Are some animals predictable in their actions and behavior? What if they all of a sudden went rogue and started attacking humans all over the world? That’s the premise behind CBS’s new summer drama Zoo, based on the bestselling book of the same name by author James Patterson.
At the start of the series premiere, a voiceover says, “For centuries, mankind has been the dominant species. We’ve domesticated animals, locked them up, killed them for sport. But what if all across the globe, the animals decided no more; what if they finally decided to fight back?” Animals attacks are nothing new, but this premise for Zoo is fascinating, though certainly not something I or anyone else would want to see come to fruition in real life, of course.
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The series, at least in the premiere, goes back and forth between Botswana and Los Angeles. Worlds apart, for sure, but in these two locations, we as viewers get to see the start of the attacks.
First, let’s begin in Botswana, where Jackson Oz, played by the fantastic James Wolk, is a zoologist who works as a safari tour guide. With him, he’s got his co-worker Abraham Kenyatta, played by Nonso Anozie, helping him out. At one point, they come across an abandoned safari camp and tour bus, caused by lion attacks. Oz will have to begin to sort through this mystery.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, we see the first attack. As news is spreading about that and the fact that two lions escaped from the zoo, the show introduces us to one of the main characters, Jamie Campbell, played by Kristen Connolly. She’s a junior reporter for a newspaper, the LA Telegraph.
Jamie becomes highly interested in the attacks and is determined to find out what is behind it all. She talks to the man in charge of the zoo to see if there’s anything she can glean from all this madness, if there’s any answers whatsoever. It’s too early for anyone to find out the truth, of course (this wouldn’t be a TV show, otherwise), though she has her own theory about the situation.
She also meets the zoo’s veterinary pathologist, Mitch Morgan, played by Billy Burke, who you may remember in recent years from the Twilight movies on the big screen and from Revolution on the small screen. I really like Burke as an actor, so I was happy to see he’s involved with Zoo. However, I don’t think this role does him justice. Maybe as the season progresses, this character will come into his own, but from what I’ve seen so far, I’m a little disappointed.
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On the flip side, though, James Wolk and Kristen Connolly are the standouts among the cast. Wolk has been in quite a few shows, including Political Animals, Lone Star, The Crazy Ones and Mad Men. He doesn’t disappoint on Zoo; I quite like him in this role. He handles the drama side well, and nails a humorous scene that involves music, even if it does have darker implications later on. And as for Connolly, who can also be seen this summer on ABC’s The Whispers, she plays the inquisitive reporter role quite well.
Before watching the premiere episode, I found myself really intrigued by the premise of this show. And I still am. There are some great moments in the pilot, including a scene where a group of lions is chasing after two of the characters, including Chloe (Nora Arnezeder), who’s from France and is vacationing in Africa, and they’re running as fast as they can to get inside the truck. Another scene sees a bunch of lions cornering them against a cliff. It’s action sequences like these, teased in the below trailer, that I hope to see more of as the season progresses. That’s what gets my attention, aside from wanting to know why the animals are acting this way.
And I also wonder how widespread the attacks will be. We’re only seeing Botswana and Los Angeles right now since that’s where our protagonists are at. But with these characters so far apart, will they interact with each other eventually?
So while the premiere has its moments (when it gets good, it’s really fun to watch), there’s still something that’s left to be desired. Maybe there needs to be more action sequences. Maybe some of the slower moments need to find a better balance. Maybe the secondary characters need to come into better focus. Or perhaps it’s all of those things. There’s plenty of time to let everything settle in the right way, of course, but not every viewer is going to be willing to stick it out in case it takes longer than expected. I plan on watching more episodes because I’m intrigued by the premise and I enjoyed those stronger moments.
Will you be tuning in to Zoo? Does the premise intrigue you like it did with me? If you’ve read the book, do you have high hopes for this series?
Zoo premieres Tuesday, June 30 at 9pm on CBS.
(Image and video courtesy of CBS)