I reluctantly started Zoo, after they were 4 episodes deep. Summer drama is usually pretty flimsy and between James Patterson and CBS, I didn’t have much hope it would be watchable. However, the cast list suckered me in.
After Revolution, I will follow Billy Burke’s haunted, haggard face anywhere. He’s a less angry, more beleaguered Tim Daly. He usually saves the day, and then apologizes for being a dickhead. He’s like the perfect hot, white guy. Between Billy, the younger and cheaper Ron Livingston, Abraham the Enormous and cheerful African, (I’m a sucker for sensitive men shaped like trees) and Geoff Stults (Who can Find me anytime!) I’ve definitely hit the Men I’d Make Out With Jackpot.
In the olden days, when he wrote books, James Patterson Iiterally invented the one page chapter. He has marvelous concepts (except Women’s Murder Club) and shallow characters. Zoo is about all of the animals of the world communicating, and working together to fuck our shit up. A team from around the globe (however, funnily enough, they’re mostly american) comes together to understand/fight this terrifying and adorable phenomenon. The characters start out unsurprisingly cliched. Patterson tends to lean onto old tropes when describing people, so he can get back to the Marvelous Concept. He does offer some insightful, deep character moments. However, they’re B plots, with strangers you only meet once.
The personal drama of the main characters is ratcheted up to 11, alongside their actual peril, leaving little room for the interesting quirks that make people watchable. And they’re interspersed with these beautiful, touching mini-stories of people interacting with animals in a peculiar way. Regular people trying to figure out why their animals are acting weird. Giving us extra info about the animal behavior, that the characters don’t have, in order to ramp up the suspense.
It creates some great tension, however it’s empty. You find yourself drawn into the plot, but strangely indifferent to which characters are in peril, and who hooks up with whom. Thankfully, true to James Patterson form, you don’t have a lot of time to think about it. Because just when you start to notice your ambivalence, you find yourself caught up in a breath-takingly beautiful animal, or New Danger! And, oh, god, the animals! The lions, and bears and
tigers and ohmygod, the baby tiger that saves the day, IS SO FUCKING CUTE, you sigh. They’re gorgeous. And terrifying. But, mostly, they’re gorgeous. And the shots of them make up for a lot of the shallow characters and weird plot holes.
It’s unclear whether these hyper-intelligent animals want to kill us, enslave us, or just inhibit our cell coverage. But they are working together in a freaky way that justifies lots of close-ups of gorgeous animals. All of which works together to keep me thoroughly entertained.
It’s 24’s global conspiracy, with Erin Brockovich’s “What Have you Done To Us, Evil Corporation?”, Shonda Rhimes’ level of Man-Candy and all the hauntingly beautiful videos of animals you secretly love in your FB feed.
In conclusion: Zoo has Amazing Man-Candy, Fast Plot, Big Action and Gorgeous, Gorgeous Wild Animals who usually don’t get center stage.
If you love the action of Hawaii Five-0, but hate all the FEELINGS, you’ll like it. Also, most of the action doesn’t look legal. And you’re not exactly sure how they keep getting away with all of it. In that way, it’s very similar to Law & Order: Criminal Intent (or Criminal Entrapment, as my bff and I used to call it).
If you want a more nuanced plot, fleshed out characters, with REASONS behind everything, this isn’t for you.