I’ve just finished watching the final episode of the BBC’s “The Hour”. Much has been said in the press about it being a British equivalent to “Mad Men” (lazy reporting – the two shows have nothing in common at all, aside from most of the male characters wearing suits), and of the frequent misuse of modern dialog in a drama set in the 50s.
The anachronistic language didn’t bother me too much, but one thing did. Throughout the whole drama, set in 1956, the two principle characters jokingly refer to each other as “Moneypenny” (frequently) and “James” (rarely, in response). The first James Bond novel was written in 1953, and at the time of the drama, only 3 novels had been published. While it is true that both the characters are intelligent and well read, so may have been familiar with these early novels, it seemed to me the joking seemed based on the depiction of Miss Moneypenny in the films, the first of which wouldn’t be produced for another 6 years.
I felt this was typical of the sloppyness (or absence) of basic research on the period. Despite this, I found the show fairly enjoyable to watch. However, this was mainly for the characters, as I felt the plot itself was rather weak.
What follows contains serious spoilers. Do not read if you haven’t yet watched this program (but intend to).
I feel that a fictional show about BBC news during the Suez crisis could have been entertaining enough, without any mysterious murders or government conspiracy. But having given us a conspiracy, it was a shame that the shady goings on were actually less exciting than the depiction of running a proto-Newsnight type show.
Of course, there had to be twists, but I was more bemused than confused – our murdered people were killed because they were potential russian spies; no wait, they were apparently working for MI5 in a plot to assassinate a foreign leader; no wait again, they were working for MI5, but were killed by MI5, because they knew about the MI5 plot they themselves were involved with.
But the thing that made me really groan was the shocking revelation at the very end. I mean, the way Anton Lesser depicted Clarence, was there anybody who wasn’t thinking from Episode 1: “Ah, Clarence is the real Russian mole in the BBC”? Do the writers think we are stupid? For the last few episodes, I had simply assumed the viewers were supposed to realise this (while the characters remain oblivious). But come the final episode, it was clear that we were not supposed to know this – it was to be the final surprise twist. In this, they failed completely.
So I am not sorry I watched “The Hour”, as it definitely had its moments. It is just a shame it wasn’t as good as it might have been, had they not bothered with the whole conspiracy nonsense, and just showed it as a straight drama about the evolution of news reporting.