The Hour (2011 TV series)

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The Hour
GenrePeriod drama
Created byAbi Morgan
Written byAbi Morgan
ComposerDaniel Giorgetti
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of series2
No. of episodes12 (list of episodes)
Executive producersJane Featherstone
Derek Wax
Abi Morgan
Lucy Richer
ProducerRuth Kenley-Letts
EditorsGareth C. Scales
Xavier Russell
Nick Arthurs
Paul Machliss
Running time59 minutes
Production companyKudos Film and Television
Original release
NetworkBBC Two, BBC Two HD
Release19 July 2011 (2011-07-19) –
13 December 2012 (2012-12-13)[1]

The Hour is a British television drama series broadcast on BBC. The series was centred on a then-new current-affairs show being launched by the BBC in June 1956, at the time of the Hungarian Revolution and Suez Crisis. It stars Ben Whishaw, Dominic West, and Romola Garai, with a supporting cast including Tim Pigott-Smith, Juliet Stevenson, Burn Gorman, Anton Lesser, Anna Chancellor, Julian Rhind-Tutt, and Oona Chaplin. It was written by Abi Morgan (also one of the executive producers, alongside Jane Featherstone and Derek Wax).

The series premiered on BBC Two and BBC Two HD on 19 July 2011 each Tuesday at 9 pm.[2][3] Each episode lasts 60 minutes, with Ruth Kenley-Letts as producer and Coky Giedroyc as lead director. It was commissioned by Janice Hadlow, Controller, BBC Two, and Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning and produced by Kudos Film and Television. Hornsey Town Hall was used for much of the filming.

Following the airing of the final episode of the first series, it was announced that a second series had been commissioned, which was co-produced by American network BBC America.[4] It premiered on 14 November 2012 in the UK and on 28 November 2012 in the United States. On 12 February 2013, it was announced by the BBC that the series would not continue.[1]



Series one[edit]

In the autumn of 1956, Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) is a reporter unhappy with his job producing newsreels for the BBC. Desperate to get onto television, which he feels offers greater immediacy, Freddie is unaware that his best friend Bel Rowley (Romola Garai) has been selected by their mentor Clarence Fendley (Anton Lesser) to produce a new news magazine, the eponymous "The Hour". Rowley selects experienced war correspondent Lix Storm (Anna Chancellor) to head the foreign desk for the programme, leaving Freddie to run domestic news, a position which he considers inferior. For anchor of the programme, Clarence selects the handsome and patrician Hector Madden (Dominic West). They are joined by Thomas Kish (Burn Gorman), a mysterious and taciturn translator for the BBC who helps them cover the developing Suez Crisis.

As the team struggles to put the show together, Freddie is approached by Ruth Elms, the daughter of a member of the House of Lords who had employed Freddie's mother. She asks him to look into the murder of Peter Darrall (Jamie Parker), a college professor whom she knew. Soon after, Freddie finds her dead in her hotel room, an apparent suicide.

As the Suez Crisis escalates, the production team strives to report on British involvement in the crisis, despite pressure from the administration and in particular Angus McCain (Julian Rhind-Tutt) to present a sanitised narrative for the public. Freddie becomes more and more convinced that Peter Darrall and Ruth Elms were killed for some sinister reason. He discovers a secret message that Darrall tried to pass on before he was murdered: "Revert to Brightstone" and finds a movie reel depicting Ruth, Darrall, and Thomas Kish on holiday together. When confronted, Kish intimates that the government is behind the murder of Darrall and Elms, but he kills himself after a struggle with Freddie before the latter can learn more. Bel begins an affair with Hector. Hector's wife, Marnie (Oona Castilla Chaplin) finds out, telling Bel that she wasn't the first woman to have been with him since they married. After Clarence tells Bel that the affair threatens to ruin her career and damage the show, she calls it off.

As the Suez Crisis flares into armed conflict, Freddie learns that Darrall had been a communist spy and had been involved in a program to recruit bright and susceptible young people, referred to as "Bright Stones" to the Soviet cause. Ruth had been one of these Bright Stones and Kish had been sent by MI6 to keep tabs on them. Freddie also discovers that he is marked as a "Bright Stone". As British troops move to seize the Suez Canal, Freddie does a live interview of Lord Elms, Ruth's father, who denounces the government. However, as the interview goes out Clarence, at the insistence of higher-ups in the government, orders it to be taken off air halfway through the show. Bel is then fired by the BBC and Freddie confronts Clarence, who tells him that he had put him on the Bright Stone list, and that he is a Communist spy. He then tells Freddie to run this information as a news story. Freddie leaves the studio with Bel, telling her that they have a story to write.

