The New Zoo Re-Review

It was a very slim possibility, but the CBS version of James Patterson’s Zoo has not managed to make a silly premise watchable.

A global, organized animal movement to eradicate the pesky humans who seem bent on destroying the earth is an idea more worthy of a Syfy Channel movie than a CBS series, but I had hoped that a well-crafted presentation would enable me to willingly suspend my disbelief and enjoy the show. That has not happened.

Bats bring down a private jet at high altitude, and a pack of wolves take a prison? Really? Bats repeatedly cover solar panels to cut a research facility’s power? Really? Oh, did I mention that these bats show up in Antarctica? Also, one of the bats manages to ride into the facility on a scientist’s back and short out the backup power supply? Really?

I think CBS owes Syfy royalties. All CBS has done is substitute normal (well, except for that “defiant pupil” inter-animal telepathic communication thing) animals for the standard giant dinocrocodilepythonsharktopusspiranhasaurus featured on Syfy every Saturday. Now, if CBS had thought to have the animals delivered by tornado, the network might have created a smash hit.

I’m out! I think I heard my DVR breathe a sigh of relief and murmur “thank-you.”

I have a suggestion for CBS executive decision-makers. (I’m certain they have been closely monitoring this blog.) Why try something like James Patterson’s Zoo, when you obviously prefer the more economic alternative of reality shows and endlessly recycling participants among them?

The new Zoo I propose, minus the book author’s name, I imagine, would feature 16 of the nastiest, most despicable contestants who ever graced the likes of Big Brother, Survivor and The Amazing Race. It’s a gigantic pool for selection.

The show would be set in (you guessed it) a zoo. Each week, contestants would face some sort of task involving an animal — riding a tiger, dancing with a bear, walking an angry pit bull. The biggest loser would be put in cage with a hungry, extremely pissed off big cat, given a chair and a whip, and challenged to survive for 5 minutes.

Those who did would be given another shot the following week. Those who did not, well, that would just be “good television.”

The New Zoo Review

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!

Can a silly idea be artfully rendered into something interesting, even thrilling?

This is the question posed by the new CBS adaptation of James Patterson’s Zoo, which aired its first episode June 30.

The definitive answer? Maybe.

Watching this series demands certain things from you. First and foremost, you must disable your bullshit filter.

Done? Now, you must accept the following premise.

The animals of the earth are universally pissed. They have established a global telepathic communication network, considered all the options and unanimously decided that the best course of action is to exterminate the species destroying the earth. That would be us.

Leading the charge, on at least two fronts. are the lions.

In Los Angeles, a pair of male lions kill their trainer, escape from the zoo and go on a deadly rampage. Local reporter Jamie Campbell (Kristen Connolly) is convinced that a switch to cheaper, evil corporation food is to blame. Hoo-boy, is her face ever going to be red.

In Botswana, a squad of five male lions clear and quite possibly wipe out a safari camp. Zoologist turned tour guide Jackson Oz (James Wolk) attempts to determine how a single lion, as tracks indicate, could be so terrifyingly efficient. He’s about to find out.

Now, here are a few things that you may not have known about lions. They will walk in single-file to hide their numbers (and foil any zoologist who might come sniffing down their trail). They will wound, but not kill, a victim and leave him in a vehicle to lure others, such as an investigating zoologist’s best friend, into their kill zone. They will damage a radiator, knowing that this will eventually bring a fleeing Range Rover to a halt and enable them to catch up with their prey.

OK. I can accept (bullshit filter disabled, remember?) animals being in telepathic touch to get the job done. I can’t help but think that something or someone (perhaps a misanthropic human?) is calling the shots. Without a leader, most groups, whether human or other, are generally just a collection of directionless opinions. Who’s pulling the strings of these animal vigilantes?

Back in LA, there’s the matter of the mini-lions. Ordinary household tabbies have been mysteriously disappearing by the gazillions, much to the despair of their little girl owners. Everyone’s first thought? Something bigger and toothier is eating them.

No, wait! The target here does not walk on four legs, and I’m not talking chickens. The reporter’s new-found friend, Mitch Morgan (Billy Burke), the zoo’s veterinary pathologist, has followed one of the errant cats to its destination, the trees outside an elementary school playground. A summer day camp is scheduled to start the next day. What’s on the minds of these fiendish felines? Kitty kiddy lunch?

Return to Botswana. Jackson, just before he is forced to tumble down a steep slope by one of the renegade lions, notices an abnormality in the beast’s left eye. Could this be the “defiant pupil” described by his previously believed insane late father as the animals’ comlink?

My bet, based on what I gleaned from the preview at the end of the premiere? Yes. Yes it is.