Trust no one, in­clud­ing your pets

An­i­mals — and an Amer­i­can zo­ol­o­gist — go rogue in CBS’ new ‘ Zoo.’ It’s all great fun.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - MARY McNA­MARA TELE­VI­SION CRITIC

I think I speak for ev­ery­one when I say that tele­vi­sion has ig­nored the dra­matic po­ten­tial of the rogue Amer­i­can zo­ol­o­gist for far too long.

Mer­ci­fully, just such a man anchors the new CBS se­ries “Zoo,” which de­buts Tues­day.

That he is played by the preter­nat­u­rally boy­ish and in­creas­ingly ubiq­ui­tous James Wolk only adds to my de­light, which bur­bled high like a non­wa­ter- ra­tioned foun­tain from the mo­ment I clapped eyes on the f irst “Zoo” trailer. The sum­mer block­buster staked its claim on tele­vi­sion long ago, but we’ve all been so f ix­ated on zom­bies, were­wolves and aliens, we’ve al­most for­got­ten the coolest and creepi­est apoca­lypse sce­nario: An­i­mals Run Amok.

Even more than clas­sics like “The Birds,” scenes from “Day of the An­i­mals” and “Squirm” haunt my dreams; I can’t see a wasp ( or a bowl of creamed corn) with­out think­ing of “The Food of the Gods.”

So bring on the raven­ing lions with their sud­denly aber­rant and deadly hunt­ing pat­terns, the brazen ro­dents and the con­temp­tu­ous chimps, the in­creas­ingly aloof and pos­si­bly or­ga­nized

house pets with their mur­der­ous agenda — I am in, CBS, with all four paws.

And not just be­cause the other pro­tag­o­nist is an intrepid re­porter for a fic­tional Los An­ge­les news­pa­per ( with a cir­cu­la­tion of 8 mil­lion! Where do I send my re­sume?), though it is still tough to beat an intrepid re­porter in a sce­nario like this.

Based on the novel of the same name by James Pat­ter­son and Michael Led­widge, “Zoo” opens with lion is­sues on two con­ti­nents. In Africa, Dr. Jack­son Oz ( Wolk) is an anti- hunter con­ser­va­tion­ist and tour guide still try­ing to f lee the mem­ory of his fa- ther’s break­down and sui­cide. Dad, also a zo­ol­o­gist, spent his last months spout­ing non­sense about an­i­mals re­al­iz­ing they didn’t have to be dom­i­nated by hu­mans. You know, nutty stuff that is, for­tu­nately for Oz and pos­si­bly the world, still avail­able on YouTube.

Be­cause, as Oz and we learn when another camp doesn’t an­swer its ra­dio ( never a good sign), Dad may not have been so crazy af­ter all. Lions are at­tack­ing, in mul­ti­ple male groups that few can sur­vive. Mer­ci­fully, one of those few is the very beau­ti­ful and very French Chloe ( Nora Arnezeder), who quickly teams with Oz to cre­ate, pre­sum­ably, a love- among- the- car­nage sub­plot so beloved by the genre.

Both sce­nar­ios are mir­rored in Los An­ge­les, where the killing spree of two es­caped lions seems to sup­port the con­spir­acy the­o­ries of re­porter- se­cret ac­tivist blog­ger Jamie Camp­bell ( Kris­ten Con­nolly). She en­lists the aid of vet­eri­nar­ian pathol­o­gist Mitch Mor­gan ( Billy Burke), who is puz­zled though not pan­icked. For now

Mov­ing be­tween the African plains and the Los An­ge­les zoo, the pi­lot does an ex­cel­lent job set­ting up both the global dis­as­ter as­pect and the teams that will, one hopes, pre­vent it, while fall­ing in love. ( Oz and Chloe have that open- col­lar “Out of Africa” sex ap­peal, Jamie and Mitch get the snap­pier di­a­logue.)

It’s all great fun, es­pe­cially for those of us who have not read the book and so do not know if there is a clever cause or a nifty so­lu­tion. Even if there is not, we get to watch a solid cast work its way through this latest spin on a clas­sic tale, while keep­ing a wary eye on our own pets.

Who have been act­ing a bit weird lately, now that you men­tion it.

Hi­lary Bron­wyn Gayle CBS

ZO­OL­O­GIST Jack­son Oz ( James Wolk) keeps a wary eye out for an­i­mals run amok in “Zoo.” Seek­ing com­fort is sur­vivor- love in­ter­est Chloe ( Nora Arnezeder).

Hi­lary Bron­wyn Gayle CBS

JAMES WOLK

stars in CBS’ new “Zoo,” where it’s best to never turn your back on an­i­mals, wild or “tame.”

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