On March 1st, the news broke: ABC cancelled Zero Hour.
Zero Hour debuted on February 14th with a 1.4 rating in the 18-49 demographic with 6.38 million total viewers. Week 2 saw the numbers drop to a 1.1 rating and 5.39 million and week 3 fell to a 1.0 rating with 5.05 million.
Some filmed episodes have not aired. We may get them over the summer.
In retrospect, what can we say?
In the first three episodes, we got Nazis, Rosicrucians, the Catholic Church, the End of Days, the secret to immortality, clocks, conspiracy, and six characters.
In this post-Lost world, that doesn’t seem like too much, but I think it may have been.
Shows like this create their own worlds. When you create a fictional world, your audience expects that world to have rules. Those rules are part of the show’s “mythology.” You can reveal the mythology over time, but it has to be consistent with the first observed rules.
I think Zero Hour threw the doors wide on possibility, sharing what Hank (Anthony Edwards) must have felt as the publisher of Modern Skeptic once he learned of the clocks. What it did not do was follow that up with the limits on those possibilities. Those limits start to define the world, and give the audience some continuity.
Also, and I know that I have harped on this, we got too much white washing of the Catholic Church’s policies and action during WWII. It was a difficult and complex time, and the Church had to make pragmatic decisions to insure its survival. It would have been nice to dig deeper into the history and get some characters arguing different opinions about the history.
Frankly, I think they brought on the Apocalypse too early. Once you end the world, you have no place to go with your story. You cannot do another story arc with the same emotional impact after you avert the end of the world.
On the other hand, in the first three episodes, we did not get much background on Hank or Arron (Scott Michael Foster), and very little on Rachel (Addison Timlin). Beck (Carmen Ejogo) had more development than they did. White Vincent (Michael Nyqvist) had more than Arron or Laila.
We knew there were “others” continuing what the Nazis began, but we knew very little of them. We saw one woman (Amy Irving) in episode 3, but that opposition never materialized. We only learned the name of the Rosicrucian group, the Shepherds, and the “others,” the Great Pirates, in the “final” episode.
We have no idea how Hank and Korben Sturm are related, although clearly Hank’s parents had more to tell.
Why was this show on ABC, a subsidiary of Disney?
I realize that every network wants to have a runaway success like Lost, and I am sure this was ABC’s attempt to re-capture that audience (Lost did air on ABC, remember).
First of all, Lost ended three years ago. For TV audiences, that is a lifetime. If you haven’t capture that audience in three years, you are not going to.
Second, if you are imitating, then you are not innovating. Stop trying to catch lightning in a bottle and do your own thing. That’s what made Lost special. It was its own thing. Turn great creative people loose and see what happens.
On the other hand, you cannot put mouse ears on The X-Files. Some ideas just do not fit with your brand (e.g, John Carter being a Disney movie). 666 Park Avenue had no place on ABC. Ditto Last Resort, and I would argue that Zero Hour fell into the same place. It was out-of-synch with the brand positioning for ABC.
I mentioned last week that simple web searches failed to pull images from each episode. In fact, there were noticeably fewer images available each week.
A show like Zero Hour screams out for an innovative marketing campaign that starts well before the show itself. In fact, initially, the campaign should not even admit the existence of the show. We should have gotten a viral campaign that began with teasers, and a website for Modern Skeptic. ABC should have gotten real journalists to write real skeptical articles about paranormal events and claims, and gradually start working in the mythology of the show.
Eventually, start putting photos of the staff on the masthead, and mix in photos of the actors with those of the journalists.
Once you announce the show and link it to your Modern Skeptic, then you can start social media campaigns on Facebook and Twitter, you can reach out to key influencers, and you can invite fans to contribute to a wiki. Provide a fan site kit and guidelines so more search results will bring up references to your show – even if not to your official site. Embrace the top rated fan sites, and offer them inside info.
That should get you some solid fan support and some good word of mouth leading up to the premier.
Once you launch the show, then every week you need video, images, music, and sound clips on either your official site, or your Facebook page, or both.
What puzzles me is that ABC clearly knows how to do this. Look at another ABC show, Castle. Not only is most of the cast active on Facebook and/or Twitter, but Richard Castle has his own Facebook feed! They’ve actually published novels “written” by their fictional character!
No wonder Castle has a loyal fan following and Zero Hour is cancelled.
In my opinion, Zero Hour was building to something. There were tantalizing signs of story and character development. Given more time, it might have built a following.
It was over before the cast and crew could really setting in to their characters and their material.