At first blush, “Eleventh Hour” is just CBS’ way of wedding “CSI” to “House” — having a brilliant scientist try to decipher intricate mysteries and solve crimes. The formula, however, is more convoluted than that, as the show faithfully clones a British series by the same name, then creeps up the tone to be more reminiscent of “The X-Files” and expands upon the sex-appeal/gender-reversal quotient like a latter-day “The Avengers.” Add to that a “CSI” lead-in and Jerry Bruckheimer’s slick production values and it equals a pretty nondescript “Hour” — one where time doesn’t exactly fly by.
The British show starred Patrick Stewart as Jacob Hood, a scientist investigating cases for the government, aided by “Ugly Betty’s” Ashley Jensen as the cop assigned to watch and protect him. Here, Rufus Sewell and Marley Shelton (last seen in the Tarantino-Rodriguez exploitation send-up “Grindhouse”) occupy those roles a trifle awkwardly — inasmuch as Sewell looks like he ought to be able to handle himself in a scrape, without Shelton intervening.
Hood is described as a “special science advisor to the FBI,” but the duo pretty much works in the field alone, collaborating with local law enforcement in the two episodes previewed.
In the first (adapted directly from the U.K. version), Hood follows a grim trail of discarded fetuses, apparently part of a cloning experiment gone wrong. The second, which ends absurdly, involves young boys in a small town suffering a series of inexplicable heart attacks.
Despite the sci-fi feel, the ostensible come-on here — somewhat like Fox’s new drama “Fringe” — is that the show has a foot loosely planted in out-there science, as if the tangential connection to real-world possibility significantly magnifies the drama. Yet all that really means is most of the heavies will be mad scientists dabbling in exotic-sounding threats, as opposed to genuine monsters.
Having played several movie bad guys, Sewell brings brooding, piercing-eyed genius to the role, but he’s frankly a tepid substitute (though not incidentally, a considerably younger one) for Stewart. Shelton, meanwhile, has too little to do as his gal Friday, other than one memorable scene in which she leaps into action, brandishing a pistol in nothing but a flimsy robe.
Thanks to the Bruckheimer model, the series literally looks compatible with “CSI,” while facing off against another British format import, ABC’s “Life on Mars.” The entire scenario speaks to the comfort level sought in this year’s strike-afflicted development season.
Unfortunately, there’s not a test tube’s worth of difference between this and CBS’ other new drama, “The Mentalist” (that one features an advisor to the California Bureau of Investigation) — or the Eye net’s procedural dramas in general.
How ironic, then, that the “Eleventh Hour” premiere focuses on unethical cloners. Because if cloning were really a major crime in TV, CBS execs could have the book thrown at them.