The Hour (TV Series 2011–2012) Poster

(2011–2012)

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9/10
Comparisons with "Madmen" are inevitable but "The Hour" holds its own
Francis Hogan17 April 2012
Comparisons with "Madmen" are inevitable but they also run the risk of distracting the viewer from properly appreciating "The Hour" in its own right. For all the obvious similarities between the two shows with their period-piece settings and respective portrayals of entrenched misogyny, this BBC/Kudos production marches resolutely to the beat of its own drum. "The Hour" is gritty and gray. It's temperature is cold. One of its main themes is the examination of conflict in a variety of forms; the deep internal conflict between ardent idealism and soul-numbing compromise or between personal integrity and ruthless ambition; and the dogged pursuit of truth in the face of suppression and censorship. Other classic struggles between opposing dynamics are also explored. These include individualism and conservatism, inspiration and convention, impoverishment and privilege, courage and fear, rational caution and paranoia, democracy and tyranny etc - all of which are set amid the historic backdrop of two salient international military conflicts. The landscape is panoramic and the brush-strokes reach far and wide but the painting remains clearly defined. All the elements are tautly packed into a 360 minute thought-provoking thriller. If comparisons must be drawn, then "Goodnight and Good Luck" might prove to be a helpful suggestion. With its subtle script, insightful direction, solid casting and a stunning performance from Ben Whishaw, "The Hour" is one of the BBC's finest. Congratulations to all involved with this production. Thoroughly recommended.
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8/10
Seductive, Intelligent Thriller From The Usual Suspects
museumofdave23 February 2013
When receiving a lengthy series of quality, my usual pace is about two hours a night; with The Hour, I went for three, easily, and was hard put not to stay up past midnight and watch the entire series. This outstanding BBC thriller is many things--conspiracy and spy thriller, mystery, romance, period drama--and certainly much more. It has been exquisitely mounted, with lots of convincing period detail, and is acted by a unified ensemble, laying out numerous vivid characters in a plot that begins confusingly, but soon weaves a seductive plot-line that is not merely a whodunit but also reflects social concerns nations face today, about the power of governments and the behind-the-scenes manipulation of events. Its often funny, brilliantly paced, and is intelligent entertainment
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9/10
An extremely good new series--"Come on. We've got a story to write."
rhysmann200830 August 2011
The Hour is an intriguing new drama, created and written by Abi Morgan, that spans several genres and weaves them together cleverly and effectively. There is espionage, murder and suspense on the one hand; romance on another hand; comedy on yet another hand; and political drama on the final hand. The central emphasis is on the characters, however, of Bel Rowley (producer of The Hour), Hector Madden (its presenter), and one of the best characters of recent years, the funny and confident Freddie Lyon, one of the show's journalists.

The acting is uniformly excellent; Romola Garai ('Atonement'; 'The Crimson Petal and the White') and Ben Whishaw ('Perfume'; 'Criminal Justice I') especially shine as Bel and Freddie. There are other superb performances from the seedy Julian Rhind-Tutt ('Green Wing') and the suave Dominic West ('The Wire'), along with my personal favourite Anna Chancellor ('Four Weddings and a Funeral') as Lix, an acid-tongued feminist in the newsroom.

The story does start off a little slowly, but prepare for a roller-coaster ride later on, particularly in the extremely tense final episode, where the drama is perfectly pitched. The loose ends are nicely tied up, and the conclusion is suitably ambiguous, ready for the second series which has been commissioned.

The only quibble is the sometimes anachronistic dialogue; but one tends not to notice this as everything else is so good.

So, overall this is an intriguing, intelligent drama with plenty of strands, twists and turns, and fantastic acting all round. I await series two eagerly.
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9/10
Fascinating story line, great character building!
Roelof Luttikhuis15 February 2012
The Hour is a great series made from an interesting angle: media in post-War Britain. Since I have a media background, the story line of a BBC news show that is made under influence of the government appeals to me very much.

What I especially like about The Hour are the characters. None of them are either good or bad and their behavior and views seem very realistic. There's no crude division between good or bad which gives the overall story line a layered kind of dynamics: the overall story line as well as the personal drama interested me from the beginning to the end. How I 'grew into' the characters while watching the series reminded me of The Wire. Acting is well done by the way, which pushes the series to a very high level.

This is the first series I saw after seeing the American-made Homeland and it is such a relief to me that the British do not seem to fall for the blunt simplifications of good and bad as portrayed in American drama.

Bravo!
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8/10
Quality TV drama
Leofwine_draca30 August 2011
Review of Series One:

This decent BBC drama miniseries depicts the lives and loves of three journalists working for the corporation during the 1950s. The series gets off to a dodgy start with the first couple of episodes, mainly because the main characters are all so damn cold. It then gets a lot better as we get to know those involved, and by the end it's become a real blast.

