Focusing on an elaborate, ancient conspiracy with apocalyptic implications, a kidnapped innocent, a dozen ornate clocks and mythology to burn, “Zero Hour” needs no notes about “raising the stakes” from anybody at the network. The pilot is admirably cinematic, occupying a space somewhere between “National Treasure” and “The Da Vinci Code.” Ultimately, though, it’s difficult to become too bullish about the program’s prospects, given the number of promising dramas ABC has paraded through the 8 p.m. Thursday timeslot only to watch the sands run out of the hourglass time and again.
Filled with flashbacks and bread-crumb trails, the premiere is certainly handsome enough, and contains a lot of arcane, semi-supernatural riffs involving Nazis, hidden maps and a secret order of mystics within the Catholic Church, apparently charged with nothing less than thwarting Armageddon. Some viewers will no doubt find this intriguing, while others will be quick to dismiss it as overwrought poppycock.
Fortunately, the show has Anthony Edwards at its center, bringing a much-needed Hitchcockian Everyman quality to his role as Hank Galliston, a magazine editor whose wife (Jacinda Barrett) is suddenly abducted for reasons vaguely linked to one of the aforementioned clocks. Soon enough, he’s gallivanting around trying to solve a mystery and save her, sifting through cryptic clues with help from two of his reporters (Scott Michael Foster, Addison Timlin).
Created by Paul Scheuring (who previously explored the limits and pitfalls of hyper-serialized fare in Fox’s “Prison Break”), the show benefits from its scope, as well as diving into this decades- and centuries-spanning plot without the utmost sincerity.
That said, there is an element of laziness in dredging up Nazis as shorthand to establish the evil at work here, and between all the globe-trotting and time-bending in the pilot alone, there’s ample room for skepticism regarding how long “Zero Hour” can tease out its various threads before feeling pressure to provide considerably more clarity. For that matter, it’s perhaps best not to ask how a journalist can afford flitting from place to place to wage such an epic battle in this day and age, even with a sympathetic FBI agent (Carmen Ejogo) seemingly in his corner.
Give ABC credit for continuing to gamble on big concepts, undaunted by their mixed track record (especially on the major networks) over the past few years. Even so, the Alphabet web has done the show zero favors by slotting it opposite “The Big Bang Theory” and “American Idol,” even if the latter’s world-conquering days appear behind it.
Like the sought-after clocks, all the intricate work necessary to set “Zero Hour” in motion is enough to warrant a second look; but let’s hope it’s not just the latest exercise to demonstrate that when it comes to TV’s (and especially ABC’s) most adventuresome hours, all is not “Lost.”