Channel Hopper: The Hour

Taut, Abi Morgan-penned period news drama starring Ben Wishaw, Romola Garai and Dominic West

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Channel Hopper: The Hour

Let’s get this straight: here we have a modern BBC drama about a 1950s BBC news programme called ‘The Hour’ with each of its six episodes lasting an hour? Yes, The Hour (BBC2, Tue, 9pm) may originate from a confusing place, but through the spandex-tight writing of Abi Morgan, you’ll be on board quicker than you can say ‘warped news values’.

Ben Whishaw is Freddie Lyon, a prickly reporter whose inability to compromise is both his strong suit and Achilles heel. When longstanding cohort Bel Rowley (Romola Garai) is offered the job of producer on a new current affairs TV show, she tries to drag him along, but the ‘slick and smug’ photogenic presenter Hector Madden (Dominic West) stands for everything Freddie hates. Whenever West furrows his handsome brow (which is often), fans of The Wire will lean slightly forward in anticipation of him yelping, ‘What the fuck did I do?’

But the real drama is going on away from the autocues and make-up dabbers. It’s 1956 and the Suez Crisis is brewing, while on the home front, paranoia and assassinations are afoot with an academic slain in an Underground tunnel. The murder is brought to Lyon’s attention and after initial disdain at talk of conspiracies and ‘they’, the opening episode’s shocking finale leaves him hellbent on uncovering the truth. Only the all-too inevitable sexual tension between the three key characters will loosen the grip Morgan has applied in 60 short minutes.

First episode airs on BBC2, 9pm, Tue 19 Jul.

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