This year has, for all its other shortcomings, at least given me the chance to catch up on some film and TV viewing pleasures. Some time ago my kind daughter gave me as a present a box set of the 2011-12 TV series The Hour, which had always sounded interesting to me, but which I missed when it was first screened. At last I've been able to catch up with it.
The show was the work of an experienced screenwriter Abi Morgan, whose films include The Iron Lady and Suffragette, both of which were very watchable. The premise of The Hour is particularly interesting, and again reflects her interest in history with a political slant. The two series were set in 1956 and 1957 respectively, around a BBC current affairs show called, you guessed it, The Hour. The political events in the background - the Suez Crisis and the nuclear arms race - play an important part.
Each series comprised six episodes. The producer of the fictional programme is Bel Rowley, played by Romola Garai, with the show's anchor played by Dominic West. Ben Whishaw is a reporter called Freddie Lyon. There are also key roles for Anton Lesser and, in the second series, Peter Capaldi. With a cast like that, you can't go far wrong. In particular, I thought that Dominic West was brilliant in his portrayal of the charismatic but deeply flawed Hector Maddern. It's a tricky role that calls for an actor with a considerable range, and West definitely delivered.
The scripts are enjoyable, but they did suffer from a common weakness. The first series in particular sagged in the middle. I got the impression that Abi Morgan had enough ideas to fill three or four episodes, and that there was quite a bit of padding to spin things out. This criticism applies with less force to the second series, two episodes of which were scripted by other writers. But overall the virtues of The Hour certainly outweigh its weaknesses.
The BBC cancelled the series because of poor viewing figures, which was a pity, because I think the idea had great potential that could have been developed further, perhaps in shorter series, or with two sets of three episodes in a single series. There were also, I gather, some anachronisms, but these didn't spoil my enjoyment at all. It's worth watching for the quality of acting, but the two stories are also entertaining, especially in the closing stages.