The Hour 1.01 review

A column article, Shot For Shot by: Kelvin Green, Paul Brian McCoy
1956. Bel Rowley and Freddie Lyon, BBC reporters and best friends, apply to join a new current affairs program. Meanwhile, Freddie is asked to investigate a murder.

The Hour airs every Tuesday at 9:00 on BBC TWO and stars Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai, and Dominic West.

Kelvin: So, The Hour is a new show about plucky young journalists changing the world of TV news. So why are we following our Luther coverage by looking at it?

Because it's not just about plucky journalists. It's also about murder and conspiracy at the highest level.

Paul: Starring Nathan Barley's Pingu, Ben Whishaw!

Kelvin: Ha!

Paul: I thought he looked familiar.

Kelvin: I was trying to place him too.

Paul: But I just couldn't place him until now. Hopefully there will be no jumping out of windows.

Kelvin: No to defenestration!

Also starring Being Human's Herrick, Jason Watkins!

Paul: I'm always amazed when I see him playing something other than pure evil.

Kelvin: Yes, I always think of him as a mass-murderer now, so it's odd to see him as a timid BBC man.

Paul: I almost didn't recognize him. Both here and in Season Two of Psychoville - although he turned out to be evil there, too.

Kelvin: Yes indeed. He's had a lot of work of late.

So what did you think? It was advertised quite heavily here, but I'd imagine it was a more unknown quantity for you.

Paul: I really had no idea what I was getting into. I'd read a small bit on Bleeding Cool about it, and then you said it looked interesting, so I took a chance. But I still wasn't really keen on it until you mentioned Burn Gorman playing a sort-of young Gatehouse.

That got my attention.

Kelvin: Ha!

Paul: And if any readers don't know who or what "Gatehouse" is, you should definitely check out The Shadow Line.

Kelvin: Everyone should watch The Shadow Line.

Paul: I will admit, though, that this first hour of The Hour took a while to draw me in.

Kelvin: Yes, it does seem to be a bit uncertain about what it wants to be. Which doesn't help to grab viewers.

Paul: It was like a much more subtle From Dusk Till Dawn with the way it seemed to shift genres.

Kelvin: Yes, that's quite apt. I have to say that aside from Ben "would make a good Doctor" Whishaw, I wasn't particularly grabbed by the plucky young reporters part, but the chase in the Underground won me over.

Paul: Yes, the transition from "Behind the scenes at the BBC" to "Political Conspiracy Thriller" was nicely done.

Even then, I wasn't really hooked. When Freddie's old friend Ruth (Vanessa Kirby) shows up seeming straight-up paranoid I began to sit up and take notice.

Kelvin: Yes, a good performance there, and it was off-kilter enough to give a bit of life to the whole thing.

Paul: I thought they were going to go the Mad Men route with the bored, alcoholic wife, struggling in a man's world, but then...

Kelvin: Yes, it's now a bit weird, and that helps keep things interesting. Not quite as bonkers as Luther, but just weird enough to set it apart from the average costume drama.

I'm curious to see where it goes and how they merge the two strands; I'm assuming that this didn't actually happen at the BBC in the 50s, so we're in alternate history territory.

Paul: It was nice to see Dominic West show up.

I'm always a little thrown when I hear him speaking in his real accent. Just like Idris Elba in Luther, speaking of which.

They both did so well playing American in The Wire it's a little shocking when they open their mouths and speak all funny.

Kelvin: Oh yes, West was in The Wire too.

(Once again repeats his mantra of "must watch that someday")

I'd forgotten that.

Paul: I'd quite like to see his Oliver Cromwell in The Devil's Whore, too.

Kelvin: Oh, that was quite good, as I remember, although I only saw a couple of episodes.

Paul: He's a little slimy here, which he does to perfection. I'm very curious to see how he fronts a News Program.

Kelvin: Yes, he's perfect in this role, which I'm sure people will compare to Jon Hamm's Mad Men character.

Paul: The only performance here that seemed a bit flat was the other lead, Romola Garai, as Bel.

Kelvin: Yes, given that they're positioning her as a lead, she's a bit bland.

Paul: She wasn't necessarily bad or unbelievable, but there just didn't seem to be a lot to do with the character at this point.

Kelvin: It's a surprise, as she's so good in Emma and The Crimson Petal and the White.

Paul: Well, like I said, she's not bad. It's more the character that seems flat after one episode.

Kelvin: Yes, it seems as if the character got played out within five minutes. One wonders where she can go next.

