PASADENA, Calif. -- ABC proved with "Scandal" that a TV show doesn't have to make a lick of sense to be popular. Now the network ups the ante with "Zero Hour," a valentine to even more bonkers programming.
In the first "Zero Hour" episode (7 p.m. Thursday, KTVX Channel 4), there's a kidnapping, Nazis, Rosicrucians, an object hidden beneath a cathedral, a baby with crazy eyes and possibly clones of Anthony Edwards. Also: Clocks, lots of clocks that tick-tock ominously.
None of this is to say that nuttiness can't be fun. It clearly can. But a program completely devoid of any hint of realism has to be approached differently.
Is "Zero Hour" a good TV show? Absolutely not. Filled with blatant foreshadowing ("You're never gonna lose me, no matter how hard you try," a character says just before she's kidnapped) and unnecessary exposition in the name of character development for a character who does not appear to be long for the series ("I've known you since grad school," the character says. "I married the two of you."), "Zero Hour" is a terrible show.
But for viewers who long to mock or hate-watch and for "Da Vinci Code" fans who like to be dragged along on an incoherent ride to Crazytown, "Zero Hour" can also be a hoot.
In his first series regular role since leaving "ER," Anthony Edwards stars in "Zero Hour" as Hank Galliston, who publishes a magazine that debunks myths. Hank finds himself caught up in some ancient myths after his antique-clock-shop-proprietor wife, Laila (Jacinda Barrett, "The Real World"), gets kidnapped.
Who kidnaps her may not be as important as why and the why is murky and convoluted in Thursday's premiere, which begins during World War II as members of a Christian secret society assemble clocks, worry aloud ("The prophecies are true. The end times are here!") and haul something out of the water beneath a cathedral. They also look into Nazi experiments, which may play a role in the kidnapping of Laila.
How all these pieces fit together is not immediately clear. "Zero Hour" hopes viewers will simply go with it.
Once the kidnapping happens, Hank enlists his two work associates -- Rachel (Addison Timlin) and Arron (Scott Michael Foster, "Greek") -- to help find Laila. This eventually leads to a wary alliance with FBI agent Rebecca "Beck" Riley (Carmen Ejogo) and a trip to the Canadian tundra.
As for the crazy of the show, series creator/writer Paul Scheuring ("Prison Break") seems prepared to own it.
"There's a fair amount of crazy in here," he said at a press conference for the show last month during the Television Critics Association winter press tour. "One of the things I've learned from 'Prison Break' and making a serialized show was that if you're a single-conceit show, like 'Prison Break' or 'Lost' or such, sooner or later you start flapping your wings because a story needs to end. So going into this show, I applied that wisdom to the construct of this show. It's like the '24' model where you reset every year."
Scheuring said the whole Nazi-conspiracy element of the story will be wrapped up by the end of the first season.
"We have a group of investigators, headed by Anthony at the magazine, which can then apply those skills to the next investigation next year," he said. "It's gonna be so dense with information and reveals and mythology that there will never be a sense at all that we're stalling or trying to find our way, because we have a huge amount of information to give to you."
Executive producer Zack Estrin also promised more revelations sooner rather than later.
"(By) episode four, you know what that thing is that we're saying was hidden beneath the church," Estrin said. "That's not the big mystery. That's just one of the many mysteries. In each episode you will find out a piece, we will turn a card, there will be a cliffhanger."
He promised that the show will not be a rehash of last year's "Missing," which followed a mom trying to rescue her kidnapped son.
"It's not about, 'I'm gonna be chasing my wife all year,' " Estrin said. "It's more about what is she wrapped in, and how does that unravel from there. That's really just the way in and quickly becomes a larger part of the story."
As for comparisons to "The Da Vinci Code," Scheuring dismisses them. And he offers some hope for the show's future when he explains that he does have a long-range plan for the series -- even though the pilot is a confusing mishmash.
"Over the years," he said, "I've interfaced with a lot of other creators of serialized shows, and I've really been kind of blown away by the fact that they create a big spectacle at the beginning in the pilot, and they don't ultimately know where they're going. And that's terrifying to me and creatively disingenuous. Before I even put pen to paper in any kind of sense in this, I'm like ... 'What are the last frames of this series?'
"And there is the secret that's behind this entire thing," he continued, "and it hasn't been done before. So from that, I, then, reverse-engineered this larger kind of construct and threw all those delicious elements like the Nazis and church and such to get to that final place. That's a very, very long-winded way of (saying), 'No, it's not "The Da Vinci Code." ' "