Romola Garai's Bel is really the centrepiece of the whole production, the producer who attempts to hold it all together while making some huge mistakes along the way. Ben Whishaw's Freddie is a bit of an oddball at first, but his deepening involvement with the series' conspiracy undertones makes him a character to watch and, come the finale, he's the most interesting by far. Dominic West is faultless, as he has been in everything I've seen him in.

The attention to detail is impeccable, and I particularly enjoyed the way that world-shaping events have a key influence on the plotting. There's romance, drama, murder and humour in spades here, along with strong performances from both veterans (Anna Chancellor, Juliet Stevenson, Tim Pigott-Smith) and relative newcomers (Burn Gorman and Julian Rhind-Tutt are both particularly good).

There are occasional faults – the unravelling of the conspiracy storyline is over-complicated and muddled – but these can be easily forgiven. Altogether a compelling piece of literate TV drama, and I'm overjoyed to hear a second series has been commissioned.

Review of Series Two:

Series two of THE HOUR turns out to be an improvement on the first series, which was great to begin with: the performances are more natural, the storyline more tightly focused, and the sense of danger and impending deadlines far more pronounced.

The series boasts impeccable production designs, intriguingly interwoven plotting and some excellent performances. In this series, Hector is really put through the wringer, allowing the audience some more of Dominic West's finely mannered acting; Oona Chaplin, playing Hector's wife, also comes into her own as a fully developed, sympathetic character for the first time.

There are casualties: Romola Garai is utilised less well here, although Ben Whishaw is as charming as ever. The problem is that the focus is away from Garai, unlike in the first series, and she's given little to do. Everyone else seems to have deeper, stronger character stuff, whereas her screen time is limited to some corny romance that never goes anywhere.

There are missteps, too, not least Abi Morgan's attempt to give ALL of the main characters some emotional storyline, even the nerdy bespectacled comic relief guy. There's just not room for it, and bringing in a typically hissy Peter Capaldi doesn't work either; his sub-plot with Anna Chancellor just left me cold, getting in the way of the REAL story.

Still, these flaws aren't enough to ruin the enjoyment of this series, which just seems to get better and better with each episode. As with series one, it culminates in a remarkably tense and gripping final episode that leaves me hoping for third outing.
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9/10
Great, great, great!
slabihoud30 December 2013
Three times great may stand for the main cast of characters in this wonderful mini series by the BBC about the BBC, well done and professional as it is the house style. It brings you back to the old days of television in the mid-fifties by inviting us the watch the birth of a fictional weekly news magazine and the ups and downs of three journalists. One is a dynamic producer, trying hard to prove to herself and all others that she is worth the job, another a brilliant but difficult to work with intellectual lower class journalist, and finally a charming but eager to please and womanizing moderator. These three are not only connected through their work but simultaneously by friendship, love and hate. Together they get themselves into deep trouble and are bound to rely on each other when things get worse. The story draws us into a forgotten world of secrets, espionage and crisis, all through the eyes of the fifties! Both seasons are excellently done, rich of details and exciting facts.
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9/10
May be my favorite show of the past few years...
taracienna25 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I have to say that I have loved this show obsessively from the moment Ben Whishaw's Freddie Lyon stepped on the screen. Performances like his are why some television shows are superior to most movies being made these days. I cannot recall the last movie that made me really appreciate the hard work actors put forth in their art. It's inspiring. Freddie is the kind of character I will remember years from now and that is a testament to how new and exciting this show felt to me and a testament to Ben Whishaw's talent. He portrays more passion with only his eyes than even the best writers can convey with words. It only happens with great characters on great shows. Take away all the Mad Men comparisons ( I consider myself a Mad Men fan) and this show truly stands on its own because it is much better. The spy-thriller element was compelling because we got to go along with Freddie, but all in all I couldn't help but feel let down with the story's conclusion. With a second season I may change my mind.

I will say I was a bit disappointed with the character of Bel Rowley. Romola Garai is incredibly powerful in her subtlety, and coupled with her great looks she has everything it takes to be a knockout, memorable and distinctly female voice on television. Her affair with Hector would have been more tolerable and believable if this weren't a miniseries. To show the beginning and end (if it is the end) of an affair in six episodes is a bit much to take on if it's not poignant and precise, which I didn't think it was. The sixth episode really didn't feel all that satisfying because I just kept seeing the potential for this show to be really brilliant. That's where the script needs a little work.