Series two[edit]

The second series takes place in 1957. A new Head of BBC News, Randall Brown (Peter Capaldi) has taken over, to whom Bel must report while attempting to prevent the programme's now famous and increasingly dissolute presenter Hector Madden from defecting to rival ITV. Freddie, having spent time in France and married a French woman, Camille, is taken back as a co-presenter to the fury of Hector. In trying to hold on to Hector, Bel becomes involved with the ITV magazine producer Bill Kendall. Two big issues dominate the series and join together: vice in London's Soho and the nuclear race.

Hector, despite marital problems, frequents a Soho nightclub, El Paradis, run by Raphael Cilenti, whose leading dancer is Kiki Delaine. During a party hosted by Hector and his wife Marnie at their apartment two policemen arrive to arrest Hector on suspicion of beating up Kiki, which Hector denies. Hector's wife, Marnie, allows him to stay at the police station and spends the night at their home before she goes for an audition to get on a cookery show. She finally goes to take him home, but is now determined not to endure his extra-marital affairs, telling him their marriage is now for appearances only. Freddie and Bel pursue the story about the attack on Kiki.

Racial tension is on the rise across London, following the arrival of Commonwealth immigrants, and Freddie's is keen to feature the issue and decides to interview a fascist (Trevor) the same day that board members come to the studio. Camille suffers xenophobic abuse from fascists. Bel meanwhile decides that The Hour will run on the Wolfenden Report, but she finds it impossible to get participants.

Show-girl Rosa-Maria visits Bel to tell her that Kiki has disappeared; Hector calls Laurie for help, unaware that he has contacted the person who assaulted her. Freddie is sure that he is on the track to uncovering the truth about Kiki, despite a warning from Commander Laurence Stern for the team to stay away from the story. An argument with McCain leads to a drunken Hector being escorted home by Stern and there Hector begins to recall an incident from their military past which throws doubt on his friend's character.

Freddie and Bel continue their search for Kiki; they pitch the exposé of Cilenti's criminal activities coupled with anti-nuclear policy, but Randall challenges them to get sources to show that the first story is ready. In order to satisfy him Bel meets Rosa-Maria, who puts herself in danger and reveals how Cilenti's has such power over some of the country's most influential leaders. Meanwhile, Randall and Lix, who had worked together in Spain during the civil war grow closer over their daughter, who was adopted.

Bel continues her relationship with Bill, to the annoyance of Freddie, who is soon abandoned by Camille. Photos from a recent NATO summit contain a face which Freddie deduces forms the connection between the Cilenti and the nuclear stories. Bel's source is murdered and, shaken she tries to stop the pursuit of the Cilenti story. Freddie and Hector however, follow the story further to establishment corruption involving a mystery company aiming to profit from nuclear bases. Finally Hector's face hits the tabloids in connection with the vice scandal, making it more difficult for The Hour to cover such a major conspiracy. Freddie's determination to follow the story to the very end puts him in mortal danger.


Series 1 (2011)[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [5]
11"Episode 1"Coky GiedroycAbi Morgan19 July 2011 (2011-07-19)2.99
22"Episode 2"Coky GiedroycAbi Morgan26 July 2011 (2011-07-26)2.02
33"Episode 3"Harry BradbeerAbi Morgan2 August 2011 (2011-08-02)1.92
44"Episode 4"Harry BradbeerAbi Morgan9 August 2011 (2011-08-09)1.86
55"Episode 5"Jamie PayneAbi Morgan16 August 2011 (2011-08-16)1.67
66"Episode 6"Jamie PayneAbi Morgan23 August 2011 (2011-08-23)1.86

Series 2 (2012)[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [5]
71"Episode 1"Sandra GoldbacherAbi Morgan14 November 2012 (2012-11-14)1.68
82"Episode 2"Sandra GoldbacherAbi Morgan21 November 2012 (2012-11-21)1.12 (Overnight)[6]
93"Episode 3"Catherine MorsheadNicole Taylor28 November 2012 (2012-11-28)1.06 (Overnight)[7]
104"Episode 4"Catherine MorsheadGeorge Kay5 December 2012 (2012-12-05)1.27
115"Episode 5"Jamie PayneAbi Morgan12 December 2012 (2012-12-12)1.14 (Overnight)[8]
126"Episode 6"Jamie PayneAbi Morgan13 December 2012 (2012-12-13)1.17 (Overnight)[9]


