The last few years have been inundated with efforts to reclaim a foothold within the sci-fi/fantasy (or more generally, the truly strange) market. None have done particularly well, and few have lasted more than a few episodes, despite some massive marketing pushes. What makes all of these shows especially tricky is that there seems no real way to predict how well they will do, and no effort to relay their “goodness,” changes the fact.
You can talk about the laughs and characters in comedies, and the tension and cleverness of police dramas, but the quality of the components of screwy sci-fi seems to dictate nothing. Witness NBC‘s Revolution, easily the dumbest such show to come along, and the one most filled with stagy, cliched writing that moves the plot along using devices that would have been laughed at as dull and overused in the ’30s. Naturally, the show is doing fairly well.
On the other end of the spectrum, could you really tell from the pilot episode of LOST that it was going to take over television to such an extent that we now find ourselves in the midst of the very Herculean effort to duplicate it that I describe? It was interesting certainly, but it didn’t quite have enough going for it to believe it was going to be such a success.
All of this is already more, even in tangential relation, than Zero Hour deserves to have said about it, but does that mean it’s a hit, or a miss? Who knows?
Anthony Edwards plays Hank Galliston, editor of a skeptics magazine, and husband to Laila (Jacinda Barrett), owner of a clock repair store. While the skeptic magazine, though the details of the magazine’s focus are uncertain (but, they don’t do werewolves), seems a natural place to kick off a series about a bizarre conspiracy, the show actually opens with secretive priests… and Nazis. Just before WWII really got going, a group of priests found themselves about to lose a treasure so secret that virtually no one has ever known anything about it. A last ditch effort prevented the Nazis from getting hold of it, but left it, apparently, largely unguarded. Now hidden, I guess, we move to the present day, and unsuspecting Hank Galliston.
Unfortunately for Hank, clocks are just the sort of thing you don’t want to be looking for, if you’re trying not to get caught up in this mess, and when Laila spies a very unusual clock for sale, things get weird. Laila is kidnapped, and Hank can’t figure out why anyone would bother? Nothing was taken, except Laila, but something was clearly… well, looked for. Then Hank spots the new clock, which Laila must have dropped at home before returning to her store.
It isn’t long before Hank finds a diamond in the clock. A diamond that is actually a treasure map. Somewhat at odds with the FBI presence that taken over the case (and how could that be otherwise?), Hank decides to take matters into his own hands. After all, he has two young writers working for him, and the kind of mind that can make short work of running a skeptic magazine. What could go wrong?
Thus, Hank heads off to remote Canada, and shortly after he leaves his band of two merry men have nailed down the whereabouts of the man who made the clock, and the game is afoot. (Leave aside the realistic probability of tracking down one man, who could be anywhere on Earth, just by staring at a clock he made for now)
A devilish-looking bad guy, and frequent flashbacks to our outmatched priests all build us up with feints within feints, and frequent additions of new pieces to the puzzle. This is all in one episode, and doesn’t even get to the surprise twist at the end that leaves us with no idea where things might be headed.
It’s certainly filled with tension, or at least filled with things that say they’re tense in the script, and it really does throw so many things together that you’re hard-pressed to know if you’re coming or going. In the end, while it has the appearance of an enigma wrapped in a riddle…, it’s actually a bit more like LOST surrounded by The Da Vinci Code wrapped in a Scooby Doo mystery. Where we find that often good stories leave us with no idea what might happen next, we unfortunately sometimes fall back on the idea (as with the last two seasons of LOST) that if we just don’t say anything that makes a damn bit of sense, we also won’t have any idea what might happen next.
Somewhere in here there might be a worthwhile effort that closely resembles what we actually get with Zero Hour, but this version of the effort is too focused on leaving things open, and delivering its overtures through laughable filters. Our introduction to our married couple sees them acting almost as though on their first date, and nonsensically, literally frames their kiss. Our Nazi-era priests speak in platitudes and bumper-stickers. And, overall, our effort to deliver characters we want to stick around with involves starting with cardboard caricatures, and “developing” them by affixing certain sticky notes here and there in order to showcase their divergences from themselves.
All that said, there may be something left in the cliffhanger yet, and it might not be that difficult to get people to tune in, especially those who miss Anthony Edwards, and are willing to give him a chance. Zero Hour doesn’t really deserve that chance though, and your best bet is to tune out and get him under a new contract all the quicker.