I really think that with a second season we will see an evolution of the characters Bel and Freddie and it will hopefully be moving the way a good story should be. Their relationship is honest and natural, something picked right out of life, and I do believe in it, so I cannot wait to see what Abi Morgan will do with their story. She does an amazing job of giving these two characters the perfect witty banter to keep it entertaining all while giving the audience touching flashes of what it is to know someone inside and out and what it means to be willing to do anything for that person, even if you never tell them that. Ben and Romola have an underlying chemistry that I think many actors on television lack. To wrap a greater story arc around a relationship that feels so real is the challenge for Abi Morgan. Some writers get great characters but don't have the right story to place them in. But if the next season only improves upon these first six episodes (oh how I wished it went on for ten!), I cannot wait until the premiere.
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8/10
Intrigue and behind the scene perspective; it holds your attention.
John Raymond Peterson22 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Unlike many, I was not aware of "The Hour" being taunted as a "Mad Men" like series. So I did not look for similarities or make any judgement in that line of assessment. Good for me. It is set in the early fifties and already it grabs you attention with the fact that a BBC news program producer is a woman, Bel Rowley, played by Romola Garai. Indeed, the story revolves around the characters connected directly or indirectly with the BBC. We have a back-door pass sort of speak. I found it interesting that government influence over the broadcasting enterprise was so openly portrayed. The team working on the daily hourly news program are individuals rich with character, all brilliantly exploited to captivate us and keep us interested in the story's development.

They convey work ethics of news people, in particular, that of Freddie Lyon, played superbly by Ben Whishaw. Every movie I've seen with journalists as principal roles, always has a more exciting pull. Intrigues intertwine early and the thriller mode kicks in. The storyline or synopsis you may have read will not come close to indicating all the twists and turns this miniseries will go through. There is sex and romance just like in real life of course; no good thriller should be without. As I have come to expect in all movies, period pieces or not, that involve journalists (print, radio or TV), "The Hour" will touch on historical facts and have you ponder a bit, or much more, on what government and powerful people try to get away with. This work by the talented cast certainly shows the sacrifices individuals make as a result of their decisions, good or bad. Who is a spy for the good guys who is for the bad guys, and what's the difference? I highly recommend it for mature audiences, mature in the full sense of the word; if you have the attention span of a video gamer, it will be too much for you to grasp.
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9/10
I thought it was very good
TheLittleSongbird4 October 2011
I didn't think The Hour was perfect, but overall for me it was very good and intriguing. The Hour does have a slightly slow start, but the pace soon picks up just in time for the tense finale, and I personally loved how ambiguous the ending was. I do also agree that some of the dialogue is rather anachronistic, however in the final episode especially it has several intense and intelligent moments. For any problems The Hour has, it does have potential to grow and there are many things to redeem it. The story is intriguing and full of twists and turns that are brought in and resolved nicely without the drama feeling rushed. The production values are wonderful, right down from the setting, to the photography, to the lighting to the fashions. The music is memorable and not over-bearing or generic like some programmes this year. The characters are interesting with like the series potential to grow. The acting is very good too, especially from Ben Whishaw and Romola Garai, but Julian Rhind-Tutt, Juliet Stevenson, Tim Piggott-Smith and especially Anna Chancellor also make a positive impression. Overall, while imperfect and leaves room for growth, I thought The Hours was very good on the whole. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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8/10
A good mixture between mystery and mad men
gwentheboxerdog20 July 2011
I just watched the first episode of the Hour on BBC. It was better than I thought it would be.

I had heard it was supposed to be a lot like Mad Men, or at least very similar. There are a lot of similarities, and in the first episode I think they overdid it at times the fact that it is 1950 where gender roles are quite specific. Apart from that it is not that much like Mad Men at all. This is not so much a show where men are the main characters and it is their work life and how they have to use their strong character to get ahead in a difficult business.

In the Hour it seems to be more about a journalist's life at the time, no matter if you are a man or a woman. Although gender roles will play a part, it is not necessarily the core of the show like in Mad Men. It is not as glamours either.

What I really like about the Hour that there is also a mystery part to it, almost like a police show. In the beginning of the pilot we are introduced to a murder. The police are calling it a robbery, but one of the journalists finds out there are more to the story. The episode then switches between finding out the truth, at the same time as we learn about the life of journalists in the BBC, and how men and women work together to make a new, current affairs show that covers important moments in history. I'm sure historic moments will be highlighted in the show as well.

So a mixture between Mad Men and a police mystery (that doesn't necessarily get solved in every episode).

So so far, very good.
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8/10
Not too late to catch a great ("great" in the sense of canceled) BBC series
The_late_Buddy_Ryan10 November 2013
Now available on disk from Netflix and streaming on Amazon Prime, this smart, stylish BBC series, set in the mid-50s, really hits its stride by the end of its first season. Sumptuous Bel and geeky Freddie (Romola Garai and Ben Wishaw), escapees from the BBC newsreel floor, are the offscreen talent behind the eponymous news program; Hector (Dominic West) is the hearty, "highly corruptible" frontman. The plot lines are a little over the top at times—Mr. Kish, the palefaced spook who self-destructs when he fails to hit the target, is straight out of the old "Avengers" series (not necessarily a bad thing)—but the interplay among the main characters is beautifully portrayed. Anna Chancellor and Peter Capaldi are great together as a pair of prickly ex-lovers, and Oona Chaplin, at first mainly decorative as Hector's neglected wife, has an amazing scene in which she kicks her latest rival to the curb in the kindest, gentlest way.

