Top of 'The Hour'

Posted on November 28, 2012 

It's been a good year for British dramas on this side of the pond, what with the success of "Downton Abbey," "Sherlock" and "Upstairs, Downstairs."

Also on that list is "The Hour," (BBC America, 10 p.m.), which begins its second season tonight.

Season 1 of the series was everything that Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom" might have been, but definitely wasn't. "The Hour" had intrigue as well as offering a "Mad Men"-style look to 1950s England.

The series followed three members of a new British news program called "The Hour": Bel (Romola Garai), a woman trying to make it as a news producer during an era in which women rarely worked; Freddie (Ben Whishaw), an arrogant yet brilliant newsman who lacks the charisma for an anchor's role; and Hector (Dominic West), a handsome, but vapid, anchor who has little idea as to what is going on in the world.

The first season saw the group encounter a Soviet agent in the BBC during the 1956 Suez crisis. Freddie was hopelessly in love with Bel, while she in turn had an affair with Hector.

Season 2 opens with Bel trying to deal with a new supervisor (a terrifically understated Peter Capaldi) as well as Hector's increasing drinking and womanizing. Hector is attempting to deal with the consequences of a one-night stand with a showgirl while maintaining his marriage to his wealthy wife, who is no longer turning a blind eye to his infidelity. And Freddie, who was fired at the end of the first season, is back, and this time, it's Bel who is interested in him.

Meanwhile, the show must deal with a Britain that has joined the world stage as a nuclear power; the arrival of the Cold War; and a country where whites are violently opposing a wave of immigrants arriving in England. In addition, rival network ITV has started its own "Hour"-style news show, and is attempting to poach the BBC's talent.

"The Hour" does a great job in weaving character drama into commentary about contemporary events reflected in the history of the 1950s. It's well worth watching.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: It's not even December yet, but that isn't stopping ABC from airing the holiday classic "Charlie Brown Christmas" at 8 p.m., followed by new episodes of "Modern Family," "Suburgatory" and "Nashville" from 9-11 p.m. NBC also joins the early Yuletide celebrations with Christmas in Rockefeller Center, followed by "SNL Celebrates Christmas."

I love the way "Arrow" (CW, 8 p.m.) is incorporating various DC Comics characters into its narrative -- not over-the-top supervillains, but more modern, realistic takes in the same vein as the show is telling the story of Green Arrow. Tonight, the vigilante Huntress joins the fight as a potential love interest for Oliver (Stephen Amell). It's followed by a new "Supernatural" at 9 p.m.

CBS is all-new with "Survivor," "Criminal Minds" and "CSI," while Fox airs two more hours of "X-Factor."

On cable, there's a new "American Horror Story" (FX, 10 p.m.)

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