Aired on: CBS
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I heard that CBS would be airing Zoo, a new television series based on a book by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, I was excited. I had read the book and loved the storyline and the warning it offers up for the technology obsessed society we now live in. I couldn't wait to check it out when it premiered on June 30, 2015 at 9pm EST.
In this series, James Wolk stars as Jackson Oz, an American zoologist who has been living in Africa for over a decade, serving as a tour guide on safaris. This jump from scientist to safari guide may possibly be explained by his father's studies in animal behavior and his little believed findings/warnings which drove him to commit suicide. Jackson is as laid back as they come until the day that he travels to another safari campsite to find everyone missing.
Jackson and his friend (Nonso Kenyati) are confused by the disappearance of so many people until they come across one of the tour buses. It is then that Jackson witnesses a phenomenon unlike any he has ever seen in the animal kingdom - male lions, working in concert to hunt and attack. Knowing that it is usually the female who hunts and the idea of so many males working together...even that many males existing in one pride...has never been heard of, Jackson finds himself with little time to dwell upon the implications, forced to save himself and another tourist (Nora Arnezeder) from another attack.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, male lions have escaped from a local zoo, working together to not only kill their trainer, but two civilians on the street, before being put down. Reporter and blogger Jamie Campbell (Kristen Connolly) believes that the beloved lions' change in behavior is due to their change in food and the food's supplier. Dr. Mitch Morgan (Billy Burke) doesn't quite agree, but doesn't exactly rule out the idea that something strange is going on, especially when Campbell happens to mention that neighborhood cats have started disappearing and he finds them...scores of them, sitting in trees, waiting for youth camp to open to do God knows what!
Now, if you've never read the book, you might find the idea of animals rising up against humans crazy...or you might be one of those folks who realize that they are called wild animals for a reason and we, as self-centered as we are, still don't know everything there is to know about animal behavior. You might actually enjoy the drama of this series.
But as someone who has read the book, I am extremely disappointed. Jackson's not nearly as crazy indie scientist as we expect from the books, but I can overlook that. I can even overlook...though I thought it offered up great insight into the animals' behavior...the fact that the story was changed so he lived in Africa rather than in New York City with his rescued chimpanzee. But this is less of an adaptation of the novel and more of a complete departure from what the story was meant to be. The powers that be took the name and the basic idea of animals rising up together to attack, but changed everything else in between. They are even changing the reasons behind the uprising...even including a human, making me think that they are going for a survival of the fittest motif...a sort of Prey (remember that ABC series) rip-off.
Sorry, but this series lost me when they veered so far from the subject matter and the message it contained. I will not be watching any future episodes of Zoo from this day forward.