The first season is built around the Suez Crisis and the Burgess-Maclean spy scandal, but the political backdrop is pretty much self-explanatory; the second season reverts to more familiar hardboiled themes—bent cops, shady nightclubs, showgirls in jeopardy and a porno racket (innocuous b&w photos in this case)—before getting back to the big stuff, high-level corruption and the nuclear threat. A "behind the scenes" clip on the second DVD focuses on the obsessively detailed production design, which, as with "Mad Men," is a big part of the show's appeal.
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6/10
The Hour is 360 minutes too long
ChessLeveller5 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The Hour is a bold attempt on the part of the BBC to weave together a suspense thriller, a political drama and a social satire to produce a work that provides a commentary on the state of British society in the mid-1950s, as reflected and refracted through the camera lens and its treatment of current affairs, and which tries to explain the way in which society and television was fighting to break out of its straight-jacket. Unfortunately it does not really succeed and though one can see what the producers were trying to achieve it falls lamentably short.

The politics of it does not convince, and nor does its depiction of television in this era, which was still hidebound by the conventions and technical limitations of the time, in particular the fourteen day rule which precluded the coverage of political questions which were going to be debated in Parliament within a fortnight. This was mentioned by the characters but then seemingly disregarded. Of course, the point was that they were smashing through the barriers, but it nonetheless fails to convince. It was indeed the Suez crisis that brought about the effective demise of the 14 day rule, but as a result of the pioneering efforts of Granada and ITV (only brought into being one year previously) not the BBC.

More generally the whole ambiance of The Hour (both the show itself and the show within the show) is that of a later era, the mid-sixties perhaps rather than the mid-fifties. When I first saw the trailers for the show I guessed from the look of thing,the graphics, the central characters, etc that it was circa 1963 and that the show within the show was something akin to That Was The Week That Was. Television current affairs was simply not that spontaneous,rebellious or innovative in 1956, and the show fails to convey the sheer stodginess of life at that time in Britain.

There are quite a few seeming anachronisms, particularly in speech and manners, though admittedly one can never being completely sure of that, and some things jar horribly. It is inconceivable that a presenter would be brought on impromptu to do an interview in shirt sleeves. Both Romola Garai and Ben Whishaw look wrong for the period, and seem vaguely as if they have been time-warped back from sometime in the 1960s. Again this may be deliberate on the part of the programme-makers, to demonstrate that they are trail-blazing, avante garde figures, but I doubt it.

Moreover,much of the plot was obscure and failed to make any sense, and some scenes were plain ludicrous such as the fight scene in episode 3 between Whishaw (Lyon) and the MI6 chappie within the hallowed precincts of the Beeb itself. (Incidentally MI6 deal with espionage overseas not counter-espionage within the UK which is the remit of MI5). Characters are imbued with astonishing powers of prescience and political erudition way beyond what they would have possessed in real life (a common failing in historical dramas). Lyon has already managed to identify John F Kennedy as a major figure, and the characters greet Nasser's nationalisation of the Suez Canal as a seminal event long before its real significance was apparent (I fancy that Suez was very much a slow burner as a political issue). This is probably designed to demonstrate the character's insight but it merely reveals the way in which the drama has been written with the benefit of hindsight and the script's failure to capture the real essence of the way people thought and felt during the period in question.

The oft-made comparisons with Mad Men merely serve to underline the superiority of that series in almost every respect. All in all the hour is a bit of a waste of time - 360 minutes of it to be precise.
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Behind the Machinations of BBC: A Debut Series form the Brits
gradyharp18 August 2011
Behind the Machinations of BBC: A Debut Series from the Brits, August 18, 2011 By Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews (TOP 10 REVIEWER) (VINE VOICE) (REAL NAME) This review is from: Hour (DVD) Summer seems to be test time for new series for the television audience and so far the shows that are coming out of Britain look the most promising. First we had the abbreviated 3 episode appetizer ZEN which in its short run got progressively more interesting and promising and now come THE HOUR from BBC America. The series just debuted in what appeared to be prolonged trailer for the long series that hopefully will continue: the title refers to a television news broadcast that is created before our eyes, the final scenes being a toast to this new venture acting as an overture to what is to come.

