Friday, September 02, 2011

'The Hour' by Abi Morgan

2 September 2011

I wrote here in April 2006 that I think the TV serial is the most satisfying of drama formats, allowing much greater character development than a play or film. It’s indicative of the decline of the format that it’s taken more than 5 years for me to discover a new drama to challenge for a place in my ‘Desert Island TV serials’, but finally along came Abi Morgan’s ‘The Hour’ on BBC2. ‘The Hour’ felt like an old-fashioned serial (I mean that as a compliment), not just because of its 1956 setting. It’s an exploration of the development of TV news, the political saga of Suez, a spy thriller and a murder mystery. Over 6 hour-long episodes ‘The Hour’ creates a cast of believable and rounded characters you really care about. The dialogue is carefully crafted and often very funny. It repeatedly made me think of the work of Dennis Potter – with mysterious spooks in raincoats loitering in the background as in ‘The Singing Detective’ as well as showing the changing nature of the British establishment through the Suez crisis as in ‘Lipstick on Your Collar’. ‘The Hour’ was excellently cast, with great performances particularly from Romala Garai, Dominic West, Anton Lesser and Tim Pigott-Smith, but the star of the show was undoubtedly the fascinating Ben Wishaw as Freddie Lyon. ‘The Hour’ was a perfect example of the TV drama serial – long enough to explore the characters in depth, but with a rounded plot which built to a climax with a final twist. I just hope they are not tempted to make a sequel.

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