Hour: Season 2
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Hour, The: Season Two (2012/BBC/Blu-ray)
Critical favorite The Hour returns for more drama and intrigue on Blu-ray January 8! Season two rejoins The Hour team in 1957 where we are introduced to new characters played by Peter Capaldi (The Thick Of It, The Nativity) Hannah Tointon (The Inbetweeners) and Tom Burke (State of Play). They strive to broadcast the stories they believe in at the same time they grapple with the looming specter of the Cold War and changing social mores. With the advent of space race and the threat of nuclear annihilation forever looming, Britain grapples with an era of unprecedented scientific advancement, economic opportunity and cultural change in the face of new immigration from the Commonwealth. At the same time, the members of The Hour team live in a world of cover-ups, sexual intrigues and lurking fascism.]]>
Elegant and smart, from the sharp dialogue to the chiaroscuro cinematography, BBC's The Hour revisits the news landscape of the nascent television age, while shining a light on today's more fast-paced era. In this darker-hued season, the team struggles with a sex scandal, police corruption, and the rise of neo-fascism. A new boss, Randall Brown (In the Loop's Peter Capaldi, sly and subtle), takes over, and doesn't like what he finds, starting with the hard-living anchor, Hector Madden (Dominic West), whom he aptly describes as "self-destructive and highly corruptible." A professional on the set, Hector is a serial womanizer in his off-hours, and his socialite wife, Marnie (Oona Chaplin, more impressive than ever), couldn't be more miserable, until she finds a way to establish her own unique identity.
Brown also prefers the reporting of ITV competitor Uncovered, so he rehires journalist Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) as cohost, to the consternation of Hector and producer Bel Rowley (Romola Garai), who fell out at the end of the first year (Lizzie Brocheré plays the new lady in Freddie's life). As his fame increases, Hector's situation worsens when Kiki (Hannah Tointon), a showgirl, accuses him of abuse, so Bel sets out to uncover what's really going on at the El Paradis Club, while Freddie shines a light on the white supremacists running rampant in his Notting Hill neighborhood, plot lines that involve a controlling club owner (Vincent Riotta) and an amorous ITV executive (Tom Burke). As these six episodes come to a conclusion, the story strands coalesce, and most of it works quite splendidly, even Brown's history with desk editor Lix Storm (Anna Chancellor), which starts off on an uncharacteristically soap operatic note. As long-buried secrets rise to the surface, The Hour ends on a moment of triumph for some--and tragedy for others. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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The focal point of the story is "The Hour", the first 60-Minute type news show in Britain in the still somewhat grey, grim post-WWII years - newsreels are going out of style and the BBC is looking for an intriguing new format. "The Hour" is what they come up with, and it is also notable for being the first news show produced by a woman (Bel Rowley, played by Romola Garai). What gives the show its intellectual heft is the way actual news stories of the era (for example, the 1956 Suez and Hungarian revolt crises) are utilized to bring out different aspects of the characters and to highlight their values and attitudes.
The central characters were all introduced in Season One: the beleaguered Bel, out to prove that a woman can do it and do it well; Hector Madden, the hunky, handsome face of the show (Dominic West), struggling with terrible war memories, a difficult marriage, and his fierce attraction to Bel; and Ben Lyon, the passionate, intellectual, left-wing journalist who will stop at nothing to get a good story, also cherishing unresolved feelings toward Bel, who is equally confused about her feelings for him.
The stories also tell us a great deal about post-war Britain: the rise of immigration of people of color from Britain's former colonies uncovers blossoming racism; sexual scandals rise to the highest political levels (shades of the Profumo scandal!); MI6 appears to be involved in the cover-up of several murders, including that of the young daughter of the socially prominent Lord Elms; Downing Street exerts pressure on the network to slant or suppress stories.
Through the interrelationships of the cast to each other and through their vehemently held views on the news stories that "The Hour" focuses upon and how to handle them, the program brings us very vivid characterizations. As dialogue around Britain's still rigid class system, among other issues, develops, we can begin to see some of the trends that would eventually lead Britain into its next era, the Swingin' Sixties. The beauty of the show is that all of these themes are seamlessly woven together, the historical and the personal.
In Season Two, Peter Capaldi, one of this reviewer's very favorite British (he is Scottish) character actors, joins the cast as the new head of the unit producing the show. He shares a past with series regular Anna Chancellor, the older, seasoned, and slightly embittered senior woman on the staff.
Season Two follows most closely the political and law enforcement scandals emanating from a seedy nightclub, the Paradis, whose owner does not take interference lightly. Tension builds throughout the episodes as we wonder just how much the staff of "The Hour" is willing to risk to expose, and by doing so bring down, senior members of the Metropolitan Police Force and the government. Season Two ends on a true cliff-hanger event, and if there is no Season 3, there are going to be very many angry and disappointed viewers.
This is really entertainment for grownups - the writing does not (although there is no profanity) pull any punches, and as someone else has pointed out, when "The Hour" was aired in the US on BBC America, it had to be edited to fit in commercials. The DVD does not have those commercials, and therefore has in it the footage that did not make it on the air here.
Very, very highly recommended!
This year The Hour has returned with season two, and I have to say it has only stepped up it's game (which was a TALL order to accomplish in my book seeing as how I adored season one). In my foray through the world of tv I have found time and again that it is a rare show indeed that only gets better with season two, and this show is one of those rare gems. There is a reason it has received critical acclaim.
The writing is done brilliantly by Abi Morgan (Shame, The Iron Lady). It never fails to grip me and draw me into the characters and the conflicts which they face. What impresses me the most is both the dynamic writing for all of the characters and the fact that the historical setting (this year being the Cold War) is never romanticized, but examined through the eyes of these characters for it's unflattering qualities as it interweaves with the story line.
In addition, the cast is made up of some of the most talented actors of our time, headed by Ben Whishaw (Bright Star, Skyfall), Romola Garai (Emma, Atonement), and Dominic West (The Wire). These characters (and all the characters) are beautifully sculpted. Through both the performances of the actors and the writing given to them, we are made to care deeply about these flawed, realistic individuals working tirelessly to bring the truth to the people in the world of journalism where honesty isn't always regarded as the best policy.
Freddie Lyon brings all the heart to the show, as Bel brings the know how and strength to steer the ship that is 'The Hour'. I have been floored by the cast performances this year (particularly by Ben Whishaw (Freddie Lyon), Peter Capaldi (Randall Brown), and Anna Chancellor (Lix Storm) in the earth shattering finale we are left with at the end of season two. There should be many award nominations for that episode alone.)
In short, 'The Hour' deserves praise on top of praise. I've lauded this show time and again to my friends and I hope desperately that it will get a season three so we can be reunited with Freddie, Bel, and Hector at least one more time. I highly recommend 'The Hour' if you love well drawn characters, brilliant writing and acting, or if you simply love EXCELLENT TELEVISION. Just as I did last year, I've once again excitedly pre-ordered my copy and will be watching these DVDs repeatedly.
Therefore I wanted to see Series 2 of 'The Hour' on BBC America and then order that set. I did orser and have received the set, but was very disappointed that not all Series 2 episodes were shown on BBC-Am.
I enjoy Series 2 as much as Series 1. This is a series that makes me think while I am entertained, yet I do not feel I am being lectured.