Monday, March 4, 2013

A Little More Information On Why Zero Hour (ABC) Was Canceled

I've seen a lot of people talking about this show, and the response has been very polarized.  People either seemed to really enjoy the show, or really just straight up hated it.  I thought it was a show with a mediocre premise that was executed very well for what it was.   It had a blistering "watch" pace, meaning how fast the hour went by while watching it, and I felt it was entertaining.  Was it believable?  No, but it was fairly easy for me to suspend my disbelief.  The key to almost all of this type of show is to make sure you do suspend your disbelief.  If you can't, you'll never get into it (the same can be said for any other show).  Do I find Person of Interest (CBS, Thursdays at 9pm ET) to be a particularly believable show?  Absolutely not, but it was super easy for me to suspend my disbelief for the show that I think is the best week to week ride on television today (of what I watch).

What I've found is that people thought it had a great premise that was executed poorly, or people thought it had a weak premise that was executed well.  I already told you which side of the fence I was on, but when most of the audience doesn't seem to know whether this show was bad because of execution, or better because of execution, it shows how massively flawed the show was.

Probably the biggest challenge the show had to overcome was what I feel is a very polarizing concept.  First, it's about the potential end of the world (groan).  This is a concept movie and TV audiences have been literally murdered with for probably at least the last 5 years.  The Walking Dead is about a zombie apocalypse, Revolution is about an electricity apocalypse, The Event was about an alien apocalypse, 2012 was about a calendar apocalypse, and on and on and on.  Oh yeah, and Zero Hour was about the actual Biblical apocalypse.  Now, if you know anything about the Bible, you know that this show is patently unbelievable right off the bat, as there is much text about the end of the world, and none of it has anything to do with clocks, and mankind protecting the fate of the world.  I mean, it's really lol if you think about it.  Still, that was a really easy thing for me to get past, because it's a TV show, and I'm not expecting accurate portrayal of stuff like that.  It is, after all, a drama.  It also wasn't hard for me to believe the other aspects, but obviously many people did have a problem getting past those other issues.

As I said, it was a polarizing concept, not because of the end of the world, but because of one sect of one religion (that is not in good graces right now) being responsible for the saving of the world from "bad" people.  If you don't belong to that sect of Christianity, there's a chance you might get mad about the fact that someone is speaking for you.  If you aren't a Christian (but another religion), you might find the concept boring and laughable.  If you're an atheist, you would probably think it was an idiotic show, and poorly done, and not really care about the religious aspects.  For every one of the things I mentioned, that can result in an audience erosion.  I do think there are a lot of people out there who can watch stuff about other religions and not care one way or the other, and enjoy it as a show, but this show set up a ton of hurdles that made the polarizing aspects very hard to overcome.  That's not even to mention that the guy tasked with saving the world basically thinks all of this is b.s., despite seeing his own previous life Nazi clone in a submarine, and seeing a film of that same guy who looks exactly like him.  It was said in one of the episodes that the last time this happened (Hitler time), he chose to save the world over the woman he loved.  This time he's deciding to save the woman he loves over the world.  He's evidently just not that bright of a guy, because even if he saves the woman he loves, the world ends, and what good is that?

I thought the show had good production value, and despite what I've seen people say about the acting, I think they're wrong.  I thought the show was fairly well cast across the board, and that all of the actors were doing a very solid job with what they were given.  With a worse cast, this would have seemed like a bad CW show, but with the cast they had, they made it into what I felt was the best current ABC drama of what I watch (Scandal is just so lol in believability, that I can't call that the best drama, even though it is the most "fun" to watch).  The show clearly wasn't cheap, and there was definitely real attention paid to the highest level concepts of the show (the clocks and big story stuff didn't just build themselves, h8rs).  However, the biggest problem it had, outside of the polarizing nature of the show, was that it was really caught up in convenient ends for everything.  There were just way too many "bow tie" moments in the show, which made the characters all seem much smarter and more capable than they clearly were.

Still, all that's neither here nor there.  In my post about renewal/cancellation predictions, which you can read here, you will see that I talk about the factors that I weigh when talking about whether a show will get canceled or renewed.  Let's discuss those really quickly, so you can find out exactly why ABC was so quick to pull the plug on the low rated show, despite the Live + Same Day ratings (referred to as L+SD) not being too far off of the show Lost Resort's typical ratings.

I always say there are essentially three factors that determine whether a show gets renewed, and they are ratings, cost, and quality.  The fourth factor is how close it is to syndication, and that obviously doesn't apply here.

