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The Hour returns for another bout

The Hour (2011) poster

Written by : published Friday 18th January 2013

As BBC's The Hour begins its second season (recently released on Blu-ray and DVD), it has been over a year since we last left the characters. It's 1957, and in Freddie's absence (Ben Whishaw), Bel (Romola Garai) struggles to keep the show within a show living up to its potential, mostly failing, as even she will admit. Her mission is complicated by the fact that Hector (Dominic West), the face of the broadcast, has let his celebrity go to his head, and has become notoriously unreliable.

Luckily, it isn't long before Freddie is back in town, and a new scandal involving a crime syndicate in Soho, where Hector hangs out, is enough to get the team engaged in real news again, climbing out of the rut they are mired in.

It's funny how The Hour continues to be as relevant today as it would have been in the time it took place. It excels in illustrating that as much as things change, they also stay the same. Hector's behavior is obviously easy to draw parallels to with modern celebs and scandals, and the fight between being journalists over addressing commercial concerns is still current, as cable news goes after ratings and ad money, sacrificing reliability and thorough work.

There are plenty of similarities between The Hour and HBO's effort The Newsroom. Both are inspiring tales that make journalism sexy and something to root for. They build up the people behind a program, casting them as heroes in the fight against the powers that be. It's a trend I'd like to see more of. Forget cops and lawyers and crime scene investigators; we've had enough shows about them already. This decade is about the reporters!

The Hour is very character driven. The relationship between Freddie and Bel, complicated when Freddie comes home with a wife, Camille (Lizzie Brochere, American Horror Story: Asylum), continues to be one of the catalysts that moves the plot along. The actors have fantastic chemistry, and The Hour does as all dramas do, throwing stumbling block after stumbling block in their way, keeping the friction between them alive, and allowing the simmer to propel the plot. I want to see them get together well before the series ends for good, but for now, the dance between them is delightful.

With no Bel to pursue anymore, since they didn't work out as a couple, Hector has to give his time over to other pursuits. It saddens to see his character lose his way, but, on the other hand, it's much better that he sticks around The Hour post-relationship, rather than disappearing from the cast. It gives West the chance to milk the pathos and personality of a larger than life man who just isn't finding his place and purpose in the world, an intriguing concept, to be sure.

I really like the new addition Randall Brown (Peter Capaldi, Torchwood: Children of Earth, The Thick of It) as the boss. He is someone who not only proves worthy of matching wits with the employees under him, our protagonists, but his secrecy and the way he clouds his motivations make him interesting in of himself. He's a good wrench to throw at our main characters, and he keeps things interesting at the news station, providing the internal pressure to balance out external concerns.

Sadly, the special features on the Series 2 DVD comprise a single behind-the-scenes featurette. With the historical context, this season featuring Caribbean immigrants and the Space Race as plot points, one wishes there were something to explain the choices of tying certain real events into this fictional world. There is not.

Aside from that, though, the episodes are solid, and the performances continue to deliver. I would definitely recommend checking out The Hour 2, available now.

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About the author JeromeWetzelTV


Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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