Debuting tonight at 10/9c, BBC America’s new drama “The Hour” uses the backdrop of a 1950s BBC newsroom to explore class, gender politics, espionage and corruption in Cold War-era England. There’s even a brilliantly heavy love triangle for all the romantics out there. (Watch the pilot episode here on XfinityTV.com before tonight’s premiere.) Created by BAFTA-winning writer Abi Morgan, the stylized thriller stars Ben Whishaw (“Brideshead Revisited“) as the outspoken, aspiring hard news journalist Freddie Lyon, Romola Garai (“Atonement“) as the ambitious green producer – and Freddie’s best friend/love interest – Bel Rowley, and Dominic West (“The Wire“) as the face of the network’s new program and the third prong of the aforementioned triangle, Hector Madden. Morgan recently shared what we need to know about the show’s six-episode first season.
It’s A Time Of Journalistic Idealism: Despite the phone hacking scandal that continues to plague the current world of journalism, the universe Morgan has created centers around a protagonist dedicated to telling the truth. “I think we’re living through an age of entitlement amongst in the area of journalism and the notion that privacy and intimacy and those lines are blurred,” Morgan said. “When we’re looking at the 1950s…I love the idea there is still the belief that actually what you’re trying to deliver is the truth and an authentic experience to the truth, so I would hope that actually the journalists of the 1950s -and certainly in the character that Ben Whishaw plays – that there’s still those sort of inspirational journalists who carry on and believe that they’re genuinely digging at the story, not because they want to reveal who’s had the latest boob job or who is sleeping with who, but they actually want to say there is a revolution going on in Hungary or actually there’s massacre in Rwanda. Those stories are still incredibly important.”
Raw Violence Is Intentional, and Measured: In one of the first scenes in the pilot, a prominent professor is gruesomely murdered. Later in the episode, another shocking death occurs. “I think the deaths are kind of surprising because there’s a certain expectation that it’s an elegant love story,” Morgan said. “But I wanted to place the film noir idea in there. It’s meant to feel like the first page of a cheap 1950s thriller. There’s a running theme about fact or fiction throughout the whole thing, so I like the idea of a drama where you have a certain romanticism, glamor and pace, but actually within that you have some quite raw moments.”
Watch The Premiere Of “The Hour”:
“Mad Men,” It Is Not: The “Mad Men” comparisons are obvious, but beneath the similar clothing and set design pieces is a character-driven thriller vastly different from the AMC drama. “I adore ‘Mad Men,’ and I think it’s a genius show,” Morgan said. “But actually I think it’s kind of a bit of a bum steer for us because ultimately I think we’re looking at a political thriller, and I think you get that pretty quickly in Episode 1 that that’s what the show is.”
The Love Triangle Is Heavily Influenced By “Broadcast News”: An ambitious young female reporter doesn’t know that her best friend and collaborator is in love with her. She sleeps with another dumb but handsome reporter and breaks her best friend’s heart. Sound familiar? Morgan admits that the love triangle within the 1987 James L. Brooks comedy was a huge inspiration for the characters in the series. “I think it’s a collision of very heightened sort of almost cowardice repartee,” she said, citing films “All the President’s Men” and “His Girl Friday” as additional influences.
Loose Ends Will Be Tied: Morgan promises the drama set up in Season 1 will be resolved in Season 1. Translation? No “Killing” finale. “I wanted to have the hook – the kind of jagged edge moment,” she said of setting up the finale. “So I hope that as a drama…it does have its jagged edge twist. And ultimately, I’d say you get your meat and two veg, really.”