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“Zero Hour” Pilot Review: Leaps in Logic Abound


When I saw the extended promo for ABC’s Zero Hour I thought it looked silly – but a good kind of silly, like Indiana Jones. Turns out, the globe-trotting adventure concept is the only thing these two things have in common, which makes this midseason replacement a major letdown.

The set-up is (probably too) simple: Hank Galliston (Anthony Edwards) and his very much younger wife Laila (Jacinda Barrett) live in New York City and own a supernatural skeptics magazine and an antiques shop, respectively. After an afternoon of looking at some old stuff, Hank goes to work while Laila gets wrapped up in purchasing some clocks.

Turns out the clock Laila finds has a long, sordid history. Later, she calls Hank out of the blue to tell him that her store’s being robbed. You read that right: rather than call the police, she calls Hank, who she then tells to call the police. This little lapse in logic should have been the first sign this show was going to take a dark, ridiculous path.

Hank, of course, does what he’s told, but his wife’s gone. The police have to be comically inept at their jobs so that Hank and his young workers Arron (Scott Michael Foster) and Rachel (Addison Timlin) can start their own investigation.

This is where things go completely off the rails.

The FBI shows up (turns out the kidnapper is an international terrorist) and they proceed to harass Hank in the most ridiculous, cliche way, so of course he doesn’t trust them (they’re the enemy). The journalistic trio plays with the evil clock Laila got robbed for and discover a random diamond inside that just so happens to have a map to a lost city etched into it.

The leaps in logic it takes for the team to find and see the map on the diamond are hilarious, and when Hank takes it to Father Mickle (Charles S. Dutton), there was a fifth of a second where I thought the show was going to take things in a tongue-in-cheek direction and have the church dude tell Hank he was crazy for thinking he’d know anything about some random diamond and the terrorists hunting it for mysterious religious reasons. Sadly, this wasn’t the case.

Father Mickle spouts off some made-up history about demon languages and lost cities, and then – in typical action-adventure style – promptly dies for being the only one who knows what the hell is going on that isn’t pointing a gun at Hank.

Eventually, Hank gets a call from the terrorist. In exchange for the clock, the terrorist will give back his wife. The FBI gets involved and makes Hank a field agent for no discernible reason other than the fact that Anthony Edwards’ name comes first in the credits.

The trade is a ruse, of course, leading Hank down a path of desperation so that by the end of the episode, he’s rushing off to the arctic to search for the lost city etched in the diamond. Meanwhile, his sidekicks are off to Germany to meet the guy who built the clock that’s causing so much trouble.

Both parties learn some crazy stuff that I won’t reveal, in case you watch the pilot and for some crazy, un-ironic reason want to continue watching this show.

Overall, Zero Hour was depressing – not because it was bad (it was), but because it had glimpses of possible greatness. There are two or three different potential series going on here, all of which could have been a semi-interesting show on their own:

One of them is “FBI agent and civilian begrudgingly work together to save civilian’s wife and stop bad guy.” The serialized format and the lack of a “will-they-won’t-they” relationship could have made for a fresh angle.

Another is the skeptic’s magazine. A show about some plucky reporters working at said magazine, not taking their jobs seriously until they stumble upon a real live conspiracy? I would watch that, especially if Scott Michael Foster was still involved but about 50% less horn-dog cliche. Keeping the surrogate work family angle from Zero Hour is what would make this the most interesting.

However, this is a world where both of the above ideas and one pseudo-religious one about apparent demon Nazi babies, are all the same show. As you can probably figure out, this leads to an overstuffed show that requires so many leaps in logic to function, it falls apart if any sort of critical thinking is applied to it – the kind that uses a literal ticking clock  to ramp up tensions right before commercial breaks.

The one good thing I can say about the show is that the twists and turns come so fast, you’ll never be left with the feeling that it’s building up mysteries that it’ll never answer, à la Lost. No, this is a show that is totally comfortable with setting up mysteries and solving them ten minutes later – much to the show’s detriment.