'Zero Hour,' 7 p.m. Thursdays on ABC beginning tonight (Feb. 14)
Two stars (out of four)
Nazis. Clocks that are more than clocks. A demonic-looking baby. Divine properties of the number 12. Rosicrucians. A treasure map inscribed on a diamond.
Welcome to "Zero Hour."
My notes on the premiere of this far-out, "Da Vinci Code"-ish drama, making its debut Thursday on ABC, read like the above -- a list of crazy words. The dialogue leans toward the crazy, too:
"If it falls into Nazi hands, it will mean the end of mankind as we know it," warns a 1930s churchman, referring to a "thing" hidden in the tunnels below a cathedral.
Enter the Nazis. "It is up to God now," another churchman warns. "Not even God can help anymore," the first answers. "Only The 12 can."
Forward we flash, to present-day New York, where Hank Galliston (Anthony Edwards, making his return to series TV a decade after "ER") and his wife, Laila (Jacinda Barrett), are enjoying a stroll through an outdoor market. While he returns to work editing a magazine called Modern Skeptic, she discovers an interesting clock, just right for the shop she runs, prophetically called Time To Go.
The innocent fun is short-lived, though. An intruder in the shop abducts Laila, and a frantic Hank and his two staffers, Arron and Rachel (Scott Michael Foster and Addison Timlin,) put all their skeptic-magazine experience to work finding her.
The FBI arrives in the person of Agent Beck (Carmen Ejogo), who thinks Laila might have something to do with terrorism since she was abducted by the agency's most-wanted criminal.
"My wife is not a terrorist," Hank informs her. "She owns a clock shop."
"And yet she's been kidnapped by one of the world's most dangerous men."
Yes, there's that. The FBI here isn't just hostile, it's inept. Nobody searches the couple's apartment, leaving Hank and his team to find important (and puzzling, natch) evidence.
The evidence, involving a diamond inscribed with some sort of "treasure map" formula and hidden inside the clock, sends the whole nutty mystery into high gear, involving a dead language, the Rosicrucians (described as a secret society readying for the apocalypse), a 93-year-old Bavarian clockmaker, Christ's apostles (two versions, old and new) and the secret to eternal life.
Throughout, the dialogue veers toward the ridiculous.
"You must find these clocks, and you must do this before the enemy does," the clockmaker tells Hank. "The storm is coming."
To its credit, "Zero Hour" does attempt to tell a big, ambitious story in the 13 episodes ABC has ordered. (A second season would involve a different mystery, producers say.) And the first episode does explain the premise pretty clearly -- if you pay close enough attention and aren't laughing too hard.
Maybe you'll want to jump aboard this crazy train. But if you do, hold on tight, and don't let your head explode.