Blu-Ray Review: The Hour

Romola Garai, Dominic West and Ben Whishaw star in The Hour, a thrilling six-part drama set in 1950s London when the BBC is about to launch an entirely new way of presenting the news. The dynamic Bel (Garai) is chosen to produce the new program, to be called “The Hour,” with handsome and well connected Hector (West) set to become the anchor, much to the annoyance of Freddie (Whishaw), a brilliant and outspoken journalist, whose passion continually lands him in trouble. Over the six episodes, the interplay of intense ambitions between our rising news team play out against the backdrop of a mysterious murder and Freddie’s controversial and dangerous investigation.

The program is hosted by debonair newsreader Hector, whose primary skill involves outmaneuvering the opposite sex under the nose of a naïve wife. Interspersed between the sexual tension and clashing egos is a burgeoning subway murder of a college professor – apparently a clandestine warrior against a secret plot to destroy democracy in Britain.

This Orwellian charge is delivered to Freddie by Ruth, a one-time party debutante/girlfriend whose first-hand knowledge of this secret plot — much to her endangerment —belies more than a loss of innocence. Of course, Freddie is slow to grasp the tip —dismissing it as drunken rants from an intellectual inferior.

The Hour comes to Blu-ray a little over a month after it premiered on BBC America, which is a blessing. These six one-hour episodes fit comfortably on two discs, presented in their original 1.78:1 aspect ratio in a 1080i/AVC-encode. Often the 1080i designation is a bad thing, as artifacts will crop up, but The Hour is surprisingly free of flaws. The show’s exquisite sets are rendered with crisp detail, and the show’s reduced color scheme is perfectly saturated. Dark scenes have impressive black levels, and noise isn’t a significant problem. The audio option is a LPCM 2.0 stereo affair that keeps dialogue clearly audible and well balanced with the show’s use of vintage tunes. Bonus features include two featurettes that take a look at the set design and a more general behind-the-scenes goings on.

The Hour is a decent way to burn six hours. It’s not the greatest thing the BBC has unleashed in the last few years, but it’s a solid period piece that rewards attention with fine performances and a wonderful setting. This Blu-ray set does a good job preserving the show and is easy to recommend for a rental to fans of British television dramas.

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