MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
The BBC (and subsequently BBC America) offers its answer to the highly popular AMC series “Mad Men” with “The Hour.” The show follows a scrappy news team at the BBC in 1956 as a young writer named Freddie tries to punch up the programming by introducing a topical news show called “The Hour.” He argues with his best friend and producer Bel while attempting to handle the handsome but dimwitted anchor Hector. However, as Freddie digs into stories, he stumbles across a political conspiracy that involves murder and treason.
This six-episode series shows how far the BBC has come from their years of 3/4” video on a sound stage. The production value is top-notch, going above and beyond even the higher level programming of recent years like “Doctor Who” and “Mistresses.” The show also serves up a bit of nostalgia with the retro look of the 50s, including the limitations of the day.
The key to the series’ punch is the relationship between Freddie (Ben Whisaw) and Bel (Romola Garai), and with Dominic West in the mix to make an emotional triangle at work and in their private lives, the show works as a character-driven piece. I’ve had a thing for Romola Garai for years, and she shines in this, showing her British sex appeal outside of the normal crosses the Hollywood actresses bear.
Instead of just offering a soap opera for 50s nostalgics, “The Hour” gives us an interesting balance between relationships and danger. The conspiracy angle is ever-present, but it’s not overpowering. We’re not looking at a British version of “24,” but neither are we looking at a British version of “Broadcast News.” It’s not daring for today’s audiences, but it feels daring because of what it is accomplishing in the decade. Running six episodes, it reminds me of the original miniseries “State of Play,” which made more of an impact across the pond than in the states.
Included on the Blu-ray is a spotlight on the set design and a behind-the-scenes featurette.