October 9, 2008

‘Eleventh Hour’ Another British Import

By David Kronke

CBS' "Eleventh Hour" and Fox's "Fringe" offer a textbook case in similar subject matter handled in each network's trademark style.

"Fringe" trucks in manic, often gross-out yarns and paranoia.

"Eleventh Hour" is measured, vaguely moody, just this side of condescending in its exposition and delights in manipulative stories involving dead children.

Oh, and both shows feature a sexy blond FBI agent, because, you know, there are so many of those.

"Eleventh Hour" is based on a British miniseries that starred Patrick Stewart as a brilliant doctor and Ashley Jensen ("Extras,""Ugly Betty") as his government-issued protection. It was notable more for its stylized (perhaps overstylized) direction than for its scripting but boasted a curious chemistry between the leads.

Here, British actor Rufus Sewell is the latest overseas performer to show off his American accent as Dr. Jacob Hood, a "special science adviser to the FBI" and "high-priority asset" who investigates "crimes and crises of a scientific nature" and is protected by agent Rachel Young (Marley Shelton of, uh, "Grindhouse").

Sewell's work is adept; Shelton's is serviceable. Their chemistry's a bit on the chilly side.

Tonight's episode cribs from the British show's first installment, but capably compresses a 90-minute plot into an hour. It involves the discovery of a cache of aborted cloned fetuses and an international villain whose cloning experiments have resulted in tragedy in three countries.

Next week's offering is drearily four-square: Eleven-year-old boys in a small town are dying of heart attacks. "Eleven-year-old kids don't just drop dead from heart attacks," we're informed, helpfully.

It's the show that dares to rip the lid off the contemporary plague of toad-licking.

As it's produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who at this point is responsible for nearly one-third of CBS' prime-time lineup, "Eleventh Hour" is meat-and-potatoes programming, as watchable as it is dismissible. It'd help if the show's guest stars weren't either so wooden or histrionic - their big dramatic scenes invariably coaxed an inadvertent chuckle out of me.

David Kronke, (818) 713-3638 [email protected]

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