Fans of The Wire’s Mc Nulty (Dominic West) may be surprised (and, I think, pleased) at his role in the new BBC America series The Hour. And fans of Madmen well appreciate the mid (20th) atmospherics and production design as well the useful mimicry of a Henry Manciniesque sound track—fans of 1950’s PI shows like Peter Gunn will also recognize the show’s open and closing graphics— a which makes this six part series about the BBC creating an hour long news program unsurprisingly (and unironically) called The Hour,a winner. Young viewers maybe astounded at the ubiquity of cigarette smoking— a social habit that has been critically stigmatized in a single generation.
Having by now viewed 4 of the series 6 episodes, I have an abundance of praise for this nearly perfect production which I will offer more comprehensively (Alessandra Stanley has nice things to say) after I see the last two episodes.What I am immediately struck by is that the main characters are remarkably telegenic,not the least Romola Garai who plays Bel Rowley the producer of the nascent program—a highly irregular appointment in the mid century media jungle. Domiminic West plays Hector Madden,the charismatic presenter of the Hour whose male “charm” ignites some of side plot. And Ben Whishaw plays the brilliant and forthright Freddie Lyon, completing a tres that beats a full house. Anne Chancellor plays Licks the savvy, wizened, hard drinking foreign desk reporter, who as The Suez Crisis heats up displays a well-worn skepticism and sly humor. Lastly,there is Anton Lesser as BBC Head of News Clarence Fendley, who plays the Fred Friendly (albeit with greater subtlety) of this devoted but high strung crew
The Hour informs on a variety of levels including a gripping narrative exhibition of the increasing tension
between the State and the so called Fourth Estate. There are some deaths which are the engine of the enveloping intrigue but I find not so central to what makes this drama so engrossing.
And then there is observation of the wife of a dead spook, telling Freddie she likes the Hour but, “It makes the world seem unbearably real” Six episodes will, I think, leave you wanting more—there is talk of a second season.
One can hope can’t one?