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August 18, 2011


"The Hour" on BBC America

The Hour on BBC America

Broadcast News

The first episode of a new BBC series "The Hour" was on last night. It's pretty great! Watching something good on TV again was so gratifying that I didn't realize until now how long it's been since I got excited about a new show.

Every single review I've seen for this show has gone out of its way to stress how "The Hour" is nothing like "Mad Men", though both are set in the workplace in an era when people dressed sharply while behaving terribly, and drank whiskey and smoked, both have ambitious, compelling female characters who want more than their chosen industries are comfortable with giving them, and both are located in a mid-century period when the world is about to change forever.

But "The Hour" is about TV news. As far as I'm concerned, News > Ads, so there's pretty much no way I wouldn't be into this show.

But, OK. It's not really like "Mad Men". The mid-50's London setting is a lot darker and dingier than the bright, shiny offices of early-60's Sterling Cooper. The news rooms are small and cramped, and oppressive class distinctions are positioned front and center. Life in post-war London probably didn't feel sleek, modern, and hopeful, it probably felt stifling and hard. Rationing was in place until 1954, and the empire was disappearing.

I love this stuff, so I'm all over this show. The actors in "The Hour" are fantastic--Ben Wishaw as the scrappy, talented journalist with an investigative instinct, Romola Garai as the hot, brassy, but insecure producer (have you see this woman in other stuff? She's phenomenal) and Dominic West as the slick, charming news presenter who seems to get his way a little too easily, and is even better looking than Don Draper.

This triangle is literally exactly the same as the one in Broadcast News, the movie with Albert Brooks as the talented journalist who lacks social graces, Holly Hunter as the fiesty producer, and William Hurt as the style-over-substance ladies' man news presenter. Broadcast News is just about a perfect movie, so I have no problem with lifting the characters straight out of it and plopping them in the early days of BBC TV news.

Let's watch one of the great scenes from Broadcast News that will probably be more or less recreated in some dark, ugly bar or basement news room sometime in the next few weeks:

Even with the food rationing and all those cigarettes, everyone in "The Hour" is a whole lot handsomer than anyone was in Broadcast News. Really, how did we ever see William Hurt as a sex symbol?

The scrappy Albert Brooks-like investigative journalist basically serves as the Don Draper of the show, and watching him speak passionately about news in one great scene where he predicts the next day's headlines (accurately, we later see) is as good as Don Draper's best sentimental pitch.

In later episodes, we'll learn more about the ghoulish Peter Lorre-like figure who keeps murdering prominent people for some shadowy political reason, and watch Dominic West dashingly seduce everything in a skirt.

categories: Celebrities, Culture, Movies, TV
posted by amy at 11:38 AM | #

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I never really got the point of Broadcast News because I just can't imagine a network that would even consider putting someone who looks like Albert Brooks on screen as an anchor. But it does have one of my all time favorite jokes in movies, when Aaron is trying to remind the girl that he's met her before and his friend says "you remember Aaron was on that 14-day rafting trip we took" and Aaron says "it was raining. . .I was wearing a hood." And the girl nods and pretends to recognize him. Almost - but not quite - as hilarious as Teri Garr getting locked in a bathroom at a party in "Tootsie" and saying "I've been trapped in there for hours. Didn't anyone notice I was gone?"

Posted by: T-Rock at August 18, 2011 7:36 PM

"She remembers me!"

Posted by: amy at August 18, 2011 10:50 PM

That Lyon chap looks like he could be the next Doctor Who. I'm really enjoying it--the setting has a lot of room to maneuver.

Posted by: Carson at August 21, 2011 8:25 PM

Yeah, he's got some toughness for such a lithe, wispy-looking guy. He played Keats in a movie called Bright Star that was pretty to look at, but somehow managed to make being a Romantic poet seem about as exciting as actuarial data entry. I want to see him in that movie by the guy who did Run Lola Run where he makes perfume out of dead people.

Posted by: amy at August 22, 2011 3:55 PM

Nailed it! Broadcast News with Peter Lorre, kind of a Broadcast M-ews?

I find Ben Wishaw's penetrating craziness is much more entertaining than Albert Brooks' whining. Helps the pacing of the show, too, which moves at a nice clip.

Posted by: John at August 23, 2011 11:22 AM

Yeah, that Peter Lorre guy with the fish mouth was in the appalling series Torchwood. He played the sexy doesn't-give-a-damn action man who beds all the ladies. You know, Cary Grant was from England. The only time I got annoyed at The Hour was when Dr. Who called McNulty "Cary Grant".

Posted by: Carson at August 23, 2011 3:36 PM

And Ian Fleming once worked for Reuters! I liked the references to him sprinkled around.

Yeah, McNulty's no Cary Grant. But then, who is? As Cary Grant said, "Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant."

Posted by: amy at August 23, 2011 3:48 PM

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