thu 20/06/2024

The Hour, Series 2 Finale, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

The Hour, Series 2 Finale, BBC Two

The Hour, Series 2 Finale, BBC Two

Fifties TV news saga becomes more ridiculous by... er... the hour

Quite irritating actually: Ben Whishaw as eager newshound Freddie Lyon

When the first series of The Hour aired last year, there was a lot of excitable talk about how it was the "British Mad Men". Having sat through series two, I've concluded that in fact it's the British version of Pan Am, that bizarrely idiotic airline series where all the air hostesses were covert operatives for the CIA, and visits to exotic international locations were achieved using plywood props and big photographs of famous landmarks.

Despite its superficial attention to 1950s detail (suits, hats, frocks, cars), the more The Hour tries to feel authentic, the less convincing it becomes. Surely they could have found a way not to make the BBC's Lime Grove studios look like a derelict Odeon cinema? Writer/creator Abi Morgan has repeatedly tumbled into the elephant trap of reheating famous scandals and media sensations from the era and bolting them together into what is supposed to be the plot, with a particular obsession for Soho vice rings and the nuclear threat. Both of these implausibly collided under the roof of sleazy Soho clubland entrepreneur Raphael Cilenti (Vincent Riotta, pictured below).

Any night of the week, it seemed, you could stroll into Cilenti's El Paradis club and find the entire staff of BBC and ITV television, the Cabinet, and most of Scotland Yard's senior police officers. So irresistibly alluring were Cilenti's girls, wiggling in their basques and suspenders to a soundtrack of feeble pseudo-jazz, that wealthy and powerful men formed orderly queues to tell them all their dirtiest, darkest secrets and to be covertly photographed while having a good grope. Cilenti, rather offensively played as a greasy cartoon wop, smirks and gurns malevolently, and if any of his underlings step out of line they end up dead. Meanwhile he's been overseeing a vast racket in which NATO's nuclear strategy will bring big bucks to a company owned by his mate, a Mr Tufnell.

The idea that a primitive BBC television news programme reliant on a solitary reporter and with no outside broadcast teams would expose this seething morass of corruption in high places and bring down the government was never remotely feasible. In the wake of what we've learned about the BBC's investigative news operations in the last few weeks, it's absolutely hilarious. Peter Capaldi, playing the perpetually glum head of news Randall Brown, warned his team, apparently without irony: "It's risky so let's get our facts straight" (rather an understatement, given the sackings, lawsuits and arrests that would follow mistaken outings of assorted ministers and top coppers). The line was almost as good as the one he uttered after the death of vice girl Rosa, murdered when she threatend to expose Cilenti to The Hour: "We have rattled Mr Cilenti's cage!" Bravo, The Hour!

In this wonderland of unlikelihood, the cast inevitably faced an uphill battle. Bel Rowley (Romola Garai, pictured left), producer of The Hour, vacillated erratically between doe-eyed love interest and neurotic TV executive, never fully engaged in either. Ben Whishaw's Freddie Lyon was supposed to be a beacon of idealistic truth-telling and fact-uncovering, but while the role called for him to go snooping around like some hard-bitten gumshoe, he more nearly resembled an irritating know-it-all wonk from some nebulous think-tank.

It was typical of Morgan's anachronistic tone. Her characters are so fond of delivering lectures about immigration, racism, the evils of nuclear proliferation, journalistic integrity, corrupt politicians (Tory of course) and the outrageousness of the homosexuality laws that the script might have been pasted together from back issues of the New Statesman.

Still, just because it's the silliest show on television, that doesn't mean that series three, four and five aren't already in preparation. I just hope they don't get rid of Anna Chancellor's Lix Storm - though maybe they could find her a name that doesn't sound like it came from some bondage website - because she's the sole cast member who looks as if she's in the right place at the right time.

Ben Whishaw's Freddie Lyon was supposed to be a beacon of idealistic truth-telling, but he more nearly resembled a know-it-all wonk from some nebulous think-tank

Explore topics

Share this article


I really hope the reviewer's impression of this show is in the minority because 'The Hour' is better than 95% of what is on TV now! To me seeing the restrictions UK TV News journalist were under was facinating, and the real events that were occurring around these times just adds to the story. I imagine the limited BBC budget would not allow them to have multiple location sets, so ' El Paradise' had to function as the main meeting location for all the deals and corruption. Finally unless the reviewer thinks this is a BBC documentary, the writer of the show is allowed to create a plot that will fit in a 6 episode story arc, and she did a fabulous job!

