Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot
Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.
“Zero Hour,” which premieres tonight on ABC, has the distinction of being the silliest drama to premiere since the new TV season started back in September. It’s so silly that watching filled me with pity and awe: This show, a show that’s all the mumbo-jumbo, nonsense conspiracy elements of “Alias,” a bootleg version of a “Twilight Zone” episode that’s going to be dragged out over some 13 episodes, is what ABC wants to air? Why? To make Anthony Edwards (“ER”) deliver lines that would make a soap opera blush? To not let audiences down the way “Lost” did because it clearly makes no sense from the very start? Hapless, feckless, goofy, dumb: Take your pick of adjectives, that is “Zero Hour.”
“Zero Hour” begins with a deadly-serious voiceover of a ponderous limerick: “Twelve is divine. Twelve is both the beginning and the end of time.” Tell us how you really feel about the number 12, show! (There is not a man with 12 fingers in the pilot, but even money says one is coming.) It’s Hitler-era Germany and some Rosicrucians, “a secret sect of Christian mystics,” are seriously concerned that a “prophecy” about “end times” is coming true. See, the Nazis have figured out how to create life, and you can tell because they have made an adorable baby who has milky white devil eyes. To prevent the end of the world, the Rosicrucians, gathered in a church, decide they must “preserve that thing that lies in the tunnel beneath us,” a big ol’ something in an enormous body bag that’s been stowed in the sewers and can either prevent or bring about the “zero hour.” The Rosicrucians promptly haul it up and put it on a truck, right before the Nazis come in and shoot the place, the Rosicrucians, and a statue of Jesus, up. Were this show to last more than three episodes, which it shouldn’t, the body bag will prove to hold a crucifix, the fountain of youth, an alien, a space ship, an enormous clock, a golem, a Rambaldi device, etc.
We then jump to the future, where Hank Galiston (Anthony Edwards) and his wife (Jacinda Barrett) are walking through a street fair in Dumbo, all smoochy-moochy. Hank runs a supernatural magazine, but not, like, a crazy one: When his young, gung-ho staffers suggest a story about werewolves, Hank lectures them about how there’s really a medical condition to explain these particular werewolves, so, dig deeper! His wife fixes clocks and has the misfortune of buying a really old one made by the Rosicrucians, one of a set of 12, which contain clues on how to hunt down that mysterious body bag. She is promptly abducted by a super-bad terrorist dude/maybe antichrist looking for the clock, and thus looking to bring about end times again, but Hank and his employees find it instead. Obviously, there is a tiny diamond in the clockworks that has a map engraved on it. By the end of the episode, Hank and an FBI agent are in a WWII-era Nazi U-Boat above the Arctic Circle having their minds blown by a plot twist involving cloning and 12 new apostles and eternal life and Anthony Edwards wearing a swastika. Be assured, this glosses many other insensible things, first among them the really obvious, painful dialogue.
In some world, this show would just embrace how utterly ridiculous it is and be camp: Instead, it is serious. In a just world the zero hour for “Zero Hour” would be nigh, like next week.
Willa Paskin is Salon's staff TV writer.More Willa Paskin.
Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China
Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti
“Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA
Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.
Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada
Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway
Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.
Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.
Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million
Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.
Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon
Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.
Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico
Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.
Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.