Overtures to operas usually introduce themes that will appear in the opera that follows once the curtain opens and that is how THE HOUR comes across. This is a time piece set in the 1950s when Cold War-era England was awash in the news of the Suez crisis, one of Britain's sharpest intimations of loss, with a more intimate look at sex, ambition and espionage in the workplace along with the world wide speculation of JFK as a vice presidential candidate in the US. It's a time of unsettling change, except at the BBC, where even driven reporters are assigned to do feel-good newsreels about débutante balls and royal visits. The series opener, written by Bafta Award-winning Abi Morgan, takes us behind the scenes of the launch of a topical news program in London 1956, and introduces a highly competitive, sharp-witted and passionate love triangle at the heart of the series through the lives of enigmatic producer Bel Rowley (Romola Garai) and her rivals, journalist Freddie Lyon (Ben Wishaw) and anchorman Hector Madden (Dominic West): we will begin to see the decade on the threshold of change - from the ruthless sexual politics behind the polite social façade of the Fifties to the revelations that redefined the world for a new generation. Aside from the behind the scenes views and devious workings of the BBC we also see the beginning of a crime element in which the victim is touted as being part of a robbery while the ever-suspicious and career climbing Freddie sees it as a murder to be investigated. There are 1950s reminders of Debutante Balls, the universal cigarette smoking habits, the 'gentlemen only clubs' where women are not allowed (secondary citizens, you know!), and all the clothes and hats that reek of the 50s.

The cast is rich in fine British actors (Juliet Stevenson and Tim Pigott-Smith appear briefly in roles that will likely be expanded, Anna Chancellor is the acid tongued foreign correspondent, Burn Gorman is the suspicious, hatted man, etc), but if were only Ben Wishaw and Romola Garai and Domenic West every week the show would sail. There is a lot of style and sophistication and just the right amount of British intrigue and humor that almost sure that this series will fly.

Grady Harp
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2/10
Gave it a chance but
dean-55616 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I so wanted to like this show that I watched the whole first series... I love Madmen and wanted to give this time to develop into something similar,another richly subtle and voyeuristic view into a begone era.

What I got was someone's a 21st Century wish what they would have liked the 50's to have been. Chauvinism-lite that let's our talented and plucky girl get everything she wants accept an affair. Racism that is challenged with no apparent consequences, just do the story and problem solved. People lighting up in studio like the 50's while others go outside to have a smoke like modern second-hand pariahs.

I waited patiently for this to take off, for the conspiracy to make sense. Figuring there is some missing clue that will bring this all together. Then the climax into some hazy non-revelation.

They tried so hard to make the government the villain even when the characters or their motives make no sense. She's being targeted for recruitment by the Soviets and then suddenly she's British intelligence who kill her because she can't keep secrets. What made her so recruit- able in the first. Meanwhile the completely invisible soviet spies finally appear as the tortured intellectual souls that the left (and I assume the creators of this show) know them to be. Which would explain the revisionist of history casts Britain as the violator of international law and not Nasser whose nationalization of the canal is just delivering the needed comeuppance to the arrogant colonial superpower.

I assume this is the first and last season.
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1/10
What is this rubbish?
spotlightne23 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
It's been hyped to the hilt and so far people are believing the hype and those voting have rated it highly on the IMDb.

But what is this 'lavish' rubbish set in and around a TV studio in 1956? For starters, nothing much happens of interest, except for the cast walking round as if they're all terribly important actors in terribly important roles speaking in terribly important accents in a terribly important TV serial.

When all is said and done, I was bored by it. There was a murder and a suicide in episode one and even that couldn't raise the programme from its boredom level.

Being a follower of 1950s fashions, I was watching out for what the ladies and gentleman were wearing, but they couldn't even get that right. The leading actress frequently wore skirts and dresses way shorter than the 1956 style.

Ladies in 1956 never wore their skirts above the knee. It was a rule, calf length - especially secretaries, admin and business ladies.

