It's 1956 when BBC America's The Hour begins. Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw, Criminal Justice, Layer Cake) and Bel Rowley (Romola Garai, The Crimson Petal and the White) are growing more and more frustrated with their job working on inane newsreels for BBC. A glimmer of hope shines, as they interview with Clarence Fendley (Anton Lesser, Primeval), who is putting together a more serious news program called The Hour. Bel is awarded the producer role, and Freddie is forced to settle, after much consideration, with riding the Home Affairs desk. But a chance encounter with an old friend (Vanessa Kirby, Love/Loss) draws Freddie into a much bigger story.
It's hard not to compare The Hour to Mad Men, as many have done, because of the time period. Even though The Hour takes place in 1956, it feels more like the 1960s, and some mistakes, such as 1960s telephones, contribute to that. Yet, the tone is slower and darker, the people less defined, and the action more plot-driven than character-driven, so it's certainly not a copy. Overall, the first hour is intriguing, but pacing needs to be ratcheted up, and viewers must be made to care about the characters more, if the series wants to truly succeed.
There's nothing wrong with a conspiracy plot that will span the season, and Freddie is drawn into the plot by his friend. The first clue, involving an academic killed by a mysterious man (Burn Gorman, Torchwood) whom the academic sought to kill is pretty interesting. But Freddie, the main character in solving the plot, is abrasive and stubborn, which make him a little hard to like. He almost passes up a job at The Hour just because he can't take the position he wants, in front of the camera. Never mind; he will get to keep working with Bel, whom he adores, and have the freedom to pursue the types of scoops he likes.