February 22, 2013



ZERO HOUR:  Thursday 8PM on ABC

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and the production of episodes for the regular season: a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads. The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting, and even story. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.’

Previously… on ZERO HOUR:  Hank Galliston (Anthony Edwards) is having a tough week.  The professionally cynical editor of Modern Skeptic magazine went shopping with his lovely wife Laila (Jacinda Barrett) near their Brooklyn home, she bought an antique clock for her local store, and was almost instantly kidnapped by the possible genetic mutation/clone/international assassin known as “White Vincent” (Michael Nyquist), who demands the clock from Hank.  Hank, his two deputies Arron (Scott Michael Foster) and Rachel (Addison Timlin), along with determined FBI agent Riley (Carmen Ejogo) go in search of Vincent, Laila and the mysteries of the clock.  Between them, they discover that the clock is one of a set created in the 1930s by a group of monks, each intended for one of a dozen “new apostles” who were charged with saving the world from whatever terrible scientific discoveries the Nazis were making.  Hank and Riley get to the Arctic Circle in search of the “New Bartholomew,” only discover via his corpse that not only was he an SS officer, but an exact duplicate of Hank himself.  Just as that’s sinking in, White Vincent shows up.

Episode 2:  Since Zero Hour is the kind of show that will need to push any plot resolutions farther and farther away, very little came of Vincent’s appearance; he almost immediately blew up his jeep and engineered his escape, and although he took with him the timepiece that led to the next new apostle, it wasn’t before Hank had the chance to take enough photos of the thing that he could follow the trail as well.  That led to India, and amid much talk of the apocalypse and signs of the end of the world, ultimately to a woman who had been standing in place for 75 years (we probably shouldn’t ask how she’s been going to the bathroom), her feet resting on, you guessed it, the next clock.  Vincent killed her and grabbed the clock, with Laila in tow.

Of more import to the show is what seems like the very bad decision of having New Bartholomew be Hank’s (apparent) genetic double.  Part of the appeal of the show’s premise–and, for that matter, of this genre in general–is the idea that a totally ordinary hero or heroine is swept up in the crazy story.  If Hank is the reincarnation or the clone or some other mystical replica of a 1930s SS officer, he’s not ordinary at all, and this becomes yet another “chosen one” fantasy.  That’s a legitimate subgenre in itself, and certainly one kind of tale sometimes becomes the other (a recent example was Fringe, where FBI agent Olivia turned out to have supernatural powers of her own), but usually a show will take more than three-quarters of a single episode before springing it on us.  If Hank is some kind of synthetic creature, it’s a lot harder to feel like he’s a character with whom we can identify.

The show’s second episode (written by series creator Paul Scheuring and directed by pilot director Pierre Morel) was much of a piece with the pilot in terms of style.  However, since episodic budgets are lower than those for pilots, the use of green screen was more noticeable this time, and there was more verbal exposition than action.  The show hops along (although scenes of Riley insisting “You have to trust me!” are already getting repetitious), Edwards remains a strong lead (naturally, even when he was an SS officer, he was the nicest SS man in the world), and Egojo is a good match for him.

Scheuring’s previous series Prison Break was also one that specialized in putting off its major events for months on end by spinning out episodic complications.  But Prison Break, however fantastic its premise, at least took place in something like the real world.  Zero Hour, already overloaded with religion (Christian and otherwise), sci-fi, Nazis, and conspiracies, will be much more prone to going out of control and losing any semblance of credibility.

More immediately, the show’s biggest problem is that it may not last long enough for any of this either to work or not work.  Public interest in the show was near zero for last week’s premiere, and if the ratings continue to shrink, none of its mysteries will be solved.  With its dense mythology, Zero Hour isn’t a show that’s likely to attract new viewers midway through its run, so it desperately needs to hang on to every one it’s got.  Its apocalypse may be closer than even its own prophecies foretell.


PILOT + 1:  Diverting, But Won’t Be Missed If/When It’s Gone


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."