The Hour (BBC TV series)

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For the Scottish magazine show, see The Hour (magazine series). For other meanings, see The Hour.
The Hour
Genre Period drama
Created by Abi Morgan
Written by Abi Morgan
Composer(s) Daniel Giorgetti
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 12 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Jane Featherstone
Derek Wax
Abi Morgan
Lucy Richer
Producer(s) Ruth Kenley-Letts
Running time 59 minutes
Production company(s) Kudos Film and Television
Original network BBC Two, BBC HD
Original release 19 July 2011 (2011-07-19) – 13 December 2012 (2012-12-13)[1]
External links

The Hour is a 2011 BBC drama series centred on a 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 HD from 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.

Following the airing of the final episode of the first series, it was announced that a second series had been commissioned, which is 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 that the series was cancelled by the BBC.[1]


Plot (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 titular "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.

Episode list[edit]

Series 1 (2011)[edit]

No. # Title Directed by Written by Original air date U.K viewers
1 1 "Episode 1" Coky Giedroyc Abi Morgan 19 July 2011 (2011-07-19) 2.99

It's 1956. At Alexandra Palace, reporters and best friends Bel Rowley and Freddie Lyon are finishing another long day working on the BBC newsreels. Fed up with constantly overlooking the issues of the day in favour of royal engagements and sporting triumphs, both yearn for bigger, bolder stories and a freedom to dictate their own agenda. But on this particular occasion, both are hopeful: Clarence Fendley is assembling a team for a new weekly current affairs programme, The Hour, at the BBC's Lime Grove Studios, and there's a sense that Bel and Freddie may be just about to get the break they need.

Freddie finds himself reporting from a young debutante's engagement party and realises that she is a childhood friend. There he is drawn into a murky world of subterfuge, intimidation, and political scheming. It is a story which will lead him from a suspicious murder and a coded message into the private dealings of the ruling elite, and ultimately to a conspiracy which has the potential to shatter the society around him. Freddie needs freedom to pursue his story and it seems that freedom will only be realised by joining the team of The Hour, where Clarence has assembled a talented team. New front man Hector Madden brings a charismatic edge; entitled and self-assured, Hector's immediate spark with Bel triggers friction between him and Freddie, and the tempestuous love-triangle which emerges drives their ambitions and fuels the aspirations of The Hour. The team seek the bigger stories and with the looming crisis in Suez they soon find themselves at the heart of a fierce political struggle between the government and the BBC, which will dominate their decisions and test their resolve.
2 2 "Episode 2" Coky Giedroyc Abi Morgan 26 July 2011 (2011-07-26) 2.02
The Hour is struggling. The ratings are down, the reviews are terrible, and Hector and Freddie are bickering like children. As events escalate in Suez, Bel knows their only hope is to pull off a brave interview with an Egyptian diplomat - but is Hector up to the challenge? Meanwhile, Freddie discovers a mysterious code which may well provide a clue to Ruth's death.
3 3 "Episode 3" Harry Bradbeer Abi Morgan 2 August 2011 (2011-08-02) 1.92
A weekend invite to a shooting party at Hector's in-laws gives Freddie an opportunity to quiz Adam Le Ray on his relationship with Ruth, whilst Hector struggles with his ailing marriage and his growing feelings for Bel, whom he eventually seduces. At the office, suspicion about Tom Kish is mounting and Isaac is on the case.
4 4 "Episode 4" Harry Bradbeer Abi Morgan 9 August 2011 (2011-08-09) 1.86
The newsroom crew makes plans to celebrate Freddie's birthday while he visits Tom's widow and questions her about Ruth's film. MI6 is constantly keeping an eye on the newsroom and on Freddie's activities. Freddie accidentally finds out about Bel and Hector.
5 5 "Episode 5" Jamie Payne Abi Morgan 16 August 2011 (2011-08-16) 1.67
The war in Suez has the country divided and McCain steps up his pressure on The Hour to toe a pro-government line, but with a huge anti-war protest gathering in London, Freddie has other ideas. Meanwhile, pressure mounts on Bel and Hector when news of their affair gets out, and Lix helps Freddie with an important lead.
6 6 "Episode 6" Jamie Payne Abi Morgan 23 August 2011 (2011-08-23) 1.86
Tensions run high in the newsroom as the team prepares to defy government instructions and air a controversial episode on the Suez crisis, while Freddie is unsure whether his special guest will turn up. As McCain and Douglas keep an eye on proceedings, all their futures hang in the balance.

