Friday, March 1, 2013


Perhaps before reading this, a brief primer on "hooks" is in order.  HERE.

Now, on to ZERO HOUR and the problem of too many hooks. It provides a great lesson for people writing stories who want to over-the-top-amaze. Don't. I just read where the TV drama series ZERO HOUR is being cancelled after only 3 outings. Not familiar with it, I found its Wikipedia site, which is probably edited by the show's creator Paul T. Scheuring.

Here's the basic plot:
Hank Galliston (Anthony Edwards), publisher of a paranormal-enthusiast magazine, while trying to save his abducted wife Laila (Jacinda Barrett), learns that he must also save the world from an impending cataclysm.
Conventional wisdom is that a story can have one hook, or maybe two if the second is a subset or is embedded in the first. Recall that a hook is an ironic impossibility (or improbability) that the storytellers need to make reasonable (i.e. believable.) Everything else about the story should be real (not an impossibility) so as to give the audience a footing in reality. The reality connection allows the audience to IDENTIFY with one or more of the characters.  When there are too many hooks the audience can be lost trying to identify with the characters because so few plot elements have a basis in the audience's reality. One hook is entertaining, two or more are confusing.

So, in the basic plot above we have three hooks:
  1. paranormal
  2. abducted wife
  3. world cataclysm
Now, it does seem that the three could be connected logically: the paranormal entities abduct the wife in the process of destroying the earth.

What is unnerving is this plot summary is there's no real and logical connection between paranormal activity, wife abductions and world cataclysms. None. I think Mr. Scheuring and his EP's at ABC are hitting something pretty hard during development and production.  Give your audience one, not all three, and they may buy into the story line long enough to suspend believe.

Well, if that's not bad enough, here's plot summary for Episode 1.  Take a deep breath, this never seems to stop with the hooks:
Hank Galliston publishes the magazine Modern Skeptic, which focuses on the paranormal. His wife Laila buys a unique-looking clock from a boardwalk vendor and is later abducted. FBI Agent Riley arrives to show Hank and his copy editors, Arron and Rachel, video footage of Laila's abduction. The screen freezes on mercenary White Vincent, with whom Riley is familiar. Hank disassembles Laila's clock to find a flawed diamond. With light shone through it, the stone refracts a map. Hank shows the map and its markings to Father Mickle (Charles S. Dutton), a priest who talks of a language that died in the 2nd century. The priest also mentions the Rosicrucians, a group of Christian mystics of the time, and place called New Bartholomew. The map diamond is left with the priest and Vincent later assaults him, collecting the diamond. Hank leaves his team behind and travels to where New Bartholomew should be, with Agent Riley in tow, as she tells him White Vincent's terrorist history. Arron and Rachel travel to Bavaria to find the clock maker (Jan Tříska), who wears a Rosicrucian cross. He informs them that after the Nazis created a new "eternal life," the Church appointed twelve new "apostles" that assembled in 1938 to protect the war-torn world from doom. A clock was created for each. The apostles then scattered to hide from the Nazis. New Bartholomew was not a place, but one of the apostles. Hank finds the place on the map where New Bartholomew is located. It is a German submarine, stuck in Canadian ice, with some dead people inside including New Bartholomew, who resembles Hank. Outside, Vincent arrives as the clock maker's voiceover warns of the approaching tumultuous "zero hour".
 Here are the improbables for me, your improbables may vary. Any one of these is cool. Trying to find a foundation in reality with ALL of these in one episodes makes me dizzy ... with laughter.
  1. A magazine business that investigates the paranormal (actually that there's an audience for such a magazine and advertisers enough to keep it financially viable is the hook).
  2. A unique-looking clock. (Unique = none else like it in the WORLD)
  3. Someone is abducted. The sentence construction leaves me unsure if Laila or the vendor is abducted (the antecedent is...?)
  4. There's video footage of the abduction so clear that we can identify the perp (which is really the hook that CSI has made famous)
  5. The clock has a "flawed" diamond inside. (who knew????)
  6. The diamond is really a PowerPoint slide of a map. (the other hook here is that there's a projector blub so sharp and small that it can shine THROUGH a diamond, and yet another hook is that the CSI detectives they hired from Jerry Bruckheimer for this series can figure out  what facet of the diamond to project the  light through.)
  7. Charles Dutton is playing a priest... yet again. (I guess that's not an improbable)
  8. There's a mystical decoder language that died in the 2nd century but it's useful today)
  9. The are Christian mystics (who also died in the 2nd century but are relevant today)
  10. Vincent is a terrorist who kidnaps people (who knew?)
  11. The clock maker has survived the 2nd century and is hiding diamonds in clocks with maps.
  12. The Nazi's created a new "eternal life."  (who makes up this stuff?)
  13. The Catholic Church has created 12 new apostles. (the original 12 are mystical enough. I guess we couldn't figure them out so we set them aside and created 12 we could understand.)
  14. There are 12 clocks, with 12 diamonds no doubt, with 12 maps. That's enough for 1,728 episodes.... which sort of reminds me of Earl's list, from "My Name is Earl" which gets longer with every episode.).
  15. The 12 apostles carrying these 12 clocks (which are no longer unique clocks because there are 12 of them) are running around the world with clocks under their arms hiding form the Nazi's. (is this an undercranked silent movie?)
  16. One of the new apostles is stuck in a German submarine.
  17. The German submarine is stuck in Canadian ice
  18. There are dead people "on ice" in the submarine
  19. New Bartholomew looks like Hank

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