Unlike, or just like, any others?

Why does Tom Cruise act in the “Mission Impossible”? Or, why has  “K-Stew” become such a popular actress? How could Jennifer Garner make it to “Alias”? Or, why Lea Michelle is Rachel Berry in “Glee”?

There is no doubt that some, or even all, of them might have genuine talents, making them deserving of the roles. But, to tell you the truth, I doubt that their fortune landing on those shows was purely talent-related. These actors, and many other actors out there, especially those holding protagonist parts, are generally “easy on the eyes”, i.e. good-looking – probably also one of the reasons why Craig Olejnik lands in the Canadian TV series “The Listener”.

Toby Logan, the telepathic character in “The Listener”

As Toby Logan, a  paramedic for one of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) of Canada, Craig Olejnik has done an all-right job bringing the character to live. Driving the storyline of the series, Logan’s supernatural ability of seeing what people visualise in their mind has been somewhat typical, especially when compared to other series of similar focal point – that is someone’s supernatural ability being used in helping others.

Let’s take, for example, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character, Melinda Gordon, in the “Ghost Whisperer”. In the series, Melinda used her ability to communicate with the dead to settle unsolved issues with the living relatives, friends or colleagues. Often, these issues were criminal in nature, although there were sometimes when they only involved domestic matters. Unlike Logan’s character, Melinda’s character had been designed to showcase deep emotional conflicts through the series of emotional roller-coasters she encountered – from the time she lost her gift, the death of her loving husband, Jim Clancy, witnessing Jim’s spirit getting into another body, and having to learn accepting the “new” Jim. I have to salute Love Hewitt for making the character strong enough to bring the audience into similar roller-coaster ride with her. Though, I still don’t quite like seeing her overdressed and with amplified, dark, facial make-up – “Not so much of a standard happy wife we’d see on daily basis,” I thought, regardless of the fact that she was portrayed to have a great relationship with her husband and definitely happy.

One thing in common about Melinda and Toby is they’re both good-looking. I’d say that if Toby Logan’s character was to be elevated, showcasing deeper emotions and stronger identities, I’d probably consider enjoying the show not for the sake of simply entertainment to occupy my leisure. If his character was better crafted, and hopefully well-played, I’d probably appreciate “The Listener” as well for its artistry.

Toby and Oz in their daily paramedic job

“The Listener” has been developed in similar ways as most criminal investigation series out there, except of course the supernatural part of it. It gives highlights to the main character, while showing bits and pieces of the supporting characters throughout the series. Just like other crime series, every episode revolves around a case, or two, with insertion of characters’ personal endeavour in some. What differentiates “The Listener” from many other detective series is, among others, his ever conducive friendship with his buddy, Oz, who is also his partner in the EMS. Inclusion of this bubbly, kind-hearted, and loyal, Turkish character as Toby’s best friend adds on to the taste, like strong spices being added into a dish. I could even say that it is likely to be the smartest move the writers and directors have made for the show. Going with a full name of Osman Bey, this highly likable character has lightened the whole show, altering the paradigm that characters in crime series have to be generally serious or heavy.

Additionally, unlike most characters from other crime series, Toby is quite a ‘catch’, knows that he is so, and loves the women’s attention around him. In scenes involving women as being the vulnerable characters, he would somehow manage to be extra kind with them, offering the extra mile, providing his good companionship – often too good that it leads to intimate one nights. Not only that, the showing of his night lifestyle, hanging out in clubs with Oz, making casual conversations to attract dates, are all unusually refreshing. It gives a breath of fresh air to the typical crime investigation series.

I believe the fact that Toby is a paramedic helping the cop, and not a cop himself, has also made a significant difference to the show.  While other crime series revolve around teams of detectives or cops, “The Listener” actually began, in its first two seasons, with Toby and Oz doing their daily tasks as medics. Even when Toby started to help investigators solving cases, their medical assistance around the city still assumed the main highlights. “The Listener” was unique because it is a crime series that presents case investigations in between the protagonist’s day-to-day occupation, and not the other way around. Well, at least, that’s how it was before Season 3.

Toby, Oz, and the IIB detectives

The first two episodes of Season 3 have honestly disappointed me. The series seems to have developed into somewhat ‘just like any other crime series’. Toby was hired as a full-time consultant for the Integrated Investigative Bureau (IIB), just like how Patrick Jane was a consultant to the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in “The Mentalist”. With this shift of approach, I’d probably still enjoy the show, but I might miss a lot of Toby’s paramedic life. Would we still see the stern but funny and kind-hearted George Ryder, the EMS’ boss? Would we still enjoy the babbling Oz as frequent as before?

Even worse, Toby now has a new supernatural ability – being able to see the future. I wonder if he’d slowly pick up more and more superpower that one day, we might see him in a superhero costume. (Sorry for the sarcasm!) Would we see some interestingly unique tweaks in future? Would the characters evolve from typical detectives by adopting in-depth personal growth and conflicts? We’ll see.


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