Factor 1:

My own personal bubble for ABC Monday-Thursday dramas is a 2.0 in the 18-49 demo.  Zero Hour premiered to a 1.4 on Valentine's Day, which isn't a terrible number for that kind of day.  However, I just received the Live +7 Day DVR ratings (referred to as L+7) for the first episode, and if this show had any chance of making it, it would have needed to have a sizable jump from the L+SD to L+7 DVR ratings.  Guess what?  It didn't.  From the L+SD number of a 1.4 in the 18-49 demo, it only rose to a 1.8 in the 18-49 demo after seven full days of viewing on DVR were available.  I've also begun a rough guessing of Live + 3 Day DVR ratings (referred to as L+3), as I think they are much more important in factoring in renewals beginning THIS season.  Based on trends I've looked at over a several week period (more educated guessing than anything else), it's reasonable for me to conclude that the L+3 ratings for Zero Hour's premiere were roughly a 1.6 in the 18-49 demo.  As I said above, I think the bubble for ABC dramas Monday-Thursday is a 2.0, and this doesn't even get there in the L+7 DVR ratings.  So, that makes it super easy to determine why it didn't get to stick around long, as its ratings were significantly worse than this by the third week.  I won't know what the DVR ratings were for the last episode until about two Mondays from now, but I think it's probably a very safe bet that the show was barely pulling in a 1.4 in the L+7 DVR ratings.  That's just not going to get it done.

To relate it to Lost Resort, while the L+SD numbers were low in the 18-49 demo (typically averaging about a 1.2), it typically had a similar L+7 bump to Zero Hour's premiere ratings.  Zero Hour's quickly dropped, most likely, and that's why it had to go so quickly.  They probably figure they will get similar ratings to Zero Hour with crappy reality TV, which will help them turn a profit in what I'm guessing is a hugely money losing time slot this season.  Oh yeah, I knew Lost Resort would get canceled from pretty much day one, but I was trying to relate this more to the surprise that Lost Resort actually got to air all 13 of its episodes, despite extremely lackluster ratings.

Factor 2:

This show had a lot of production value, which means that it wasn't cheaply done, no matter what you think of it.  It almost had a movie like feel.  As I felt the show had already shot the initial 13 (probably without resolution), it would likely have just been too expensive for ABC to give them more money to wrap the show up properly, like they supposedly did with Lost Resort and 666 Park Avenue.  So, the show was likely expensive, and ending a show like this on a cliffhanger, with no resolution, is a much worse idea than just pulling the plug early.  We, the audience, would get over it, and fairly quickly.

Factor 3:

I think the show should have been approached completely as a miniseries, and it could have easily done that with the Pilot having a bunch of exposition, and then the race to get the 12 clocks, with a full resolution.  The EMMYs does have a Miniseries category, and there's no reason why this show couldn't have gotten a lot of awards notice, had it been approached that way FROM THE START.  It obviously wasn't, and that's a mistake on ABC's part, in my opinion.  Since the third factor is quality, I'll give my own thoughts.  I think there was some chance it could have gotten some technical notice for the EMMYs but the premise was so weak, and the writing couldn't cover for how poor the premise was, that it likely had no chance at any of the big ones.  The acting wasn't good enough to get noticed, but it was certainly better than a lot of people are claiming.  In order for a show to make it, when it has the other two factors against it, it would have to be a solid EMMY contender, and this just wasn't one, in any meaningful way.

I always say that if you can nail two of the three factors, you'll probably get renewed, but Zero Hour whiffed on all three.  I think the most obvious thing to take away from this extremely fast cancellation (the quickest ABC drama cancellation I can remember in recent memory) is that it just wasn't getting it done in the DVR numbers in a highly competitive time slot.  It's one thing to be in a competitive time slot, and not do well, but if you're not backing it up with a solid DVR bump, you're not worth the network's time and money.  Killing it this early also gives them the opportunity to run the whole series without hiatus again in the Summer, if that's what they decide they want to do.  It was an entertaining show, to me, for what it was, and I was certainly more than a little disappointed that it had such a quick yank.  I enjoyed it immensely more than the turd Lost Resort.

Did I write way too many words that could have summed up what happened in a paragraph?  Maybe, but, well, that's what I do.  Thanks for reading.


  1. re: "As I felt the show had already shot the initial 13 (probably without resolution), it would likely have just been too expensive for ABC to give them more money to wrap the show up properly,"

    Information from a few places before the show started indicated that the wrapped up the story arc within the season, and planned to have new stories for future seasons. So they wouldn't have needed money to wrap the show up properly.

    The real issue is whether they are honestly going to broadcast the remaining episodes during the summer or not. If not, they should just put them online right away (or a week at a time) if they want to get any of the remaining small audience to watch them to get any revenue at all.

    Or worst case it seems like they should farm the show out to a cable channel right away rather than do nothing with it.

    1. That basically means their treatment of that show is even MORE bizarre. The only thing we can really hope is that they really are just saving it for the Summer. If it does okay there, maybe it could become a Summer show, but I really don't get why they yanked it so soon, unless it just had almost zero DVR bump. Thanks for the info.


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