Images copyright CBS.
Based on a novel by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, the show's basic premise involves animals in different parts of the world apparently coordinating attacks on people. That idea lends itself to a science fiction explanation even as far as being rooted in the cliched negligence of a megacorporation. Yet, when it comes down to putting meat on these bones, what we are given is a story based not on informed speculation but on distortions of basic biological concepts.
Take, for example, natural selection. You know you're in for hokum when one of Zoo's characters who is supposed to be an expert, explains that the purpose of evolution is to perpetuate a species. This is just plain wrong. That a scriptwriter would attempt to pass such nonsense off as true is bad enough but this is made all the more depressing because there is already enough confusion (to put it politely) around science without it being compounded by pop culture.
The fact that Zoo was one of 2015's most popular summer shows for CBS might say something about how widespread that confusion is. On the other hand, it also reflects well on Zoo's cast, which goes a long way towards making this show fun despite the reliance on pseudoscience. Particularly outstanding is Billy Burke as cantankerous veterinary pathologist Mitch Morgan. Morgan is in equal parts annoyingly obstructive and sympathetic. Yet, his skepticism and personal baggage give you reason to care despite the daft leaps of logic he comes out with.
British actor Nonso Anozie is also impressive as African safari guide Abraham Kenyatta. Like Morgan, Kenyatta is recruited into a group tasked with finding out why the animals have gone wild. It's not altogether clear what he's there to do other than provide muscle. Even so, Abraham serves as the show's everyman as he tries to keep his colleagues from getting carried away with the absurd hypotheses the script requires them to accept.
Zoo doesn't do as well by its two principal female characters: a dotty journalist played by Kristen Connolly and a green French secret service agent played by Nora Arnezeder. Even though the latter is the leader of the group, both are a bit too vulnerable to be convincing first choices for a team that is supposed to save the world. As long as you suspend disbelief, though, it's the uncertainty in all the characters that makes them accessible.
It's a shame Zoo doesn't have an explanation at the heart of its central mystery that is more original or plausible. As daft escapism goes, though, the first season has enough twists and turns through a more-than-usual number of exotic locations to sustain interest. Moreover, if you stick it out to the end, season one's cliffhanger should reward your patience with the desire come back for the already-commissioned second season.
Paramount's Blu-ray box-set, released under the CBS banner, comes with all 13 episodes from the first season and a reasonable bunch of behind-the-scenes extras, including deleted scenes, a Comic-Con panel and interviews. UltraViolet and iTunes users should note that it does not include a Digital Copy.