Completely at odds with this review, a huge fan of The Hour. It's one of the best programmes on television at the moment and very much hope to see a third series. I do agree that Anna Chancellor is a star of the show.

The Hour has been one of the best programmes on TV for many a long day. What utter tripe the reviewer has written.

Found myself totally immersed on this programme. Your reviewer must be too young to remember the period. Lets have more,

I agree with Anonymous. Compulsive viewing and excellent acting. Issues were spot on for the era. Hope there is another series.

Review is spot on. For the BBC, enthralling drama is vitually a thing of the past.

I was glad I was over in the UK the past week to watch the last 3 episodes before they are shown on BBC America over here, and I'm going to hate not being able to discuss it with others until they show the last episode over here! As I said before, with only a 6 episode season and a limited locations budget, the writer did a incredible job to build up and then wrap up a story arc that gave all the characters more depth than Season #1. I hope BBC will give this show more than six episodes next season, or film two seasons back-to-back!

Totally disagree with reviewer - The Hour is utterly gripping - brilliantly scripted, cast, produced - if series 3 doesn't materialise I'll be seriously disappointed.

I thought this was much better than Series 1 and enjoyed it enormously - good acting, tense plots. The degree of corruption at that time in police and politics was mind boggling.

Oh dear, the green eyed monster! I think this review was written by someone who admires Murdoch and would like the BBC to go under as James Murdoch in his Edinburgh speech predicted or someone who is talentless and wished they could write drama like this. This superb series has certainly rattled someones cage!

What ridiculous and mean-minded comments to try and justify a difference of opinion...This is so clearly a well-written and considered article, so why not just take it on its own merits and beg to differ? I haven't watched the show, by the way.

One of the most idiotic reviews I've read recently. Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai, and Dominic West provide incredibly nuanced performances. Peter Capaldi and Anna Chancellor are a tour de force. And the story line is incredibly compelling. When Freddie quotes Abraham Lincoln as he is being brutally beaten by Raphael Cilenti, which viewer didn't feel that incredible tug of heartache? When Lix and Randall discover their child is dead, which viewer didn't feel their hurt? When Bel finally reveals at the end of the Hour that she has been too scared to admit her feelings for her partner-in-crime, which viewer didn't sympathize with her regrets? Apparently, you didn't. But I would also venture that you didn't watch the same series that the rest of us did. Maybe you didn't watch it at all.

Whatever the technical merits or demerits I, as a viewer, was gripped by this series. I rarely follow drama series on tv and this one I couldn't let go - and the sets and costume added Immeasurably to the atmosphere I. The reviewer I fear is envious, as others observe..

A ridiculous, pointless, and pedantic review. It's a story and we are allowed to supsend realism. If you were unmoved by Capaldi and Chancellor discovering the fate of their daughter then you should find another job

The review wasn't mean-spirited. It was actually quite stupid masquerading as serious commentary. Pan-Am was silly US network fluff. The Hour while not perfect was not anywhere in that category. Perhaps if it was an extended season like Mad Men the central plot and character sub-plots wouldn't have felt so rushed. Nonetheless enjoyable 6 episodes.

Have never read a review that so clearly is at odds with the majority of viewers of this excellent programme. I suggest the reviewer applies for a job at ITV.

Like most dramas, it's a work of fiction. It's not meant to be hyper-realistic. As a frequent (educated) reader of theartsdesk, I am disappointed in this reviewer.

I don't know what Lime Grove studios looked like, but I do know the Riverside studios which were also used by the BBC at that time and they look very much like the studios we saw in the serial, especially the staircases. One pedantic nit-pick. I very much doubt that commercial television was referred to as ITV. Admittedly there was the ITA as the supervisory body, but otherwise the company names were used, eg Associated Redifusion, ATV, etc

I've just finished binge-watching the last five, er, hours of The Hour and I'm emotionally drained. What a fantastic second series. While I I see where you're coming from with regards to Abi Morgan's moralising and monologues, Adam (as anyone who's seen Aaron Sorkin's preposterous Newsroom can attest, there seems to be too much temptation to turn down pomposity when dramatising The News), she definitely has a knack for composing characters you can't help caring about. Yes, even the slimy Hector. Peter Capaldi was an incredible addition to an already fantastic cast - as for his scenes with the luminous Anna Chancellor, all of the awards please. I'd have loved to have read your take on Oona Chapin's Marnie Madden, who over the course of two seasons seems to have developed into a well-rounded, well-written female character (so rare for a primetime drama) worthy of the Mad Men comparisons.