Paul: Hopefully writer/creator Abi Morgan will begin adding the layers as the series goes on.

Kelvin: Yes, although Bel's plot is the newsroom bit, and that's the least compelling so far. Perhaps as the other threads come in, that will change.

Alas, Abi Morgan's previous credits are not that impressive, but then again, The Shadow Line was written by someone known for comedy, so the past is not always informative.

Paul: True, true.

Holy crap! I was just looking to see who played the seedy government representative and realized it was Julian Rhind-Tutt! I didn't recognize him at all!

Kelvin: Yep, hidden behind horn-rimmed glasses and a cloud of cigarette smoke!

Paul: And we loved us some Green Wing around these parts. Although we weren't all that impressed with Hippies.

Hippies has been the only Graham Linehan show we've not enjoyed. Granted, we only watched the first episode and quit.

Kelvin: I don't think I ever watched it. I think it was on my first year of university, when I didn't have a TV.

Paul: Maybe it got better.

Kelvin: It didn't get a second series, so probably not! Oh, Sally Phillips was in it.

Rhind-Tutt was in Your Highness, apparently, but I don't remember him. I do remember him in Keen Eddie though. And Tomb Raider.

Paul: Anyway, Wow! He was completely changed with the haircut and the glasses. He played smarmy rather well. I think I prefer him playing that to his pretty boy roles.

Kelvin: Yes he does that well. Everything I remember him from has him in a similar part. It's a pity he wasn't in it more, but then given his role, I suspect he'll appear again as the conspiracy is explored.

Paul: I was also impressed with Anna Chancellor as Lix Storm. It was a small part, but she was far more interesting a character than Bel.

Kelvin: Yes she was! Again, I'd have liked to see more of her, but I'm not sure how much more we'll get.

Paul: Oh! And I just found where I recognized Freddie's assistant, Isaac (Josh McGuire) from! He was Ollie in Season Two of Misfits!

Kelvin: Oh yes, I knew I recognised him from somewhere.

Paul: The more I realize who's in this cast, the more intrigued I am about watching the show.

Kelvin: Yes, it's a good cast, but they're not getting much out of them yet. Still, early days. And now they've set out their stall, things should be more interesting.

Paul: Knowing the pedigree of the performers does give me hope that we'll be getting more from them as the show goes on. Even if it's only in small character bites.

Kelvin: Yes, I'm going to assume that as the threads come together, we'll see the cast doing better.

Paul: The grittiness of Ruth's "suicide" made me hopeful for things to come. More so than the relatively bloodless murder in the train station. That, combined with the discovery by Freddie of the secret information on the cigarette paper at the end, really got me intrigued about the next episode.

Kelvin: Yes, I'm keen to see where all that goes; the new News Show, not so much, although I'm sure they'll intersect soon enough.

Paul: It looks like they're going to really be using the "The Hour" as a way of grounding the story in real-life historical events. Hopefully, the whole Cold-War Espionage elements will cause them to resonate more fully, rather than being just a backdrop for the story to play out against.

Kelvin: One would hope so!

It does mean that they've badly misrepresented the show in advertising though.

Paul: I'm just really not clear on where they're going with that part of the show.

Kelvin: Yes, it's the part which has dominated the promotion, but is the weakest aspect thus far.

Paul: With that said, I'm afraid the first episode of The Hour shakes out to a score for me. There's a lot of promise here, but it took a little too long to engage me. That may just be me, though.

Kelvin: No, it's not just you. There are some good performances, and the conspiracy aspects are compelling, but I can't give it higher than at this point.

Paul: Well, let's hope then that with the groundwork out of the way, next week's episode gets off to a stronger start.

Kelvin: Fingers crossed!

Kelvin Green erupted fully formed from the grey shapeless mass of Ubbo Sathla in the dark days before humans walked the earth. He grew up on Judge Dredd, Transformers, Indiana Jones #12, the Avengers and Spider-Man, and thinks comics don't get much better than FLCL, Nextwave and Rocket Raccoon. Kelvin lives among garbage and seagulls and doesn't hate Marvel nearly as much as you all think he does.

Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to What Looks Good and Shot for Shot. He currently has little spare time, but in what there is he continues to work on his first novel, tentatively titled Damaged Incorporated. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, sci-fi television, the original Deathlok, Nick Fury, and John Constantine. He can be summed up in three words: Postmodern Anarchist Misanthropy. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.

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