June 29, 2016



ZOO:  Tuesday 9PM on CBS

Viewers who enjoyed the first dumb season of CBS’s ZOO last summer–and there were quite a few of them–should have little quarrel with Season 2.  In fact, based on the two-hour season premiere (Hour 1 written by Supervising Producer Matt Pitts and Producer Melissa Glenn; Hour 2 by Co-Executive Producer Bryan Oh and Executive Story Editor Nick Parker; both directed by Michael Katleman), the action quotient has been stepped up.  Season 1 was mostly about the effort by safari guides Jackson Oz (James Wolk) and Abraham Kenyatta (Nonso Anonzie), reporter Jamie Campbell (Kristen Connolly), vet Mitch Morgan (Billy Burke) and French government agent Chloe Tousignant (Nora Arnezeder) to convince the world that its animals had been mutated by an evil corporation into beasts with the will and ability to overrun mankind.  The violence started out small in scale.  By Season 2, however, that threat is taken for granted, and the species are on the verge of full-scale warfare.

Season 2 also gives our heroes a big new set, the interior of the private jet they’ve been mysteriously gifted (plot reveals presumably to come), and it increases their ranks with tough soldier Dariela (Alyssa Diaz) and so far barely-met Logan (Josh Salatin).  More importantly, though, while quickly reversing the seeming gains of the Season 1 finale (Jamie turned out not to be safe in Canada, spending most of the premiere on the run, and the blood of the leopard she’d saved didn’t have the key to a cure for the animal virus after all), it introduces the new wrinkle of the first human mutant, apparently created by the bite of a 2d generation infected animal.  This zombie-like being is capable of biting off its own arm and them slaughtering most of a squad of US soldiers.  And the “this time it’s personal” edge is supplied by the fact that Jackson has also been bitten and may be in the process of mutating.  One might wonder whether shifting into a human monster mode removes some of Zoo‘s small claim to originality, but it probably doesn’t matter much to those who enjoy the show for its moderate thrills.

Aside from that, Zoo is much the same.  The talented actors do what they can with the hacky dialogue, and the CG beasts are of medium quality at best.  (There are some particularly unfortunate fake bugs and vultures in the premiere.)  Zoo is about as undemanding as scripted television gets, with dialogue that repeats every plot point two or three times for anyone who was fixing a sandwich the first time the point was made.  It does roll along, though, and builds a certain momentum just from its refusal to pause even for a moment to consider whether it’s making any sense.  The Season 2 premiere alone, apart from Mutant Man, features among others murderous elephants, lions, dogs, birds, and a particularly nasty raccoon.  It’s summer TV for those who want to send their brains on vacation too, and on those terms it delivers a kennel of goods.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."