The show was officially cancelled by the BBC on 12 February 2013. The BBC commented: "We loved the show but have to make hard choices to bring new shows through."[10] It was commented that while the show had received good reviews, its viewing figures were low and therefore a third series was not merited. The second series only managed to muster an average of 1.24 million viewers per episode, compared to the first series which managed an average of 2.02 million.[11] For BBC2, primetime shows normally require an average audience of at least 1.75 million to be recommissioned. Producers commented that they were upset to see the show cancelled, as they had plans for a third series.[10] On 18 April 2018, The Hour writer Abi Morgan revealed in an interview with RadioTimes that she was trying to resurrect the series for a third series in 1960's London. The Hour's Executive producer Jane Featherstone also said that she would be keen to revive the show.[12]


Critical reception of the first episode was mixed, with Sam Wollaston of The Guardian expressing scepticism over a popular comparison with Mad Men, calling the episode a "slower starter" and "a bit of hotchpotch – Drop the Dead Donkey meets Spooks", but overall stating that "there's enough intrigue there to whet the appetite for more".[13] However, AA Gill in The Sunday Times called it "Self satisfied guff" with "a script that would shame a Bruce Willis movie", and Michael Deacon of The Telegraph criticised it as "an exercise in upbraiding the past for failing to live up to the politically correct ideals of the 21st century", although he praised Morgan's writing and concluded by stating "I wouldn't want to give up on The Hour too soon".[3] Even so, there were some criticisms of the script as being riddled with anachronisms,[14][15] with the show's writer Abi Morgan admitting some lines "haven't worked".[16]

The show was well received in its American premiere on BBC America, receiving an 81 on Metacritic, indicating "Universal Acclaim".[17] Reviewing it for The New Yorker magazine, Nancy Franklin wrote that it is "almost absurdly gratifying. With its casting, its look, its unfolding mysteries, its attention to important historical events, its sexiness, The Hour hits every pleasure center."[18] In the full printed version of the same article, she adds "[It is] as if it were a space containing chocolate, gold, a book you've always wanted to read, your favorite music, and the love of your life, who desires you unceasingly."[19] Mary McNamara in the Los Angeles Times writes that the second season "improves its already stellar cast and grows in sophistication", and notes that, during its first season, "critics were divided – mostly by the Atlantic."[20] Alyssa Rosenberg wrote in The Atlantic: "The Hour is not the British Mad Men: it's better."[21]

Founder member of ITN Lynne Reid Banks criticised the series for putting a more recent modus operandi into the 1950s.[22][23]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The series has been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards and four BAFTAs.

Awards and nominations
Award Category Recipients Outcome
64th Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special Abi Morgan Nominated
69th Golden Globe Awards Best Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Dominic West Nominated
Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film Romola Garai Nominated
Art Directors Guild Award Art Directors Guild Award for Best Production Design – Miniseries or TV Film Eve Stewart (production designer), Leon McCarthy (art director), Beverley Gerard (art director), Amy Merry (graphic designer), Heather Gordon (assistant graphic designer), Julia Castle (set decorator) Nominated
1st PAAFTJ Television Awards Best Miniseries or TV movie Ruth Kenley-Letts, Jane Featherstone, Abi Morgan, Noelle Morris, Lucy Richer, Patrick Schweitzer, Derek Wax, Cahal Bannon, Producers (BBC) Nominated
Best Writing for a Miniseries or TV movie Abi Morgan Nominated
Best Production Design in a Miniseries or TV movie Eve Stewart Nominated
Best Editing in a Miniseries or TV movie Gareth C. Scales & Xavier Russell & Nick Arthurs & Paul Machliss Nominated
Best Main Title Theme Music Nominated
Best Main Title Design Nominated
2012 British Academy Television Awards Best Photography and Lighting: Fiction Chris Seager Nominated
Best Sound (Fiction/Entertainment) Jamie Caple (dialogue editor)
Rudi Buckle (production sound mixer)
Nigel Squibbs (re-recording mixer)
Marc Lawes (sound effects editor)
Best Sound: Fiction Marc Lawes
Nigel Squibbs
Rudi Buckle
Jamie Caple
Best Supporting Actress Anna Chancellor Nominated
Broadcasting Press Guild Awards Best Actor Dominic West Won
Best Actress Romola Garai Nominated
Best Drama Series Abi Morgan Nominated
Writer's Award Abi Morgan Nominated
2nd Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Movie/Miniseries Nominated
Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie Dominic West Nominated
70th Golden Globe Awards Best Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
2013 British Academy Television Awards Best Supporting Actor Peter Capaldi Nominated
Best Sound: Fiction Nigel Squibbs (re recording mixer)
Marc Lawes (sound fx editor)
John Mooney (production sound mixer)
Jamie Caple (Dialogue Editor)
Best Original Television Music Kevin Sargent Nominated
Best Editing Gareth C. Scales Nominated
Best Production Design Eve Stewart Nominated
3rd Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Movie/Miniseries Nominated
Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie Dominic West Nominated
Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie Romola Garai Nominated
65th Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special Abi Morgan Won
Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Special Jill Trevellick Nominated