I'd agree that the second series' driving narrative was pretty preposterous, and yet I found myself getting swept up in it anyway (screaming at the screen on at least three separate occasions during that jaw-dropping finale). While it may have been guilty to a certain extent of that whole "we've covering a particular era, let's make sure we mention race relations and nuclear armament and homosexuality-as-vice" it wasn't half as cloying about it as something like White Heat was.

Totally cringed during any of the checks-and-balances scenes though, knowing what we do now.

I'm just relieved to read the comments to this rather clumsy review of what turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and engaging pieces of British drama I've seen in recent years.

I must say i have to agree with most of the review, while still i was very well entertained and liked the finale a lot. but there are certain things pointed out in the review that are just so true and for that hilarious. i had to laugh while reading it. the show is very silly. critics and fans alike shoud get over it. a show like mad men works on another level, with another budget, a more drama-like premise and so on. the hour, for me, is more a cartoonish thriller and as i said, i find very entertaining. but i liked series one even more.

I haven't read such a hatchet job in a long time, an unpleasant, small minded and inaccurate account of what the rest of us have been watching. The Hour wasn't perfect by any means but it was pretty good TV - enough to keep me entertained and coming back each week. As someone who watches very little TV, finding most of it utter drivel, that's no mean feat. I preferred the first series and found the last episode overwrought but hope very much to see more of The hour and the cast that make it perfectly watchable.

I so agree!!!

A well thought review which somehow completely misses the point. The hour season 2 , like S 1, became compelling viewing. Yes, the stories lose ends had to be tied up, and yes the limited production budget forced El Paridiso into being the hub of the action, but we genuinely sympathised with the characters. Your biggest fault as a reviewer was to compare it to 'pan am' - really? No there is dumbed down drivel worthy of the review above!

The review is very unfair. The series is entitled some dramatic licence. It captured the atmosphere of the 50s well it the gloom, the division over nuclear weapons and the sleaziness of such clubs frequented by some of the great and good, I do hope that Freddie makes it and we get a third series. My wife and i were hooked.

This reviewer has no idea what the 50s were like. l lived through them. i do hope foolish reviews like thiosone do not discourage a further series being made.

I have to say that anyone failing to see the brilliance and charm of this beautiful dramatization is clearly missing the point. There is a level of self-involvement, a certain faith in humanity and some hope for the future required to get under the skin of this outstanding production.

Yes, I completely agree. It is true that The Hour sensationalises journalism in the fifties. However is this not the point of television, to sensationalise situations. The show is stunningly done, I think the recent scenes involving Lix and Randall are impeccable and I cannot wait to see their story unfold. I love the character of Cilenti I think it is an excellent plot line and, lets be honest, draws many parallels with the powers of gangsters like the Kray Twins, who also rode high on their culture of fear. I am completely gripped to Tho Hour and the new series can not come soon enough. I can not fault it.

I love this series.It had me gripped from start to end.The only fault with it,for me,was the tad too violent scene where Freddie was beaten up...shame. However,that didn't spoil my enjoyment of a perfect series.Best tv of 2012.IMO.

Pleased to see that the majority disagree with the reviewer. Gripping stuff and classic old fashioned BBC drama. Can't wait for the new series!