Series 2 (2012)[edit]

No. # Title Directed by Written by Original air date U.K viewers
7 1 "Episode 1" Sandra Goldbacher Abi Morgan 14 November 2012 (2012-11-14) 1.68
It's late 1957, one year since The Hour was taken off air. With Freddie gone, Bel struggles to keep The Hour afloat as the new Head of News arrives.
8 2 "Episode 2" Sandra Goldbacher Abi Morgan 21 November 2012 (2012-11-21) 1.12 (Overnight)[6]
Bel bristles as newlyweds Freddie and Camille steal the limelight at a party. Fascism is topical. The Hour is controversial and Hector's drunken late nights at El Paradis catch up with him.
9 3 "Episode 3" Catherine Morshead Nicole Taylor 28 November 2012 (2012-11-28) 1.06 (Overnight)[7]
Bel and Freddie are determined to get to the bottom of who beat up Kiki, but dredging up the arrest angers Hector, whose drinking begins to spiral out of control. Wartime bonds of loyalty become strained.
10 4 "Episode 4" Catherine Morshead George Kay 5 December 2012 (2012-12-05) 1.27
Bel and Freddie pitch the developing story of an expose of Cilenti's vice network and related police collusion. This story is in competition with a political story of rising tensions related to British nuclear missile policy. Cilenti seems to be orchestrating many of the unfolding developments.
11 5 "Episode 5" Jamie Payne Abi Morgan 12 December 2012 (2012-12-12) 1.14 (Overnight)[8]
When a source's body is found, a shaken Bel commands the team to halt their pursuit of the dangerous Cilenti while Freddie tracks a new lead.
12 6 "Episode 6" Jamie Payne Abi Morgan 13 December 2012 (2012-12-13) 1.17 (Overnight)[9]
Scandal hits The Hour as Hector's face hits the tabloids, and Bel and Freddie cross a line that threatens their relationship.


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]


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".[12] 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,[13][14] with the show's writer Abi Morgan admitting some lines "haven't worked".[15]

The show was well received in its American premiere on BBC America, receiving an 81 on Metacritic, indicating "Universal Acclaim".[16] 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."[17] 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."[18] 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."[19] Alyssa Rosenberg wrote in The Atlantic: "The Hour is not the British Mad Men: it's better."[20]

Former founder member of ITN Lynne Reid Banks criticized the series for putting a more recent modus operandi into a period of the 1950s.[21][22]

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).[23] 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.[24] In Canada, this programme became available through Netflix in January 2012.[25] In South Africa, this series has been acquired by M-Net to screen from 25 December 2012 at 8.30PM .[26]


  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. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ For example, A. A. Gill in the Sunday Times, 24 July 2011
  14. ^ 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:
  15. ^ 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. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  16. ^ "The Hour (UK)". Metacritic. 
  17. ^ Franklin, Nancy. "On Television: Empire State of Mind – The World of the BBC in the Fifties". The New Yorker. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  18. ^ [1]. The New Yorker.
  19. ^ McNamara, Mary (28 November 2012). "Television review: BBC's 'The Hour' is time well spent". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  20. ^ Rosenberg, Alyssa. "'The Hour' Is Not the British 'Mad Men': It's Better". The Atlantic. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  21. ^ The Hour is a travesty of 50s TV news, Lynne Reid Banks, The Guardian, 24 July 2011
  22. ^ The Hour: season one, episode two, Rebecca Nicholson, The Guardian, 26 July 2011
  23. ^ "BBC America Program Details: The Hour". BBC America Media Room. Archived from the original on 27 August 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2011. 
  24. ^ "ABC1 Programming Airdate: The Hour (episode one)". ABC Television Publicity. Retrieved 16 November 2011. 
  25. ^ Press release (5 December 2011). "Media Alert - Critically-acclaimed series, The Hour, debuts on Netflix". Canada Newswire. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  26. ^ Pickard, Michael (30 March 2012). "The Hour comes for Shine Int'l". C21Media. Retrieved 2 May 2012. 

External links[edit]