‘Zoo’ Pilot Recap: “Something Clearly Is Not Right Here”

BWAAA HAAA HAAA HAAA HAAA!!!! BWAAA HAAA HAAA HAAA HAAA!!!! Omigod omigod omigod… This new CBS show ‘Zoo’, it’s just… I can’t even. Seriously, this thing makes ‘Under the Dome’ look like Tolstoy. It’s amazingly idiotic.

This is quite simply the dumbest thing ever. That’s all there is to it.

First off, it’s based on a novel by James Patterson. Now, while I’ve never personally read a Patterson book, I’m of the understanding that he’s a successful and popular bestselling author, albeit mostly of crime fiction. What’s he doing writing a fifth-rate Dean Koontz knockoff?

How do I even describe what the show is about? OK, you know mankind is at the top of the food chain on Earth? What if we weren’t?! Like, what if all the animals got together and revolted to take back the planet? HOLY SHITBALLS, WE’D BE TOTALLY FUCKED!!! Right? That’s what happens here!

So, near the beginning of the pilot episode, two douchebags stumble out of bar in Los Angeles to go take a piss in an alley, and get attacked and eaten by lions. Yes, literally LIONS. Not California Mountain Lions either. Full-on, African big-game lions. This is meant to be a “ZOMG, WTF just happened?!” moment, and I guess it kind of is – though perhaps more, “WTF am I watching?”

The story is divided between two primary locations, Botswana and Los Angeles. As if it weren’t obvious enough that the African savanna looks absolutely nothing like inner-city California, the show repeatedly flashes huge text on screen to remind us where each scene takes place.

In Botswana, a (white of course, because this is a major network American series) safari tour guide with the silly name Jackson Oz (James Wolk, star of numerous failed TV shows) faces a rash of unprovoked lion attacks against tourists. When his best friend/black manservant (Nonso Anozie from NBC’s short-lived ‘Dracula’) gets lured into a trap and eaten, Oz upgrades his sidekick to a new French hottie and tries to trek back to his base camp to radio the authorities. Along the way, they discover that groups of male lions (which generally stay away from each other) are working together to coordinate and strategize their efforts. Conveniently, this happens to resemble a crazy theory about evolution espoused by Oz’s father (Ken Olin), a crackpot biologist discredited by the entire scientific community.

Over in Los Angeles, the back alley maulings are credited to a pair of lions that escaped from the zoo and were subsequently killed by animal control officers. A dogged newspaper reporter named Jamie (Kristen Connolly, also currently appearing in ABC’s slightly less dopey ‘The Whispers’), who moonlights as an activist blogger called “The Girl with the Genie Tattoo,” believes that this is connected to an insidious conspiracy perpetrated by the BIG PET FOOD industry. She gets fired from her job when she refuses to drop the story even after her editor points out that their newspaper is owned by the conglomerate she blames for feeding zoo animals food that makes them go crazy. The fact that a veterinary pathologist (Billy Burke, late of NBC’s moronic ‘Revolution’) tells her that’s probably not the case won’t sway her determination to get to the bottom of this story no matter what.

Also, all the housecats in Southern California have climbed up one tree in Brentwood and are waiting there… ominously. That can’t be good.


Episode Verdict / Grade: D-

If you have a single functioning brain cell, which clearly the writers of this drivel do not, you may be asking yourself why, if they’re at risk of being attacked by lions, the people in urban cities like Los Angeles wouldn’t just, you know, go indoors. The last I checked, lions don’t have opposable thumbs to turn doorknobs with. Problem solved.

Unless… Next week the lions team up with monkeys! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Oh dear. This is a new low even by the standards of the network that airs shows like ‘Scorpion’ and ‘Extant’ and actually broadcast this scene:

It’s unbelievably stupid. The acting is mostly pretty bad. The staging of the animal attacks is very silly. Even when they’re not obviously CGI or blatant nature documentary stock footage, it’s completely obvious that the production only photographed one (clearly tame) lion walking around for a bit, then digitally duplicated it to look like several, and edited the scenes to make innocuous actions like yawning look somehow threatening. I’m embarrassed for director Brad Anderson, who has made some pretty good movies (‘The Machinist‘, ‘Happy Accidents’) and worked on a number of far better TV shows including ‘Fringe’, ‘Treme’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire’.

I’d say that ‘Zoo’ is pure hate-watch fodder, but it’s so bad I can’t even imagine watching it for that reason.


  1. Bill

    Agree with Josh. I shut the program off after 30 minutes and took it off my DVR’s schedule. Plot is too obvious. Didn’t find a single likeable character especially that girl blogger. Yukky special effects. Good scenery in Africa though. Nice shot of elephants under Mt. Kilimanjaro but that was about it. It’s a summer filler so it will probably not get cancelled early but it certainly deserves to be.

  2. kathleen

    I hadn’t planned on watching this until I read the review. Now I cannot resist. How can I not watch a show that makes Dome look like Tolstoy?

  3. Guillaume

    Less than 3 minutes in the first episode that’s supposed to be happening in Botswana, a beautiful shot of Kilimanjaro.

    Because of course, you can see Kilimanjaro no matter where you are in Africa….

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