Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Hour: Would we like it more if it was about The One Show?

It does, of course, look amazing, but beyond the beautifully observed 1956 period detail, it feels like The Hour is still working out what it is.

For every set painstakingly constructed (hello props department!) - from the kitchen larder stocked with authentic-looking Birds powdered custard and cleaning product Brasso (would those even be stored together?), to the art deco stairwells of what is meant to be the BBC's Lime Grove studios used as back-drops for scene after scene of people walking and talking a lot - there seems to be two or three programmes going on at once.

So is The Hour an "occupation-based" drama, specifically aimed at those now mainly dead journalists who worked during the early days of tv current affairs, given its insight into the creation and early days of a new hour-long news programme from the 1950s?

Or could it basically be quite a hum-drum drama programme about office politics and power and class and smoking indoors, but all given an extra sheen thanks to the authentic period detail?

There's an ambitious cocky young journalist, an ambitious slightly older cocky journalist who is not as good as he thinks he is, and an ambitious young journalist who is reminded of her status as "a woman" at regular intervals, but is also "the producer" of the programme.

Take the very same plot and give it the backdrop of The One Show and it suddenly feels a bit more ordinary.

Or, is The Hour some sort of murder mystery, with an odd looking character (Thomas Kish, played by Burn Gorman) who we know has carried out two murders, but who also happens to be a whizz with translation and so is casually employed in the BBC studio, as the Suez Canal crisis unfolds - and, stunningly, leads to one of the best lines of absurd dialogue ever uttered:

"The only English man I know who can switch from the Classical Arabic to the Egyptian vernacular without batting an eyelid," says Anna Chancellor, as she's hunched over a typewriter, playing journalist Lix.

In fact, The Hour could easily be all these things, and is probably trying to be - but it needs to heat up a bit, and soonish.

So far it's all pretty pictures and nice clothes and intermittent posh accents and an escalating international political crisis to boot.

Let's hope it comes together - authentic boxes of 1950s powdered custard do not a good drama programme make - but they help.

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