Zoo

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUMMER TV PREVIEW -

“Based on a novel by James Pat­ter­son ( and

Michael Led­widge)” isn’t the most wel­com­ing phrase for view­ers in search of highly orig­i­nal sto­ry­telling, but for oth­ers, it’s a stamp of sum­mer­time ap­proval, the tele­vi­sion equiv­a­lent of a light beach read left be­hind by the pre­vi­ous beach-condo ten­ant. This is your brand of ice cream or it isn’t, but a laugh­ably over-se­ri­ous pi­lot episode makes it dif­fi­cult to take “Zoo” on its own terms.

It’s a 13-episode ac­tion thriller about a sud­den change in tem­per­a­ment among the world’s an­i­mals. From wild lions on the African plains to di­a­bol­i­cal house cats (and pre­sum­ably more species as the story builds), an­i­mals have de­cided to work to­gether as a unit to kill hu­mans. James Wolk (poor James Wolk, can’t we find some­thing bet­ter for you?) stars as a zo­ol­o­gist who’s been slack­ing off as a sa­fari guide in Botswana. Whena group of male lions un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally raids a nearby re­sort, killing guests and em­ploy­ees, Jack­son is haunted by the crack­pot the­o­ries of his late fa­ther, who pre­dicted such a calamity.

Mean­while, a Los An­ge­les news­pa­per re­porter (Kris­ten Con­nolly) de­fies her editor (who is also her lover, be­cause on TV shows, all fe­male news­pa­per re­porters are re­quired to sleep with their im­me­di­ate male su­pe­ri­ors) and pur­sues a far-fetched tip that zoo an­i­mals are be­ing fed un­safe food man­u­fac­tured by a ma­jor cor­po­ra­tion; she finds a sym­pa­thetic ear in an an­i­mal pathol­o­gist (Billy Burke), and very quickly the global plot comes to­gether. (Just wait un­til they find all the kit­ties perched in a tree above an ele­men­tary school, wait­ing to pounce. It’s cats do­ing Hitchock’s “The Birds”!)

As the ac­tors re­act with hor­ror when com­puter-gen­er­ated an­i­mals go on the of­fen­sive, you re­al­ize that “Zoo” might have worked bet­ter as a piece of in­ten­tional camp. It’s al­most there (in the first episode, I be­gan to won­der if some of the cameos, such as “Veep’s” Reid Scott, weren’t meant as some kind of “Shark­nado”-style slum­ming), but “Zoo’s” big­gest mis­take is tak­ing the straight-and-nar­row ap­proach. For all the maul­ing, it’s got very lit­tle bite. Grade: CPATRICK

HI­LARY BRON­WYN GAYLE/CBS

Nonso Anozie, left, and JamesWolk star in the thriller, about an­i­mals unit­ing to kill hu­mans.

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