This is my first ever comment on an online piece, and I normally refrain for reasons of dignity, but I do find myself compelled to disagree hugely with this review and defend The Hour S2 as some of the best drama currently available on British television. Of course, you could level all the criticisms above, if you were being grossly uncharitable and unfair to a programme not only clearly bound by slot and budget (it's not a movie) but also the genre conventions established in S1. It's chosen to focus on a handful of characters, not document a whole period newsroom in exhaustive detail. The device of a "lone solitary reporter" to "expose a web of corruption" is a completely standard dramatic convention (perhaps cliche) - in books, plays and TV - but it seems churlish to pick it apart on that basis. Furthermore there is no elephant trap of using past scandals for plot - it's hugely enjoyable trying to second guess which ones will be used and how they will be stitched together in a plot. And Mr Sweeting must have a very tin ear if he couldn't see that the the "lectures" on "back issues from the New Statesman" (on those very dull and completely decided subjects like race or homosexuality) were only given to place the actions of those who gave them under greater dramatic scrutiny. With the current BBC news department in crisis, surely what could be more relevant than a debate of vested special interests versus news..It was also, whatever one feels about the writing, supremely well-acted. Look, it's never going to be everyone's cup of tea, and nor should it be, but it's the gleeful spite to the tone of this review that feels undeserved. Like any creative endeavour, of course The Hour could be improved - it could be subtler, it could be tighter, occasionally less obvious or hobbled to period detail, more layered - all these things. But is the level of industry, commitment, research, serious thought, passion and dramatic entertainment evident on screen worthy of dismissive ridicule as "the silliest show on television"? Compared to, say, "The Only Way Is Essex Live"? I think that's unfair and unworthy of these pages.

Completely agree with the majority view here. A super series, and it has been a very long time since I said that of any series produced by the BBC! Marvellously acted, great script; edge of the seat stuff. In short: Everything that has been missing at the BBC for many years. More, please!

Spot-on review, in my opinion. It was high time that Freddie's smug know-all face got a good slapping. Enjoyable tosh, and Romola Garai has a fabulous arse.

Thank you for your insightful comments. We /know/ Romola is a beautiful lady, but there is so much more to her.

Well most seem to disagree with this review. The reasons being that the script was very good and moved the story line on in a business-like way all the time and the performances were to die for, all carefully crafted characters that had that moment of cosy familiarity each time they made their entrance in an episode, very much echoing the feel of Mad Men. But, and its a big but, the political and social analysis of the time from Suez through to police corruption and CND seemed naive and often bizarre. I did work in Lime Grove in the 60s and 70s and it never looked like it did in this series, a sort of retro compendium of styles instead of unremitting dark green and light oak desks. They should have shot it at Ealing Film Studios which still retains the same feel. I also remember working on 24 Hrs(65-72) which The Hour ressembled only in format but running on a skeleton staff. In those days the BBC had the money to employ many researchers and assistant producers who would cover a huge array of stories not just 2 men and a dog. Lix Storm (a name out of a Batman comic more like)was the only convincing and recognizable BBC face, the rest were a complete figment of someone's (well Abi Morgan's I guess)over active imagination. I couldn't either work out the management structure with visits from suits who seemed more like members of a management board interested in protecting their shareholders' interests, hardly what the BBC was about in those days or for that matter now as we have seen. As for the awful night club with an entrance that looked like a giant liquorice allsort, I suppose it was supposed to be a mixture of the Kit Kat club and the Bag O' Nails but as your reviewer stated seemed to have the entire BBC, Government and police force conveniently in there every night rather like The Bull in The Archers. Of course I shall watch the next series avidly just to have a snipe at the absurdities!

This review is quite a hack job and definitely does Abi Morgan a disservice. Morgan is not only a talented writer, but his style for moving the story forward in a gripping manner is the stuff that Aaron Sorkin can only drool over in his attempts to pursue the same genre vis-a-vis "The Newsroom"


Enjoyed Series 1 and Series 2 was even better. Hope that Freddie pulls round to come back in Series 3 - wouldnt be the same without him!

I do think The Hour is flawed, but it's brilliant nonetheless. There are some golden comments under this and i have nothing else to add except that The Hour might be the only piece of television I thoroughly enjoyed. I so hope they make a third series!

I'd love to know what you people are smoking. This show is one of the most dreadful wastes of mediocre talent and inept art direction ever broadcast. It doesn't even look or sound like the 50s, and the fake sophistication - laughable. Put the film stock to better use; burn it instead.

Absolutely a fantastic show, great writing and I hope Freddy makes season 3. A bull dog news reporter, reminds us what journalism is all about! Great show!!!!!

Simply put, the show's writing is brilliant. Get used to it folks THIS is television at its finest.

Even though this show is one of my guilty pleasures, I agree with most of this review. It is often unconvincing, and it's certainly no Mad Men, which is more subtle and ambiguous. The Hour is conventional; we know who to root for. The character of Freddie was insufferable in the first series. I also was moved by Chancellor and Capaldi My main disagreement here is with the criticism of Cilenti as a stock stereotype. There was more to the character than that.

