Tuesday, October 25, 2011

BBC's The Hour

I was down with a fever and swollen glands last week, so to pass the time I immersed myself in the BBC series The Hour.
It surprised me that I hadn't heard about it sooner, it's a fantastic series. With all the Mad Men fever, more and more mid-century set dramas keep popping up. However, most of these dramas (Mad Men included) seem a little caught up in the costumes and the time period. The Hour makes the 50s seem immediate and fresh.
The struggle of BBC journalists amidst the cold war is full of moments of suspenseful drama. We follow Freddie (Ben Whishaw) as he decodes and unravels the involvement of MI6 with the death of a childhood friend. The reporters and staff of the program must also fight to deliver the news truthfully in spite of blockades and censorship from the government.
The cast is phenomenal. Romola Garai plays Bel, the producer of the news show called "The Hour." Though she inevitably faces some sexism, her character is not defined by it. She is tough, but has moments of self-doubt and the very common fear of becoming her mother. Her friendship with Freddie is one that shows a softer, more laid back side to Bel. Ben Whishaw's Freddie makes a compelling leading man. His earnest, determined search for the truth shows his strength, but he has moments of immaturity and unkindness, especially with Hector, the anchorman and his romantic rival for Bel played by Dominic West. West layers what could simply a "pretty boy" sort of character with surprising depths. Excellent supporting roles played by Anna Chancellor, Lisa Greenwood, Josh McGuire and Anton Lesser round out the newsroom crew.
The writers are even more responsible than the actors for the layering of the characters. With each episode we get to know the characters more, what they want, where they are vulnerable, but it all arises naturally from within the conflicts and decisions they are involved with.
Overall, I was very impressed by the series. I hope there will be a second season and more to enjoy from writer, Abi Morgan, and the cast.

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