The Hour (BBC)

by James McNally on January 29, 2012

in DVD,Television

The Hour
Editor’s Note: The Hour will be released on DVD and Blu-ray in the US and Canada on February 7 by BBC America. You can help Toronto Screen Shots by buying from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

For my Canadian readers, I must begin by saying that obvi­ously this is not the CBC chat show with George Strombolopoulos. Instead, The Hour is a BBC series about the making of a tele­vi­sion news­magazine pro­gram in the 1950s. This prom­ises the art dir­ec­tion of Mad Men with the back­stage man­euv­ering and larger polit­ical intrigues of some­thing like Good Night and Good Luck. Starring a cast of British actors who will be largely unknown to North American audi­ences (Romola Garai, Dominic West, Ben Whishaw), the six hour-long epis­odes of this first season (or “series” as the English more accur­ately describe it) set up the cre­ation of a new pro­gram to deliver the news to the British public in the early days of television.

It’s 1956 and TV news is still being delivered like the news­reels shown in the cinema. Young BBC reporter Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) and his best friend/crush Bel Lyons (Romola Garai), already bored of the way they’re presenting the news, apply for pos­i­tions on a new pro­gram, “The Hour.” But there is also a dark con­spiracy brewing, and by the end of the first episode, two people are dead, one of whom was a friend of Freddie’s. While he invest­ig­ates the murders, Bel is coping with her new pos­i­tion as pro­ducer as well as flirting with the hand­some anchorman Hector Madden (Dominic West). Whishaw has just the right amount of cyn­icism to play the underdog, and based on the first hour, I’m hopeful that the con­spiracy stuff will win out over soap opera melo­drama and romantic entanglements.

The series has been a suc­cess on British tele­vi­sion and has already been renewed for another six-episode series.

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