Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Amidst Communists and showgirls, The Hour returns

When first announced, The Hour was (somewhat unfairly) billed as the British Mad Men, a comparison that I think did it a disservice.  I am a huge fan of both series’ but they are worlds apart in both subject and tone.  While Mad Men is very insular, with occasional references to the outside world (the deaths of JFK and Marilyn Monroe for example), The Hour seemed to have a much wider scope, perhaps helped by the fact that the ever familiar BBC was the main setting for the show.  Series one of The Hour took place against the background of the political turmoil surrounding the Suez Crisis in 1956.

I can imagine some people started watching for the clothes and design, but then stayed for the intrigue of this Abi Morgan-penned cold war thriller.  Bel (played by Romola Garai) is the (somewhat overly) glamorous producer of the eponymous news show, with a wardrobe not dissimilar to a certain Joan Holloway.

The chain-smoking foreign correspondent Lix Storm (a bond-girl name if ever I heard one, played by Anna Chancellor) has a wardrobe reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn, lots of simple tailored trouser suits and blouses in a muted autumnal palette.

As the show is set mainly in the workplace, the majority of the men are of course wearing suits.  However, as the characters differ, so do the suits; from the arrogantly elegant Hector Madden (played with aplomb by Dominic West) to the straight-laced government press advisors, Angus McCain (in a sterling turn from Julian Rhind-Tutt).  Also interesting to see is the transition of Freddie Lyon (played by Ben Whishaw) from local hack (quite tweedy and scruffy) to co-anchor (still individual but deeper, crisper colours).

A thread of Communism wove its way throughout the first series, a theme that is given greater prominence in the second with the Britain of 1957 preoccupied by the Soviet launch of Sputnik 2 and a fear of impending nuclear disaster.

The second series will also involve a lot of excursions to El Paradis, a Soho club and from the trailer I can see there will be a fair few showgirls– so lots more gorgeous costumes!  Peter Capaldi and Hannah Tointon are joining the cast as the new Head of News and Kiki the showgirl (I’ll let you decide which is which!)

I am very much looking forward to the new series starting – I mean I work for a vintage news crew and it is as though they were filming a day in the life of The Vintage News (apart from all the murder, spies, government interference and a proper studio)!  Apart from the obvious parallels with my life, I also enjoyed that The Hour has a much grittier storyline than is afforded most period dramas (although with a few slightly shy-making pieces of dialogue) and of course I loved the costumes (designed with remarkable detail by Suzanne Cave).

 Actually, this one is quite a lot like my job!

The second series of the Hour will start on BBC2 on the 14th of November.

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