Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tube Steak: The Hour

With The Hour set to make its Series Two premiere on American airwaves Wednesday night on BBC America, now seems as good a time as any to sing its praises. The first series--a swift six hours that will re-air in its entirety on BBC America starting Wednesday at noon ET/11:00 am CT leading up to the 9 ET/8 CT Series Two premiere--is a clinic in taut, suspenseful storytelling in the realm of period drama.

Perhaps the best and certainly the laziest way for me to explain what is so great about The Hour is to tell you that if you were to build a show from the strongest elements of The Newsroom (The Hour had its first series run well before The Newsroom ever started airing) and Mad Men, both of which are extremely flawed to me, and inject an element of intrigue absent from either program, you would end up with Abi Morgan's spectacular program about a fledgling news program in mid-1950s England, running up against the powers that be as they try to hold their lens to a more truthful version of the story that the government wants them to tell in regards to the Suez Crisis. As the news program--led by female producer Bel Rowley (Romola Garai), fronted by Hector Madden (Dominic West), and fueled by Freddie Lyon's (Ben Whishaw) drive and insatiable journalistic hunger--works to fight censorship from the very arm of government that airs it, Morgan uses The Hour as a platform by which to also explore gender inequality, espionage, adultery, murder, and government conspiracy against the backdrop of the rapidly changing culture of mid-century England.

In terms of the show's mise-en-scene, the production design and art direction are top notch, and it is beautifully shot. 1950s England is unwaveringly brought to the screen. The fact that the storytelling is compelling could just be gravy if it didn't stand out so well on its own merits.

Basically, get your shit together and set your DVR to record BBC America's rebroadcast of the first season of The Hour, and then record each new episode. You won't regret it.

Series One Teaser

Series Two Teaser

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