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BBC America's ‘The Hour’

If you took the DNA of the movies Broadcast News and The Thirty-Nine Steps, added a pinch of Mad Men mystique, and mixed it all together in an art deco cocktail shaker, you might get a refreshment very like The Hour, making its U.S. premiere on BBC America on August 17. Diverting, smart, and atmospheric, if somewhat emulative, this six-episode drama is a spy thriller set in the BBC newsroom in 1956. Clues lurk in crossword puzzles; film-noir shadows loom in shabby London offices; ambitious, good-looking journalists scramble to cover the Suez Crisis: it’s comfort-food entertainment whose fourth-estate theme offers just a hint of intellectual piquancy.

Adding to the coziness factor are familiar faces such as Ben Whishaw (Bright Star) and Dominic West (The Wire), who depict rivals—and magnetic opposites—in a workplace love triangle. Whishaw is Freddie Lyon, a brainy, gifted young reporter who hails from the less privileged side of Britain’s class divide, but has fabulous hair. When the hyper-competent producer Bel Rowley (Romola Garai) hires Freddie, a close friend, for an investigative news show she’s launching, he’s crushed to find himself playing second fiddle...

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About the Author

Celia Wren is Commonweal’s media and stage critic.