Although I've never read James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge's "Zoo" personally, the synopsis I read as I initially watched "Zoo" the TV series over the summer, made me appreciate on a very basic level what CBS chose to do over the course of its 13-episode debut. The premise is simple: animals are rising up and killing humans across the globe. From lions on the Savannah to Antarctic birds at a research station, it's quite clear humanity's place on the top of the food change is quickly going to change. Enter Jackson Oz (James Wolk) and Abraham Kenyatta (Nonso Anozie) a zoologist and safari guide respective who are present for the series precipitating event, a very aggressive lion attack in Africa. A little bit of additional exposition here and there, add in French intelligence agent, Chloe Tousignant (Nora Arnezeder), journalist Jamie Campbell (Kristen Conolly), and world wear veterinary pathologist Mitch Morgan (Billy Burke) and your "Zoo" investigative team/world saviors is assembled and on the case.
"Zoo" only ruins a brief 13-episodes in its debut season, however at the 40-minute an episode without commercials mark, it's a perfect fit and yet another reminder to the American TV system at large, that less is indeed very much more. The 13 episodes allow for a slow build in the initial three or four offerings, setting up additional attacks, hinting at a possibly world collapse if things don't get better, and introducing a shadowy company possibly behind it all, Reiden Chemicals. The show manages to run with a simultaneously absurd and hackneyed concept on paper, and make it work, on a B-movie level nature of seriousness. The show manages to cross genres quite efficiently at times, often presenting itself as a standard procedural, as the team splits into pairs and investigates different leads, but coming back with a sense of suspense in the form of the team being just one step behind the answer.
What "Zoo" does falter with is selling the somewhat absurd premise of Patterson's original novel to an audience who might not be able to control their laughter at how deadly serious the series can be at times. In all honesty, the weakest moments in "Zoo" are those where the terror levels are intended to be at their maximum. For instance towards the end of the season, animals have overrun a hospital; there's no denying this is a notion that should instill terror. Instead, it feels more of a minor threat because we've been through so much with our heroes that their inclusion in events will result in a melodramatic solution. Fortunately, we're offered moments that are meant to be quieter portions of subplots or episode specific contrivances that have the most lingering moments. For all the attacks by big cats and bears, I'm still somewhat haunted by the Antarctic birds and the two women they affected directly
As previously mentioned, "Zoo" is just right at 13-episodes. The show really kicks the pace into high gear and for every answer that's built to and actually revealed, there's a new twist and the stakes become more dire. The cast is a solid focal point around the action and every member works well on the individual basis and the group dynamic. There's a sense of camaraderie and everyone has his or her individual place in the puzzle. Hopefully, the good will "Zoo" has built in its initial season will continue in the second and along with that, a season of equal length. "Zoo" is by no means high art; it's a B-movie primetime series despite all its attempts at time to be deadly serious. It's also a fun diversion and a welcome change from the regular CBS lineup of tired procedurals.THE VIDEO
The 1080p 1.78:1 transfer is one of the more cinematic looking presentations I've seen on a network show that isn't "Hannibal" in quite some time. While the production design may fall into that TV-trap in terms of complexity, the detail levels are consistently high throughout the season and highlight the use of real animals in key sequences quite admirably. Colors are natural, vibrant when needed, and the contrast level is incredibly natural and rock steady, especially in some sequences taking place in a dark, foggy bayou setting. "Zoo" may have its share of narrative hiccups, but it's a sharp looking show that really makes you want it to do more, or at least more in a quicker fashion.
The English 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is as cinematic as the visual presentation. Surrounds are in constant use, from a wild animal attack, to a room full of our protagonists all bouncing ideas off of one another, the soundscape is in constant motion. The mix is a very clear and well-balanced one, with highs coming through clear and crisp, while the LFE is thunderous and natural, never overpowering for shock value. An English stereo track is present as well as English SDH subtitles.
Extras consist of a behind-the-scenes featurette "Zoo Unleashed", a look at costuming in "Distressed to Kill", "A Virtual Zoo", "Animal Kingdom", and "The Animals of Zoo: Real and Imagined" all focus on the various aspects of, well, the animals in the show, live and CG. "James on James" and "Zoo at Comic-Con" round out traditional featurettes. Also present are a handful of deleted and extended scenes and a gag reel.
"Zoo" arrives for its debut season with a very solid Blu-Ray release. A goofy thriller that has enough procedural to get your average CBS viewer hooked, "Zoo" comes and goes in a perfect amount of time to not wear out its welcome or spin its wheels with episodes solely meant for season length padding. It sports a devoted cast, workmanlike scripting, and just enough sense of dread at times to keep it from straying into unintentionally funny territory. Add to that a top notch, cinematic presentation on home video and "Zoo" ends up being worth the 10 hours or so of your time it would take to make it from start to finish. Recommended.