Dearie me, I am so bored with this programme.
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Don't get your hopes up. Sadly, this is BBC drama by numbers
patrick powell11 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
There is so much out of kilter in The Hour that it is difficult to know where to begin. And it didn't do itself any favours (or, at least, the BBC press and marketing department didn't do it any favours) by billing itself as Britain's answer to Mad Men. The only thing they have in common is that both are set in a previous age, a previous era, really. But that's it. Where Mad Men aimed for top-dollar quality in every department - in treatment, approach, acting, direction - The Hour takes the easy way out and just serves up what it thinks the viewer wants. It aims no higher, which is a shame, because really good, memorable drama always aims higher, aims to tread new ground, aims to establish new conventions rather than, as The Hour does, slavishly follow the old, established, safe conventions. The twists, the scenes, the hackneyed lines, it is all so safe, safe, safe. That is not to say it fails miserably: it doesn't. It is entertaining enough and intrigues, and leaves the viewer keen to be told the solution to a mystery which has so far involved two murders, an apparent suicide, the secret service, more than just hints of official skullduggery and Soviet spying, all against a backdrop of some of the more dramatic moments of Fifties British history. But at the end of the day, from the casting, to the storyline, to the acting and the dialogue, this is TV drama by numbers. Unlike Mad Men (or two other startling originals, The Sopranos and The Wire), this is TV drama which takes no risks and as a result if just part of the herd. For this viewer at least almost none of the characters convinces. The exception of Anna Chancellor as the battle-hardened foreign editor - somehow she pulls it off. But the others just don't. They are each giving a 21st-century interpretation of Fifties Britain which, in so, so many ways is just plain wrong. The journalists aren't journalists, the toffs aren't toffs and, worst of all, the attitudes aren't authentic British attitudes. This review is being written perhaps rather prematurely, and I have only seen the first four episodes. Perhaps, my some miracle, it will take off and improve remarkably. But, you know, I don't think so. I really don't. We Brits do some things better than the Yanks we are, despite ourselves, rather in awe of, rarely, but most certainly occasionally. This is not one of those occasions. Stick to Mad Men, The Soparanos and The Wire for true originality.
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3/10
Ben Winshaw, An Arrogant Hero Who You Want To Clobber
marcshank-388-58237224 August 2015
Self-importance is the theme of this poorly done, goes-nowhere example of British snobbery in action. Everyone seems more concerned with insulting one another than moving the plot forward. Ben Winshaw gives yet another performance steeped in arrogance, a hero no one could possible like or admire. Didn't make it through the first episode, so consumed with a desire to clobber him. The rest of the characters, save the girl, who seems intent on taking every insult laid on her with proper British fortitude, is the only one who elicits any sympathy, content to be battered around by the idiots she works with. Dominic West must have known what he was getting into, but I wonder if he should have allowed the producers to have him start hitting on the girl as his first and second and third official act. All in all, don't bother.
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10/10
The Best
robert-temple-124 April 2014
This spectacularly brilliant drama series is Britain's answer to America's MAD MEN and Denmark's BORGEN. It is every bit within their league. Set in 1956 and 1957 at the BBC (with contemporary footage of the Suez Crisis and a speech to camera delivered by Anthony Eden himself), it features searingly powerful performances, intrigue, melodrama, mystery, pathos, comic moments, and profound psychological studies of the characters. It was written ('created') by Abi Morgan, who wrote the screenplay for BRICK LANE (2007, see my review), one of the finest British independent films in years. I suppose I must have met her at the private screening of that, but do not recall her personally, as I was too busy being charmed by the alluring Monica Ali who wrote the novel. Morgan has written the film SUFFRAGETTE (where Meryl Streep plays Emmeline Pankhurst), directed by the same Sarah Gavron who directed BRICK LANE, which many of us are eagerly looking forward to in 2015. It features the amazing Romola Garai and Ben Whishaw, who are both in THE HOUR, so it looks like key talent are sticking together and forming a much-to-be-welcomed old pals' club. Maybe that will result in a lot of first-rate films and series, if they bundle up their enthusiasms and push hard as a team. It reminds me of the talent cluster which surrounds the American director Amy Heckerling (see my review of CLUELESS, 1995, where I discuss that). In THE HOUR, the central performance which makes the entire series compulsive viewing is that by Romola Garai. She has so many emotional shades no spectrum analysis could ever classify them. Astronomers study spectra to see what stars are made of. But this star is made of everything. You want hydrogen? She's got hydrogen. You want helium? She's got that too. Rare earth elements, heavy metals, inert gases, mercury, iron, radioactive elements, everything is there. Just turn on Romola Garai and it all spews out as a cosmic jet, different each time, always perfectly tuned to requirements. And such big soft eyes alternating between insecurity and determination! Such female vulnerability mixed with such inflexible will! What a woman! But let us not forget Dominic West, whose masterful performance as a nice guy who just cannot control his impulses has plenty of shades of subtlety as well. We don't know whether to cuddle him or kick him, and neither does Romola Garai or anyone else for that matter. What a masterful performance of the ambiguities of a shifting, rootless personality! And then there is Ben Whishaw, skinny and earnest, heroic in his idealism but hopeless in declaring his love, also perfectly portrayed. Anna Chancellor is in a strong supporting role and gives what it probably the finest performance of her career. Once again, we find more shades than exist on any palette, if I may drag in one more metaphor. She comes from a Somerset gentry family named Windsor Clive, whose nearest neighbours are badgers and crows, but somehow Anna has acquired an encyclopaedic understanding of human nature in between long, thoughtful country walks in the hills, and she draws on emotions which some people do not even have, in her well-rounded portrayal here of a woman posing as a hard-bitten 'woman who has seen it all' but who is tormented by the loss of her child which no one knows she had. Everything about this series is so subtle, the sets and costumes and perfect, the atmosphere is all there. Anton Lesser and Peter Capaldi are unforgettable in their major roles also (Lesser in Season One and Capaldi in Season Two). Julian Rhind-Tutt oozes such powerful poison and menace that he provides one of the best portraits of a sinister Whitehall mandarin ever filmed. And Oona Chaplin, what a surprise! There are so many grandchildren of Charlie Chaplin popping up with talent. This one is Geraldine's daughter. I must say I was previously unaware of her, but she is so exquisitely talented that now she will be giving her first cousins James and Aurélia Thierrée a run for their money as most talented Charlie grandchild. In THE HOUR, so much talent pours out of Oona that it could be called Oona's Ooze, which if other actors are not careful can easily engulf them as she steals all the scenes. Although she was in an episode of SHERLOCK (2010, see my review), I somehow missed her in all the excitement. This time no one can miss her. So altogether, this is just one big bag of thrill, and a triumph of television drama. What, no third season? Or fourth? Or fifth? Has the BBC simply no staying-power? More please.
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6/10
period soap opera dressed up as a period thriller
PAUL ROMNEY16 June 2012
This drama has been compared to the American series "Mad Men", and I regret to say that the comparison is justified. The comparison rests in the first place on the "period" setting; but the deeper and more damaging resemblance is in the fact that both dramas are ultimately soap operas.