In the United States, this programme commenced screening on BBC America from 17 August 2011 each Wednesday at 10 pm E/P (9pm C).[24] The programme commenced screening in Australia on ABC1 from 21 November 2011 each Monday at 8:30 pm, with episode one and two combined into a première movie-length airing.[25] In Canada, this programme became available through Netflix in January 2012.[26] In South Africa, this series has been acquired by M-Net to screen from 25 December 2012 at 8.30PM .[27]

Kudos Film and Television produced a four-DVD set of the complete two BBC series (with a 15 age certificate), along with 'extras' such as features behind the scenes and the art design of the programmes, and with interviews with members of the cast, in 2012.


  1. ^ a b "'The Hour axed by BBC2". Radio Times. 12 February 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  2. ^ "The Hour: introduction". BBC Press Office. 4 July 2011.
  3. ^ a b Deacon, Michael (19 July 2011). "The Hour, BBC Two, Episode 1, Review – Michael Deacon Isn't Convinced by the BBC's New Drama Series, Set in a 1950s Newsroom, That's Being Touted as the British Mad Men". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  4. ^ Conlan, Tara (27 August 2011). "BBC2's The Hour to Return for Second Series – Channel's Controller Reveals 50s Drama Will Be Back, and Says There Are No Plans to Scrap Newsnight". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Weekly Viewing Summary (see relevant week)". BARB.
  6. ^ Millar, Paul (22 November 2012). "'I'm a Celebrity' stays above 9 million mark on Wednesday". Digital Spy. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  7. ^ Millar, Paul (29 November 2012). "Hugh Grant's Channel 4 phone hacking doc draws 470,000". Digital Spy. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  8. ^ Millar, Paul (13 December 2012). "British Comedy Awards watched by 1.8 million". Digital Spy. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  9. ^ Millar, Paul (14 December 2012). "'MasterChef: The Professionals' final beats 'Young Apprentice'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  10. ^ a b Jack Seale. "The Hour axed by BBC2". RadioTimes.
  11. ^ average figures based on tables above
  12. ^ Dowell, Ben (18 April 2017). "The Hour writer wants to revive the show for a third series set in the 1960s". RadioTimes. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  13. ^ Wollaston, Sam (19 July 2011). "TV Review: The Hour – The Hour Isn't a British Mad Men – All It Has in Common Is Smoking and Drinking". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  14. ^ For example, A. A. Gill in the Sunday Times, 24 July 2011
  15. ^ Belle and Freddie affectionately call each other "James" and "Moneypenny", referencing a relationship that only happens in the James Bond films which began in 1962, and not in Ian Fleming's novels:
  16. ^ Graham, Georgia (22 August 2011). "She's on It: Scriptwriter of The Hour Admits Some Lines 'Haven't Worked' – Abi Morgan Responds to Charges of Linguistic Anachronism in 1950s-Era BBC Drama". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  17. ^ "The Hour (UK)". Metacritic.
  18. ^ Franklin, Nancy. "On Television: Empire State of Mind – The World of the BBC in the Fifties". The New Yorker. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  19. ^ [1]. The New Yorker.
  20. ^ McNamara, Mary (28 November 2012). "Television review: BBC's 'The Hour' is time well spent". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  21. ^ Rosenberg, Alyssa. "'The Hour' Is Not the British 'Mad Men': It's Better". The Atlantic. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  22. ^ The Hour is a travesty of 50s TV news, Lynne Reid Banks, The Guardian, 24 July 2011
  23. ^ The Hour: season one, episode two, Rebecca Nicholson, The Guardian, 26 July 2011
  24. ^ "BBC America Program Details: The Hour". BBC America Media Room. Archived from the original on 27 August 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  25. ^ "ABC1 Programming Airdate: The Hour (episode one)". ABC Television Publicity. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  26. ^ Press release (5 December 2011). "Media Alert - Critically-acclaimed series, The Hour, debuts on Netflix". Canada Newswire. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  27. ^ Pickard, Michael (30 March 2012). "The Hour comes for Shine Int'l". C21Media. Retrieved 2 May 2012.

External links[edit]