IMDB TV in the US.