This is less obvious with "The Hour", which is set up as a mystery-thriller complete in six episodes rather than a multi-series workplace drama. However, the mystery-thriller plot turns out to be a tawdry, sadly vestigial side-show. The writer could scarcely be bothered to make it, and the associated mayhem, realistic and plausible. What is left is an office romance drama which is scarcely more realistic. In a nutshell, the dialogue toys with serious issues that turn out to be just a patina on a melodrama.

These defects are the more glaring because the big screen has recently given us a superb example of a "period" thriller in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." But that of course is based on a novel that was, when it was written, a contemporary drama.

One is left, then, with the period setting. Here too, one's efforts to suspend disbelief are constantly challenged. Romola Garai appears in a succession of costumes that seem more calculated to showcase her figure than to approximate mid-1950s workplace attire. And her character would not have asked a question (episode 1) about "Prime Minister Eden" but about "the Prime Minister", or "Sir Anthony".

More damagingly, the setting is inappropriately specific. "Mad Men" is set in an advertising agency, one of many that existed in that time and place. It is patched into historical events - events that actually happened. "The Hour" is a portrayal of an event - a BBC TV programme - that did not happen. It is a weakly realized fantasy.

Why 6 stars, then? Mainly because of the cast. Juliet Stevenson shines in any company; Garai is reliably excellent; but I particularly enjoyed Oona Chaplin's performance as an insecure wife. Either her part was better written than the rest, or she made it seem so.

The men are OK, and Anton Lesser is something more.
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Cultural vandalism.Anachronisms,anomalies and downright lies...
ianlouisiana25 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
After a series of sub - sub Saul Bass titles,"The Hour" gets under way with a typically cavalier attitude towards temporal and cultural veracity that characterises the BBC which increasingly appears to be making programmes aimed exclusively at the chattering classes gathering round their plasma tellies safely tucked away within the M25 corridor. Set in 1956,"The Hour" presents the Corporation as it wishes us to see it - a beacon of sensitive liberal intellectualism regarding its audience with benevolent paternalism. Certainly in 2011 the BBC is an absolute model of politically correct thought,gently pushing us peasants to acccept its World View if only because it is forced down our throats every night. But it is mistake of gargantuan proportions on their part to assume that an ever - growing ageing population who actually remember what life was like in 1956 is going to accept a portrait of the age awash with anachronisms,anomalies and downright lies. Imagine going to the theatre to watch "Richard The Third".The curtain goes up and the BBC's actor of the moment - Mr Jack Barrowman -say,shows his gleaming white teeth and starts up.."Hi Guys!Now is the Winter of our non - sustainable goodwill made,like, Festival Season by the iconic solar body from the home of our friends in the north,innit?" Without - obviously - comparing "The Hour" with Shakespeare,the level of dislocation from its time frame is at that level. The actors all look exactly what they are,21st century people bundled into clothes meant for mid twentieth century people who looked,walked and talked totally differently. Life was tougher then.There was National Service,corporal and capital punishment.Food was not plentiful and it wasn't "healthy".The second world war was only 11 years before.Suez was looming,the Hungarian Revolution which tolled the death - knell for the Britich Communist Party.My father still had his demob suit. The cast looked as though their idea of hardship was getting a poor table at "The Ivy". As it presents London as it wishes it was in "Eastenders",The BBC is presenting recent history as it wishes it had been.Hitler and Stalin would wholeheartedly approve.
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THE HOUR is a dull drama about how the BBC wish they'd been
Guy21 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Plot: Two BBC journalists start a radical new news show but are caught up in a murder-conspiracy.

