Anyone who follows me on Tumblr should have realised by now that I very much enjoyed the first episode of BBC2's new programme, The Hour. I've actually been looking forward to this show for quite some time - I couldn't tell you when I first heard about it but it was, no doubt, a result of my adoration of Ben Whishaw. When I realised it also stars Romola Garai (whom I've come to love after being completely enchanted by her in Emma) I was doubly happy. The fact that it's set in the '50s and is about a news programme didn't hurt either. I could have blogged about this ages ago but I wanted to wait until I had something more to say about it - i.e. after I watched at least one episode. (I've tried to keep this post as spoiler free as I can - most of what I say is revealed very near the beginning of the show).
The Hour centres on the behind-the-scenes world of a topical news programme (The Hour) set in 1956, at the time of the Suez Crisis. A brief google search will show you that there have been countless comparisons to Mad Men but, as I never got past the first few episodes, I can't make any of my own (and, yes, I've been told countless times to finish watching it but, no, I have no immediate plans to do so as I've got plenty of other shows to watch at present). I can, however, tell you just what I enjoyed about The Hour on its own merits. For one thing, I thought the opening sequence was a very interesting way to start a show - a close up shot of Ben Whishaw, playing Freddy Lyon, giving a speech, the gist of which can be summed up by this quote: "The newsreels are dead. We’ve bored the public for too long. Give me this opportunity and I’ll prove it." It turns out that he is practicing for an interview in front of a bathroom mirror. (We later learn that he is hoping to get the place of producer on the new topical news programme but it has already gone to his female colleague and friend, Bel, played by Romola Garai.)
I first saw Ben Whishaw as Pingu in the offbeat comedy Nathan Barley and I've made a point to follow his career, more or less, since then. (First off because I thought he was so beautiful and adorable and then, later, when I realised he is a brilliant actor who makes very interesting choices in regards to the roles he takes on).
I'm a bit torn about the styling for Romola Garai's character - I love her clothes (especially that she wears a trench, and only has two, I think, costume changes) but something about her hair seemed a bit off. Her hair is very pretty but I wasn't entirely sure I was seeing 1956 when I looked at her (sometimes it seemed fine, others I wasn't so sure). Hmm. Shall ponder that a bit more and feel free to either agree or disagree with me on this point!
I liked her subtle make-up, though - you all know I'm a red lipstick gal all the way but it's nice to see variety in a period piece and not just making it seem like every single woman wore sported red lips!
The Hour is filmed beautifully, in my humble opinion, and uses depth of focus and (sometimes) moody lighting, etc., to create the atmosphere of the show. While I wouldn't call it gritty, exactly, it's definitely on the darker side of things. It really is just so aesthetically delicious, though.
I liked that we got to see a bit of a variety of clothes, too...
As well as Ben Whishaw and Romola Garai the cast includes...
and Oona Chaplin and Dominic West, amongst others.
I'm not sure this was a show that makes you sit up and go 'Hey, that was absolutely amazing!' as I think it was a bit more subtle and slow-going albeit in a nice way. I'm very interested to see where it all goes and to learn more about the relationship between Freddy (Whishaw) and Bel (Garai), especially as Bel has the job of producer of The Hour, which causes some tension between she and Freddy during this episode. I'm definitely intrigued to see how it will deal with a woman in what is essentially a powerful position but I will probably think/write more on that later.
Oh, and there's a bit of a murder mystery too. (OK, so you see the killer but you don't actually know who he is or exactly why the murdered man was killed, yet).
I haven't got around to going through my reader, so I don't know if anyone else has blogged about the first episode, yet - would love to hear some different thoughts on it, though. (Likewise, I haven't read any other reviews outside of blogs at present as I like to formulate my own initial thoughts before doing so...) And if you haven't seen it, I definitely recommend it! I think you should be able to view it on iPlayer if you are in the UK and there are a few links going around Tumblr if you search through the tags but it does seem a little harder to find for those of us outside the UK.
All screencaps are from RAWR-CAPS(dot)net (this link will take you to a page where you can download a .zip file of all the images). If you take any please credit back to the original source.
Andi B. Goode
P.S. I had a very hard time not just filling this post up with pictures of Ben Whishaw and Romola Garai's magnificent facial expressions.