The Hour

The Hour
Because it happens to be set in the '50s, The Hour has been called the BBC's answer to Mad Men, although that's a lazy comparison. Sure, there's rampant smoking and secretive bed hopping, but the focus is very much on the politics of the time. Set against the backdrop of the Suez Crisis in 1956, The Hour is the tale of a new current affairs television show on the BBC. At its helm is Bel Rowley (played by Romolo Garai), one of the few female producers at the time, with her best friend, Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw), a driven reporter whose views border on radical. The third main character is Hector Madden (Dominic West), the anchor of the show, whose upper-class roots turn out to be both a blessing and a curse. There's also a ridiculously talented supportive cast helping to weave a rather complicated story of the media fighting against the censorship of a government seemingly heading towards war. Throw in some Cold War intrigue and an obligatory murder and this is a classic British period piece, which the BBC does really well. The biggest thing The Hour has going for it is the crackling dialogue, courtesy of writer Abi Morgan (who also wrote The Iron Lady and Shame), although there is very little in the way of character development. Like Mad Men, the show gets caught up in the style of its period, at times, relying on the fact that it looks stunning, thanks to the degree of care taken to ensure authenticity. And while that does help when the pace slows, it doesn't always compensate for the issues with the storytelling. To be perfectly honest, there isn't six hours worth of plot, but it's worth persevering for the fabulous final episode that does a great job tying up the loose ends. In fact, the ends are tied up a little too well considering The Hour is coming back for a second season, so where they go from here isn't clear. Unfortunately there isn't much in the way of extras ― no insightful commentary from Abi Morgan or any of the cast ― but there are 30 minutes worth of inconsequential behind-the-scenes stuff instead. (Warner)