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.

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