Monday, July 1, 2013


The show that ABC cancelled mere moments after takeoff is, in fact, brilliant. It's brilliantly bad and brilliantly ill-considered, so entertaining is it in its foolishness.

You must understand - Zero Hour has Nazis, a holy artifact, hints of genetic experimentation (!), violent priests operating like gangsters, a hostage-taking terrorist played by Michael Nyqvist, the male lead in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo... That artifact is protected by a globe-spanning mystery that is so silly and so dumb that it will creep into your heart and set up shop. It was cancelled after 3 episodes.

Oh, heaven, it's so bad! Okay let me set up a clip: Anthony Edwards (ER, Goose) plays Hank. In the pilot, his wife (Laila) has been kidnapped by Nyqvist, brilliantly-cast as the infamous terrorist-for-hire, "White Vincent" (nailed it) - dude assassinates people, he blew up a plane. The FBI is now all over Hank, but in the third episode he just blindly runs into a trap/meeting with his wife's captor.

But the baddie is a very, very odd man, who opens with philosophizing and asks Hank how he first met Laila. Hank confusedly repeats the question. Vinnie clocks him right in the face. Hank reels, starts talking. Then WV goes on a tangent, musing about Time itself right before this vid begins. Get ready for a treat, ya'llThe vid was made private, so here's Nyqvist discussing the show:

If you don't understand why I find the above to be endlessly amusing then there's something broken inside of you. It's okay if we don't hang out. The screaming, the freakout, dude just pimp-slapped a super-terrorist, the on-the-nose dialogue - with super-special "no I was aiming for your husband" burn - everything about this show is amazingly bad and well-produced.

The extent to which Hank is casually abused borders on slapstick. And, I gotta give his role credit - for a guy who runs an investigative newspaper (Dragon Tattoo, much?), dude can take a punch. Edwards is a charismatic, talented actor, so I want to see his projects succeed. As nutso as the scripts are, they do demonstrate a nice balance of humor, seriousness, and passion, and Edwards does very well with it.

But we're talking about a show in which the FBI is chasing TerrorBourne and protecting Hank from the passive-aggressive stalking that WV subjects him to. The FBI, then, lends some support to Hank's own investigation into these golden clocks. When a very complicated math problem stumps Hank's team, one of the fed's detail solves it. When this trained officer asks someone for something to on, she receives a marker - and then solves the math problem on a window facing out of the building they're in.

I swear to god, if the bad guy is standing even five blocks away with some binocs, she just totally screwed everything up.

At another point, a 1938 message leaves a code that the FBI promptly run through their database. Despite the fact that they know it relates to "Princeton" and "1938," no one thinks to limit their online searches to factor for those two things. Trained investigators are wondering if it might refer to the parts number of a modern-day appliance!

Stupidity is an unintended motif in this series, but it's the best kind of stupidity: it's fun.

So the ongoing story of this series is that we see TerrorBourne run around the globe with Hank's wife, as Hank and his team and/or the FBI try to find Vin or the clocks. And what is all this fear and danger about? It's a hunt for a series of beautiful golden clocks which are said to each contain (a) a riddle that leads you to the "next" clock (that's convenient) and (b) a key to recovering a supposedly-powerful Christian artifact.

As ridiculous as all that sounds, they play it straight - which just makes it even better. The actors are totally serious, but it's in the extremity of a handful of lines and the accompanying music that everything gets incredibly dramatic. They really play this thing up:

I can't find the pilot, yet, but I've watched up to the 7th episode. And, in concept, various aspects of its overall story are interesting. They hit on too many famed international people/places/things/concepts to not be interesting. Whether you're interested or not, you should watch it so you can spend 42 minutes just shaking with laughter, though; I felt weak afterwards.

The quality of the production is unquestionable. They have a nice budget, the scenery changes, it's well-filmed, ZH mixes things up a lot - pairing up the cast differently, varying tone and pace... It's just that it's completely off-the-rails crazy.

Actually, I'm going to keep discussing that third ep - the order of holy thugs that's tied so closely to all this has no name for the dangerous group that is seeking out the clocks. So instead of trying to learn who those people are, they just call them The Great Pyrates...

Did I mention the rest of the cast? Yeah, Amy Irving is an enigmatic businesswoman, Charles S. Dutton plays Hank's long-time priest, Addison Timlin provides excellent support as Hank's smart and funny co-investigator, Jacinda Barrett does a sweet job as the tough, smart Laila, Ken Leung is a priest of many secrets... And Carmen Ejogo makes for a sometimes-wooden yet incredibly-distinct female co-lead; she's a peace-corp-turned-FBI-agent-for-revenge!

But weird choices abound, like the way the series starts every episode with a White Vincent voice-over, in which he randomly philosophizes about what numbers are or what they mean. From ep 3:
Two is the number of love, life's everlasting breath. Sometimes its blind Pursuit leads not to life but death.
They each sound like moronic epigrams, but I don't think they all rhyme.

Another highlight of the ep is that it uses a lot of flashbacks. Sometimes, we're watching the 1930's events that really set up the present-day dilemma, but others are just unnecessary. Laila leaves a signal for her hubby on a video camera, and we appropriately see the day that the couple developed this little bit of shorthand. Soon after, Laila has left another clue for her man - this time, the flashback is just ludicrously unneeded and seems to be killing air time.

Y'know, there's a reason I keep writing "silly," and it's the reason I'm actually responding to this show. What's so remarkable here is that the writing is stupid, but it's not offensive or even actually bad. I think I nailed it before in one (conjoined) word: ill-considered.

I started from the second ep because I felt that it wouldn't matter if I missed the pilot. The series was cancelled in Feb (ouch, ep 1 aired on the 14th) and pulled from the rotation, and ABC started airing what's left on June 15th, two eps at a time (double ouch), on Saturday nights (ouch into darkness); Summer is and remains the traditional time for networks to burn through a contractual obligation. I intend to catch the rest on Hulu, and I really hope you do, too. If you can't watch the pilot, either, just jump right in as I did. You have nothing to lose, and I wouldn't steer you wrong.

Zero Hour is highly-recommended. Catch it before it's done and over with so you can enjoy the delicious degree of insanity on display. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever ironically purchased a TV series...

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