Nov 17 2008 11:22am

Eleventh Hour: Frozen

Eleventh Hour is a CBS show about science, for all values of “science” that actually mean “Rufus Sewell.” Rufus plays Dr. Jacob Hood, former Nobel nominee and modern-day FBI Science Advisor. Together with his twelve-year-old bodyguard, Rachel Young (Marley Shelton), he investigates “science crime.” As the only representatives from the FBI’s science department (after what must have been a sad budget cutback), they have tackled such cutting-edge science disasters as cloning, smallpox, evil children, and grape fungus.

It is both the genius and the scourge of this show that even when the science rings true, the rest of it is delightfully appalling. When the hardest-working actor on the show is Rufus Sewell’s googly eye, you know the situation’s dire, and it doesn’t help that they’re constantly having to dramatically deliver lines like, “There’s a fungus among us.” (Actual line.)

The character development is about as nuanced as the “evil child uses digitalis to kill off his classmates” plot, so even five episodes in all we know about our two leads is that Dr. Rufus knows how to romance the ladies and rock a tailored blazer, and that Agent Young Marley doesn’t like science and wears a black bra. (You keep it classy, CBS.)

However, they more than make up for the lack of quality by supplying more and more outlandish plots, taken more and more seriously. This week Eleventh Hour gave in to the inevitable and did an entire episode about frozen heads. It was beautiful.

The episode ostensibly revolves around Dr. Rufus’s investigation into the death of a young woman who was found on the beach, frozen stiff from the inside out. Possible causes are discarded: they include attack by air conditioner, medication side-effect, and “something she drank.” To be fair, it’s easy to mistake vodka and Freon.

Dr. Rufus finally cracks the case with some organic chemistry and a hamburger patty.


Try This At Home!

You will need: One room-temperature hamburger patty, potassium mumblemumble, “iron solution,” meat thermometer attached to large computer with a graphical interface from the Enterprise 1701-D.

1. Place room-temperature patty on a plate.
2. Insert meat thermometer.
3. Stir potassium mumblemumble vigorously, then pour onto the hamburger patty.
4. Stare at the hamburger patty until it freezes under your icy glare.
5. Watch the graphical user interface helpfully confirm that the patty is, in fact, frozen, for values of frozen that mean 39.1 degrees.
6. Pour “iron solution” on top, watch as the process reverses itself with a helpful ice-cracking sound effect.
7. Sauté with onions and mushrooms; serve on a toasted roll.

Once Dr. Rufus has a handle on the Patty Problem, he’s only one patent search away from the Frozen Head Factory.

The frozen heads are property of the Forever Forward Foundation, which managed to convince several people to pay eighty thousand dollars apiece to get decapitated, flash-frozen, and stored like a stack of beach balls in gigantic canisters of mouthwash. Everyone treats this extremely seriously, despite the fact that Futurama has long since taken all the mystery out of the head-preserving industry.

The highlight of this episode is clearly the conversation amongst the floating heads, but a close second is the scene in which Dr. Rufus and Marley are driving to whatever place in Malibu looks like Vancouver. (Note Dr. Rufus’s seductive “summer blizzards happen; also, my wife died” routine, famous for getting him chicks.)

The trail leads them to the unassuming coroner who takes it on himself to dispatch some of the Foundation’s new clients before they can try to cheat death via the deep-freeze; it would be more surprising if he hadn’t made a huge speech about Respecting Death every time he was in a scene. (Dr. Rufus and Agent Marley aren’t so great with the detecting.)

Though the heads never get past the status of Appendages of Concern, they are clearly the high point of the episode, since people pause the action at several points to soulfully discuss the pros and cons of freezing your own head in the hopes that nubile, willing clone bodies will appear in the future just after they discover the cure for your Serious Illness. I can only pray no one clones Agent Marley, since that’s sort of a waste of mouthwash.

This Week’s Moral: Respect death! If you don’t, some crazy coroner with a Star Trek injector gun will respect your death for you, and then you’ll be compared to a hamburger patty for 48 minutes.

Next Week: They finally get a celebrity guest star (I was wondering how long that would take!), and it’s Judd Nelson. Could this show get any more perfect?

Eleventh Hour airs on CBS Thursdays at 10pm.

Melissa Ann Singer
1. masinger
I must confess Eleventh Hour is my guilty pleasure of this tv season. It's fascinatingly bad and not as offensive as Fringe, which I gave up on long ago.

Oh, Sewell's character had a wife, who died of cancer (not clear on how long ago). Despite the appearance of romance, he is supposedly still burdened by grief and has no intention of ever loving again.

It's weirdly compelling watching. Though the "dead wife subplot" has cropped up in two of this season's new shows, this one and The Mentalist (which I also like, mostly because Simon Baker is cute to look at _and_ he gets punched out in pretty much every show--I thought it was an inside joke for a while, but perhaps not). Is this weakness of imagination or evidence that ideas sometimes percolate across populations?
2. RobotRevolution
This is weird, since I'd just started renting and watching the Patrick Stewart version of Eleventh Hour.

From the sounds of it, the British version (available on Netflix), with its suave, older lead and dry humor (humour?) is better than the American version.

Plus, why the hell wouldn't CBS just hire Stewart? He's still got game.
Melissa Ann Singer
3. masinger
Yes, when I heard Patrick Stewart had starred in the UK version I became very jealous. I'll have to Netflix it at some point when the kid is older (at the moment, my Netflix account exists primarily to serve my 12-yo, who, thankfully, has wide taste).
Natalie Luhrs
4. eilatan
I am totally in love with this show because it's so terrifically bad. I keep expecting Rufus Sewell's character to bust out with "Science, it works, bitches!" but so far I've been disappointed on that score.
Nathalie Gray
5. Nat
I live in Germany for now (moving soon), and I don't get The 11th Hour. *sigh*

@ Eilatan... "Science, it works, bitches!" made me hurt myself laughing. I'm trying to imagine The Rufus saying that and my inner Chihuahua starts to chase her tail with savage glee.

I'm still in love with that guy from the movie A Knight's Tale. I know, he was odious, but damn, so fine. Does that make me a vile person?
Leon Jackson
6. Blackneto
@Nat: My wife loves him too. She liked him in A Knights Tale, but went absolutely nuts for him in the modern version of A Taming of the Shrew that came out a few years ago.
7. Beth2
I drooled over him in Cold Comfort Farm originally. Then saw him as Luther in London. He's sexy even when preoccupied with constipation.

Eleventh Hour, unfortunately. . .
Even he doesn't make it worth watching.
Megan Messinger
8. thumbelinablues
Blackneto @ 6, There's a Taming of the Shrew with him?! Must see. Beth2 @ 7, I'm also a huge Cold Comfort Farm fan, and I loved him in Uncorked as well. Even with the weird mustache in The Illusionist. But (even though his accent is good) Rufus Sewell was never, ever meant to be American.

Plus, frozen heads.
Jordan Bell
9. jordanroberts
@4, @5: Science. It works, bitches.

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