The Hour (BBC)

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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