Zero Hour is right

ABC’s new primetimer, Zero Hour, would be a better fit for Saturday morning on a kids network. The dialogue is painful, at one point having a character use the phrase “crap storm” in a serious statement. The casting has the most glaring swing-and-miss possible in a primetime drama: Its lead character. Anthony Edwards isn’t the only one, the priest played by Charles Dutton replicates Whoopi Goldberg’s appearance in 666 Park Avenue signaling that here we have an unserious television show.

Edwards is too soft to play the leading role in a conspiracy thriller. But don’t fault him. The character is so poorly constructed that he never has a chance. Hank Galliston is the editor of Modern Skeptic magazine, an amazing coincidence then that his wife is kidnapped after buying a clock built by a secretive religious sect as part of a plan to prevent the end of the world! Galliston’s skepticism is on full display after an international fugitive kidnaps his wife when he refuses to trust and barely cooperates with the FBI. He loves his wife so much – as evident in their one scene together – that he travels to the ends of the Earth to find her but not so much that he’s willing to set aside his core belief in distrusting the FBI. You know, like all men who love their wives.

Galliston would be more compelling if he was an accomplished and legitimate news reporter instead of a fringe conspiracist. An investigative reporter with real investigative skills could still have a healthy dose of skepticism while bringing some intelligence and legitimacy to counter the show’s tendency to mirror a Dan Brown novel. I don’t think you can have a successful show that dives headfirst into that realm the way Zero Hour does, at least not on prime time network television. Common sense tells you there needs to be some balance for the storyline to have a broad appeal. I don’t understand how the show’s creators or the network wouldn’t realize such a problem and fix it.

Maybe they knew the show wouldn’t be around for very long. That could also explain why the plot advances at a comical pace. There’s some dots on a watch? BAM – they must be a constellation! A madman blew up our car and flew off in our airplane leaving us stuck in the middle of the arctic? Cut to commercial so a helicopter can drop us on a roof in Manhattan. Ridiculous. A college journalism professor used to emphasize to students that they should show readers a story instead of telling it. Zero Hour never got that lesson. It tells viewers so much and requires so much dissonance that they are right to roll their eyes. We complained for seasons on end that Lost was going too slow, and at times we were correct to do so. Zero Hour shows maybe going slow isn’t such a bad thing.

“How long has it been for you?” Widmore’s question to Locke in The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham came to mind when Galliston found the standing woman in India who was protecting one of the secret clocks. Widmore’s line came in season five so it wouldn’t be fair to compare its weight to that of a line in the second episode. Instead I’ll use it to lament what Zero Hour isn’t able to achieve. The “snake in the mailbox” at the end of the premier was intriguing and had the episode been better it would have had an even bigger impact. The intimation at the end of episode two that the end of the world might be already happening right before our eyes is the kind of thing I could go for, but the show hasn’t done anything to show that it can back up the intrigue.

Zero Hour probably didn’t deserve ABC’s boneheaded decision to premiere it on Valentine’s Day. Doesn’t matter, though. It could premiere after the Super Bowl and not get renewed. What should be a dark mystery is instead a light and airy adventure that might entertain 10-year-olds. At least they won’t know enough about Anthony Edwards to be disappointed to see him associated with this embarrassment.




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