There were some things in the plot that were unbelievable and the inevitable bit of BBC political correctness crept in. However very entertaining, great acting and weren't those 1950s women sexy ? I particularly liked the way the ITV hierarchy were portrayed as a bunch of opportunistic corporate hyenas. Roll on season 3.

I've enjoyed The Hour a lot, and but don't disagree with much of what the review says either. I think the writing is good except for when it is really bad, like the last epsiode. When did Freddy become both egotistic and mashochistic? Seemed he for some reason decided to go willingly with Gilenti's boys instead of doing something sensical. Perhaps he was making up for the sh*t for brains decision to have the woman go back to the club. People's actions seemed to be clearly dictated by the writer, not the character or story, in this episode.

Rather cheap and seemingly ideologically driven criticism. Where there is no appreciation for a well-told tale, and the willing investment in the emotional life portrayed by the characters—there can be no decent criticism. You could level the same complaints at the Henriad. Perhaps you should turn off the telly and take solace in your copy of Hegel. As Chuck Klosterman once wrote: “It's far easier to write why something is terrible than why it's can take every element of the film and find the obvious flaw, or argue that it seems ridiculous, or like a parody of itself, or that it's not as good as something similar that was done in a previous film. What's hard to do is describe why you like something. Because ultimately, the reason things move people is very amorphous. You can be cerebral about things you hate, but most of the things you like tend to be very emotive.”

I'm seriously sick of people not knowing how to properly write a review. I have to say this review is bloody terrible, from its' nit picking snarky attitude, to the fact it compares the program against shows of a completely different caliber to the fact there was really no analysis of even the star's performances -aside from the writing. It sounds more like the release of a gripe with the fact that it isn't the so called coveted, and I'm sorry, overrated Mad Men. Wow, The Hour actually has likable characters that are not ALL disgusting sleaze balls and they seem capable of witty, sharp conversation. The pacing is fast and engaging. As for the "solitary reporter" comment, as someone that currently works in journalism and film, well last time I checked- I don't see a legion of fellow reporters assisting in doing the leg work for my stories.In fact, most of the reporters I encounter-even those working for major networks- work alone and are freelance. Most of this script's plot implicated the antagonists operating solely in London, so why would they turn to a crew elsewhere for assistance anyway when it is locally based? Characters like Freddy represent the good reasons why some of us chose this news & entertainment business. Every reporter is a gumshoe of sorts in their own different way. Investigative Journalism, hello! If you want to complain about something, make sure you have experience trying to have actually done it.

Adam Sweeting...Writes obituaries. Explains a lot. And sounds like he has some kind of personal axe to grind re Ms Morgan. For me The Hour was everything that TV drama ought to be. Unfortunately what we normally get is sensationalist mysoginistic drivel like Ripper Street, total tosh like Hunted or cloying rot like Downton. Maybe that's the sort of realistic viewing Mr Sweeting prefers.

Thanks for an excellent review. I watched the first episode of the hour, season 1, and was very hesitant throughout to switch to something else (i probably should have). While the initial intent might have been (much like Madmen) to have a show present the workings of a certain industry, at a certain point in time, with highlights about how things have changed since then, we wind up with a very modern, totally incongruous and quite obnoxious main protagonist with modern sensibilities and a conspiracy theory. I rolled my eyes when Freddy's friend came to him warning him that "you're wrong to think we live in a democracy", that "they are watching us" and "they could kill me if they knew i'm speaking to you", and thought to myself "your role in this show ends with this episode, dear". If this is the Brit answer to Madmen, American programs are likely to dominate British TV for quite some time.

I am genuinely concerned that the reviewer found the plot implausible, when it seems fairly modest in scope, compared to what really took place in the Profumo scandal in 1963. Indeed if he is unaware of that context, it is about as reprehensible as an art critic complaining that the Sistine chapel ceiling doesn't seem to reflect the laws of gravity. I agree the drama does have flaws, and poor Bel Rowley gets lumbered with a boss who gets the best lines, a pug faced twit luring her staff to ITV, and no opportunity to eviscerate anyone, not even a teenage racist. But the wider point is that it was nominated for a Golden Globe, so sneering at the Hour looks as if it demeans the reviewer not the series. Indeed I would implore the TV industry to compete head on with HBO like the Hour does, rather than invest in imaginative methods of torturing celebrities, which is presumably all this reviewer can deal with.


Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters