Mind reader: NBC's summer series explores the paranormal

« Back to News

Miranda Grigor / TV Media
Conan O'Brien with Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" - NBC/Dave Bjerke

Craig Olejnik joins NBC's telepathic team in "The Listener"

Most networks hopped onto the crime procedural bandwagon ages ago, but NBC is keeping things lively by choosing series with a paranormal twist.

The latest addition to their summer lineup is Shaftesbury Films' "The Listener," which is already making worldwide waves thanks to its mind-reading hero.

Set to premiere on NBC Thursday, June 4, "The Listener" joins the recently renewed series "Medium" on the network's supernatural roster.

But it's no rookie. "The Listener" already saw a successful spring launch in Europe, Brazil, Mexico and Asia, and if it's received as well at home as it has been internationally, "The Listener" is going to be a summer hit.

Starring Craig Olejnik ("In God's Country"), "The Listener" is about a 25-year-old paramedic named Toby Logan who has a spooky secret: he's telepathic. Not only can he read people's innermost thoughts, but he also has visions about the victims he rescues and the trauma they've endured, which often puts him in an awkward position between saving lives, hunting down criminals and dealing with his own inner conflicts.

"I think around 25 you begin to look into yourself because you're trying to figure things out," said 29-year-old Olejnik of his character. "He's beginning to accept his telepathy and work with it."

Set in Toronto -- the latest in a recent string of Canadian exports to American TV -- the series premiere gets off to an action-packed start. While on the job, Toby saves a woman from a blazing car crash and is plagued by visions of her little boy, who he soon learns is missing. The young mother, in shock after the accident and her son's abduction, is unable to help with any kind of investigation, so with his innate drive to help others, Toby must make sense of his premonitions in order to help save the boy's life.

Jay Leno will shift from late-night to prime time with a new show this fall - NBC/Paul Drinkwater

Lisa Marcos, Craig Olejnik, Ennis Esmer and Mylene Dinh-Robic star in "The Listener"

"Just by virtue of being a telepath paramedic," said Olejnik, "he's in a lot of situations where [his ability] does come in handy and in a lot of situations that are obviously perilous."

In addition to "The Listener," NBC has signed on another paranormal favorite for a sixth season. Starring Patricia Arquette ("Stigmata"), "Medium" is based on the story of real-life self-proclaimed medium Allison DuBois (played by Arquette). DuBois is a mother of three with a lot on her plate. In addition to raising a family and working in the Phoenix District Attorney's office, she is a psychic who can communicate with the dead in her dreams. Much like Toby in "The Listener," Allison's ability comes in handy at work as she helps to solve homicide cases.

"Medium" has fared well over its past five seasons and it’s no surprise NBC renewed the series. With modest ratings, the series won Arquette an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress as well as several Golden Globe nominations.

"Medium" also boasts an impressive list of guest stars, including three of Arquette's film-savvy siblings (David, Richmond and Rosanna), Anjelica Huston (who received an Emmy for her performance as Cynthia Keener), Jason Priestley and Kelsey Grammer, who also acts as an executive producer for the series. NBC has yet to announce a premiere date for the show's sixth season.

Though "The Listener" and "Medium" fit within the same genre, the series have two very different plots. While "Medium" focuses more on communicating with the dead to solve murder cases, "The Listener's" main character attempts to use his telepathy to prevent deaths.

Logan, who barely knew his biological parents and spent most of his life in foster care, has let his secret force him into emotional isolation with the exception of a few people.

Dr. Ray Mercer, played by Canadian Colm Feore ("24"), is the young telepath's confidante, mentor and the only other person who knows about his psychic tendencies. Ennis Esmer ("Billable Hours") balances the show's dramatic edge with some necessary comic relief as Toby's paramedic partner, Osman "Oz" Bey.

Essential to Toby's realization that his gift could help him save lives off the clock are toughie Det. Charlie Marks, played by Lisa Marcos ("Flashpoint"), and Toby's ex-girlfriend, Dr. Olivia Fawcett, played by Mylene Robic ("Stargate Atlantis").

Rounding out the cast are Arnold Pinnock ("Life With Derek"), who plays Toby's boss George Ryder, and Anthony Lemke ("The Last Templar") as Sgt. Brian Becker.

Olejnik is getting positive reviews for his performance in "The Listener," but this Canuck has already tried on many different hats in the entertainment industry. Aside from his roles in movies such as "In God's Country" and "Thir13en Ghosts," Olejnik co-wrote, directed and produced an independent dark comedy entitled "Interview with a Zombie."

"The Listener" is an hour-long, 13 episode series created by Michael Amo ("Blessed Stranger: After Flight 111") and is produced by Shaftesbury Films for CTV. It's one of many Canadian programs recently picked up by American networks, joining CBS's hard-hitting action series "Flashpoint" (another CTV series) and its new summer series, "The Bridge."

"We're delighted 'The Listener' will be broadcast by NBC in the U.S. and CTV in Canada," said executive producer and Shaftesbury Films CEO Christina Jennings. "There seems to be a new pattern emerging at American TV networks, which have lately become more open to working with production companies outside the U.S."