Cometh the Hour

These were mar­vel­lous, great guys with fan­tas­ti­cally aw­ful hair­styles – lots of se­vere Prince Charles­like part­ings

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Television - LYNN CAMERON The Hour, ABC1, to­mor­row, 8.30pm

WITH its of­fice pol­i­tics, sex­ual in­trigue and vast quan­ti­ties of al­co­hol con­sump­tion, new pe­riod drama The Hour is be­ing hailed as the Bri­tish an­swer to Mad Men, the US ad­ver­tis­ing drama that took Amer­ica and the world by storm.

Star­ring Do­minic West ( The Wire ), Ben Wishaw ( Bright Star ) and Ro­mola Garai ( 2011 Golden Globe nom­i­nee for Emma), the drama goes be­hind the scenes of a broad­cast news­room in Lon­don dur­ing the mid 1950s, fol­low­ing the per­sonal lives and pro­fes­sional am­bi­tions of a ris­ing tele­vi­sion news team dur­ing a defin­ing time in the UK’S his­tory – the Suez Canal cri­sis of 1956.

And it’s not sur­pris­ing com­par­isons are be­ing drawn to Mad Men: both re- cre­ate roughly the same time in his­tory; both fea­ture at­trac­tive ac­tors sport­ing gor­geous pe­riod clothes and hair­styles; and both re­volve around a sig­nif­i­cant pe­riod of so­cial change.

The sto­ry­line fol­lows the am­bi­tious young Bel Row­ley ( Garai), pro­ducer of The Hour, a ground­break­ing cur­rent af­fairs show, her an­chor­man ( and even­tual lover) Hector Mad­den ( West, pic­tured), an ex- sol­dier- turned- sport­sre­porter whose con­nec­tions land him the cov­eted role on the show, and Fred­die Lyon ( Wishaw), an as­pir­ing but rene­gade broad­cast jour­nal­ist who is in love with Bel and re­sents Hector.

To pre­pare for her role, Garai stud­ied the life of Grace Wyn­d­ham Goldie, one of the pi­o­neers of Bri­tish news. A TV pro­ducer, Goldie was the driv­ing force be­hind the suc­cess­ful BBC pro­grams Tonight and Panorama.

‘‘ She was ab­so­lutely at the fore­front of that move­ment and she was to­tally alone,’’ Garai says.

‘‘ She was like any wo­man who had to oper­ate in that cli­mate. She was in­tim­i­dat­ing, for­mi­da­ble. Def­i­nitely a wo­man with the em­pha­sis on ‘ man’.’’

An­other at­trac­tion for Garai was the love tri­an­gle be­tween Bel, Hector and Fred­die that lies at the heart of The Hour.

‘‘ The sto­ry­line be­tween Bel and Fred­die is very un­usual, I think, in that it’s a friend­ship that has buried within it a love af­fair, but that’s played out very grad­u­ally and ten­ta­tively. It’s full of sub­tlety. To play a story like that with an ac­tor like Ben is just beau­ti­ful.’’

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Hector and Bel, how­ever, is an­other story.

‘‘ With Hector, it’s a very pas­sion­ate re­la­tion­ship from the off,’’ Garai says. ‘‘ There’s no rea­son for their at­trac­tion; it’s in­stant sex­ual chem­istry which is un­de­ni­able.

‘‘ It’s a ter­ri­ble and re­ally dif­fi­cult thing for me to act with Do­minic,’’ she laughs.

‘‘ He’s a gor­geous man, he’s lovely to work with and he’s ob­vi­ously very, very beau­ti­ful. It’s been a real treat to play that love af­fair.’’

For fans of The Wire, see­ing West trans­form from the booz­ing, hard- nosed de­tec­tive Mc­nulty to the clipped tones of Hector Mad­den may come as some­thing of a shock but it’s a char­ac­ter change the ac­tor, who is in fact Bri­tish and ed­u­cated at Eton Col­lege, is rel­ish­ing.

‘‘ These were mar­vel­lous, great guys with fan­tas­ti­cally aw­ful hair­styles – lots of se­vere Prince Charles- like part­ings,’’ he laughs.

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