Right now British TV is trying to play catch-up with the US and this is a blatant attempt to rip off the period glamour of "Mad Men". Sadly, whilst the 1950s in Britain is interesting from a news perspective - Suez, Hungary and television - it's also a dull, shabby, exhausted and distinctly not glamorous period. Which doesn't stop the BBC from making it into one, no matter how incongruous. What really lets it down though is the writing, which is so trendy, metropolitan, and left-wing that it bears no real relation to the period whatsoever. Example: "Mad Men" dealt with changes in racial attitudes with subtlety, with black-face and black servants slowly giving way to Civil Rights; "The Hour" simply has the main character walk through streets packed with (only) black people whilst calypso music plays loudly and he quotes Martin Luther King (in 1956!). The story follows two journalists, one an insufferably chippy 'working class' smart-arse who makes you want to beat his head in with an Alan Sillitoe novel, the other a woman in a man's world who actually spends most of the series in a tepid love triangle and modelling (inappropriate for the period) clothes. The other characters are a thinly sketched parody of a conservative boor and a ferocious, alcoholic female war correspondent (the only one whose character rang true). As a period piece it fails because the leads (anachronistically) hold exactly the same 'correct' political beliefs as the 21st century BBC. As a drama it fails because it mostly consists of the leads telling each other how wonderful they are. In addition, because straight drama is apparently too dull, there's a poorly shoehorned in murder-conspiracy that is poorly plotted and somewhat inevitably implicates "the authorities". Altogether, glossy rubbish.
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9/10
Please tell me there will be a Season Two
bluegoldhighlander21 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I sincerely hope this show gets another season as I really enjoyed it's debut. The Hour was a real "don't miss" for me with it's mixture of suspense, drama, romance and occasionally a laugh. *Caution, spoilers.* The show's setting in such a fascinating political time added to it's appeal, and coupled with a subtle exposure of the abuses of power as demonstrated by Britain's MI6 made for a very intriguing mixture.

I enjoy British TV and film, as it seems to rely less on slapstick, sex, toilet humour and car chases. This is an intelligent series that made me want to refresh my memory on the history of the era, with Suez, the Hungarian Uprising and British spy scandals.

I thought the entire cast did a great job, with special nods for: * Ben Whishaw's nervous intellectual * Romola Garai's professional woman trying to walk the line between career and personal life * Anton Lesser's subtly menacing manager * Dominic West's upper class, prep school type working to be accepted as a part of the mostly working class team

I thought the show demonstrated a skillful blending of personal interest with political events. And the tone and scene was very well set, with the BBC's offices slightly darkened atmosphere and wonderful period feel.

Applause, and please give us more.
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6/10
Moderately entertaining but too long
LCShackley22 September 2011
THE HOUR is a decent 2-hour movie crammed into a 6-hour miniseries.

It's about a ground-breaking BBC news show in 1956, in which the daring, progressive news team dares to face down the government and its undercover minions! Doesn't this sound like a thousand other BBC plots: government=bad, journalists=good! Of course, the bad government is carrying on a bad war, and covering it up with evil spies! I wonder if we're supposed to draw any comparisons with more recent history. Hmm!

Some people compare this with MAD MEN, seemingly for the sole reason that it's set in the 1950s. For me, it's like a bad British remake of BROADCAST NEWS with a spy plot grafted on. By the last episode, it's easy to forget all the details of the setup, although I must say the writer did a decent job of explaining the whole plot (something the Beeb often forgets to do). The main character is an annoying little git who looks like Frank Sinatra's famous mug shot photo. The rest of the cast is more tolerable, including a tightly-wound Anton Lesser, the versatile Julian Rhind-Tutt in a semi-tough guy role (hard to take seriously with those dorky 50s glasses), and Burn Gorman, sinister as usual with his mouth like a badly-healed scar.

Having worked in broadcasting for many years, I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes aspect of the plot. The spy subplot needed LOTS of tightening, but even so the series was worth a watch.
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8/10
Great show- Fantastic cast 1st series
dcurrie62326 October 2016
Fast moving, very well written show about spies and TV Broadcasting in 50's Britain. The cast is uniformly superlative both as individuals and collectively (sorry about the 'socialist' term - but it is 50's Britain)... sorry, 'Ensemble' is the word. All great down to the smallest parts. Excellent script, good period atmosphere, lighting, photography, set design. There's even some James Bond references which I think is premature but by 1956 Fleming had published three books.

I've never seen Mad Men so I can't relate to the comparisons and I have yet to see Series 2. I watched this on DVD (remember those?) in two 150 minute chunks and both parts held interest from start to finish. Outstanding.
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The Hour: an analogy and metaphor for the present
stanley_b24 August 2015
My wife and I have only just come across The Hour. We considered the acting excellent. The story was sequential, absorbing and compelling.

I was born and raised in the U.K. I was 16 years old in 1956; the year of Suez and the Hungarian uprising. I remember them well. Those events as depicted in the series relate well to the memories I have of those times. Also, in contrast to some anonymous comments, the day to day personal issues and interactions are compatible with my own memories of those times; the only possible exception being the amount of alcohol consumed by both sexes at the BBC.

The main point of the series for me however is that it depicts how the issues of today would have been exposed had they occurred in those days; but not today. Today such exposures are either not current or are smothered under the guise of the public good and safety. It is not surprising that the series was not continued. Indeed it is surprising that it was shown at all, by the BBC.

Barry Stanley
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