TV Review: ‘Zoo’

Zoo TV Review CBS
Courtesy of CBS

CBS’ idea of summer escapism has an interesting bent toward, as they put it in “Zoo,” a “possible extinction event.” So in the we-all-might-die spirit of “Extant” comes this rather frenetic new drama adapted from James Patterson’s thriller about animal attacks suddenly sprouting up across the globe. At least initially, the two far-flung storylines — one involving a safari guide/zoologist in Botswana, the other a reporter in Los Angeles — aren’t exactly hair-raising. “Zoo” might build toward something more satisfying, but based on the premiere, there’s not particularly strong incentive to take the bait.

The well-traveled James Wolk plays Jackson Oz, ensconced in Africa to escape the shadow of the crazy predictions of his late father (Ken Olin, seen in old videoclips), ranting about some kind of dire event of come. Yet Jackson starts to think dad might have been onto something when the local fauna begins behaving strangely, with lions assaulting a French safari, leaving him to squire the survivor (Nora Arnezeder, likely spared by the producers, if not the beasts, because she’s extremely attractive) to safety.

Across the globe (although the show is shot in New Orleans, approximating both locales), reporter Jamie Campbell (Kristen Connolly) is seeking to blow the lid off odd behavior involving local zoo animals, which she thinks can be sourced to the company responsible for feeding them. This doesn’t endear her to management, but she finds a slightly more sympathetic ear from a people-phobic veterinarian (Billy Burke), who, among other things, helps her probe a sudden disappearance by smaller, more cuddly cats in Brentwood.

Boasting an entire herd of executive producers, four of whom share credit on the script, “Zoo” moves along briskly enough, even if some of the work in realizing the threatening lions looks a little toothless. In that sense, it joins a long tradition of “When Animals Attack”-type movies, although unlike, say, “The Birds,” some clue as to why this is all happening will be vital to sustaining interest.

Nevertheless, “Zoo” does mesh reasonably well with the kind of dramas CBS has trotted out during the summer (first “Under the Dome,” then the aforementioned “Extant”), which qualify as rather mindless serialized thrillers partly underwritten by international sales and CBS’ Amazon deal — and, alas, under-written as well.

Wolk is as always a likable presence as the reluctant hero, but in these limited confines, he can only offer modest compensation for those who tune in. That said, “Zoo” could corral enough viewers to work for CBS, provided the network’s expectations hew more closely to just putting dinner on the table rather than landing big game.

TV Review: 'Zoo'

(Series; CBS, Tues. June 30, 9 p.m.)


Filmed in New Orleans by James Patterson Entertainment and Midnight Radio in association with CBS Television Studios.


Executive producers, Jeff Pinkner, Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Scott Rosenberg, Michael Katleman, James Mangold, Cathy Konrad, James Patterson, Bill Robinson, Leopoldo Gout, Steve Bowen, Brad Anderson; producers, John Forrest Niss, P. Todd Coe; director, Anderson; writers, Appelbaum, Nemec, Pinkner, Rosenberg; based on the novel by Patterson, camera, Anette Haellmick; production designer, Lauren Crasco; editor, Mark Manos. 60 MIN.


James Wolk, Kristen Connolly, Billy Burke, Nonso Anozie, Nora Arnezeder

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  1. Darlene says:

    Just watched second show of the new summer season. Have decided the writers thought it was a comedy. So as long as you laugh as you watch it, you won’t drive yourself crazy trying to understand what is going on. Give me a break, none of this is believable and it is so out there it’s either pure fantasy (and not a good fantasy) or a comedy series. I vote for the comedy as always need a good laugh.

  2. Ray Moore says:

    Ok, question or two here.

    Does anybody do any scientific research on a scifi show any more? I am currently watching the tv series Zoo and in the first two episodes I’ve seen two major glaring scientific faux-pas. First, 2,4-d is not a pesticide and wouldn’t be used to kill mosquitoes. It is an herbicide. Second, how in the heck does a doctor determine that the femoral artery on a corpse has been cut by looking at the head an neck? The femoral artery is in the leg. Specifically the inside of the leg. Come on people. This is such simple research that a 5th grader could do it!

  3. Last episode of Zoo disappointing. Unfinished. Did Patterson condone this? Are there future plans? All the work of the actors, and expense filming was a waste of time and money.

  4. Robin Daniel says:

    Did miss something or were they only a couple episodes shown??

  5. randy says:

    Get rid of all the fucking commercials. Can’t even watch the show. More time on commercials than show

    • Tom says:

      That’s why you tivo everything dumb ass

    • Vera B says:

      The TV program has more to it than the book did. A more experienced cast might have brought more with them.. But its hard to go any where with such a one dimensional story. Once you get past the animal attacks, there is no subtext.

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