justin matchick vs. clock nazis…it’s on…
At first glance ABC’s new thriller Zero Hour holds a lot of promise, in a backwards sort of way. Any television show that gives us an undead Nazi demon baby in the first ten minutes is clearly not gunning for any Emmys, but should at least be a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Instead, Zero Hour slips right on past the “so bad it’s good” category and goes head first into “unwatchable bullshit.”
The show revolves around magazine editor Hank Galliston (Anthony Edwards), a skeptic whose wife is kidnapped by an international terrorist one day after she buys a unique looking antique clock. Most of the plot of Zero Hour can be summed up in two words; clock Nazis. This is tripe, and in the hands of some savvy writers could have even been very entertaining tripe. But when Zero Hour needs to crank the ridiculous levels up to 11 it just stalls and falls flat on its face.
Edwards is normally a very fine actor, having a long history of strong supporting roles in films like Top Gun and Zodiac and serving as the lead in ER for nearly eight seasons. Here he is dead weight, making every line reading sound like it was forced out of him at gunpoint. It’s impossible to feel any sympathy for a main character when he delivers his lines with the urgency of a man waiting to get his cold cuts at the deli counter. He is of course not helped at all by a script that seems hellbent on the ludicrous plot of the show instead of giving any time for us to learn anything about the characters beyond their names. The show doesn’t even do that well, just minutes after finishing the episode I still had trouble recalling the names of half of the characters.
Unbelievably, Edward’s sleepy performance is probably the best the show has to offer. Carmen Ejogo (Alex Cross) as the FBI Agent helping Galliston just spews a cliché after cliché while she waits for the plot to advance itself. Addison Timlin (Californication) and Scott Michael Forster (Greek) play two writers for Galliston’s magazine, but hardly bring anything interesting to the screen with forced performances made worse with bland writing. Even one of my all-time favorite character actors, Charles S. Dutton, shows up in the thankless role of a priest who offers some gibberish about ancient languages and hidden orders of the church before being unceremoniously shanked.
The show’s main villain is called White Vincent, played by Michael Nyqvist of the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies. He seems to be the only actor who realizes the script is schlock and tries to play his Nazi-loving assassin as over-the-top as possible. Even with that performance, the script just serves up too many nonsense plot points for his character to gain any real traction and instead we just are left with a dollar-store Anton Chigurh. Instead of intimidating he just seems like a goofball who likes to yell overly cryptic lines into a cellphone.
By the end of the pilot the reason behind the Nazi’s preoccupation with mysterious clocks is revealed. It turns out that the 12 numbers on the clock correspond to the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ. In 1938, 12 new apostles were chosen to safeguard a secret to immortality that, if found by the Nazis, could mean the end of the world. The show then throws a curveball at viewers that seems so silly it loses all emotional impact it is intended to have. As it turns out, Galliston is some sort of reincarnation or clone of one of these 12 new apostles. The show does little to explain why Galliston is the spitting image of New Bartholomew, a former Nazi who worked with the church, but it doesn’t seem to even care. This twist seemed like a hackneyed last minute idea from a writers meeting that accidentally found itself into the final version of the script. The image of Anthony Edwards as a member of the Gestapo is so outrageously goofy that I spent the last minutes of the show laughing my ass of instead of being glued to the screen.
It is clear ABC has had a rough time finding a replacement for Lost. Like Flash Forward before it, shows like Zero Hour are being thrown out to the masses in the hopes of setting the world on fire just like Lost did almost a decade ago. But the haphazard construction of Zero Hour is nothing compared to the scope and scale of a show like Lost. ABC has the mindset that audiences liked Lost for its twists and supernatural mystery, forgetting that it was the characters and the interaction between them that drove the show for so many episodes. I hope ABC does strike television gold again one day, I really do. But for the love of God, they need to try harder than a show that can best be described as “Mildly Upset Anthony Edwards and the Secret of the Nazi Clocks.”