was a BBC
drama series, written by Abi Morgan and starring Ben Whishaw
, Dominic West, Romola Garai, Anna Chancellor, and Oona Chaplin
. The series centred on a new current affairs show being launched by the BBC in June 1956, at the time of the Suez Crisis (a period setting
which has led to comparisons with Mad Men
). Bel Rowley (Garai) is the producer of the Show Within a Show
; her friend Freddie Lyon (Whishaw) loses the presenter interview to well-spoken Eton boy Hector Madden (West) but she persuades him to stay on as a researcher. Meanwhile Freddie is suspicious about the reported suicide
of an old friend, and when he starts to notice shadowy men following him around, it only confirms his suspicions.
The most common criticism made of the show's first season was of thematic inconsistency; the two main threads of let's-run-a-groundbreaking-TV-show and let's-investigate-a-government-conspiracy had little to do with each other, and while both interesting in their own right sometimes gave the show a disjointed Wake Up, Go To Work, Save The World
feel. One review called it "Drop the Dead Donkey meets Spooks
". Season Two has taken on a more noir-ish feel, with the Soho underworld and police corruption as major arcs, along with the ever-growing nuclear threat
. It has been highly praised by critics - especially the addition of Peter Capaldi
to the main cast as new head of news Randall Brown.
Premiered on BBC Two on 19 July 2011 and on BBC America in August. The second series started on BBC Two on 14 November 2012. The show was cancelled
in 2013. A campaign to bring it back
was launched on Tumblr, with a petition at Change.org
. As of September 2013, it's won an Emmy for Best Writing for a Miniseries or Movie.
Tropes present in this work include:
- Affectionate Nickname: Freddie and Bel sometimes call each other James and Moneypenny. As you would imagine, this does nothing to defuse the UST.
- The Alcoholic: Due to the time period, nearly everyone drinks to excess. It's Hector and Lix who are labeled actual alcoholics.
- Averted by Randall. While he was a "fantastic drunk" and "an alcoholic" in his younger days, he's gone teetotaler.
- All Psychology Is Freudian: Randall is apparently a fan of Freud - he has a psychiatrist's couch in his office and quotes him to Freddie as they talk about Freddie mourning his father.
- Amateur Sleuth: Freddie, in his spare time. Bel's taken a page from his book with her obsession about the new crime stats in Season Two.
- Ambiguously Bi: Lix dresses quite masculine for the 1950's and flirts with a waitress in a bar. She also has a fling with Freddie and a past with Randall.
- Arc Words: Freddie spends series one trying to work out what "Brightstone" is.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: From 1x04, Freddie and Bel's conversation in the bar about the future:
Bel: And we'd be happy?
Freddie: Ecstatic. We wouldn't want to be anywhere else...with anyone else.
- Hector and Marnie finally get there by the end of Season Two, proving their marriage isn't just one of convenience, despite Marnie's infidelity and Hector's inability to have children.
Marnie: I think - no, I'm, I'm sure . . .
Hector: Sure you're what?
Marnie: Three weeks gone. (starts to cry) Hector?
Hector: Well, isn't that wonderful? (embraces her) Isn't that what you've always wanted? Aren't you clever, getting what you wanted?
- From the same episode, Bel and Freddie kissing.
- Berserk Button: Randall presses Bel's when he springs Freddie's return on her unsuspectingly. Do not undermine Bel Rowley, or make her look bad in front of her people.
- Freddie has a fairly large one about people trying to cover up the truth and silence him.
- Blackmail: In Season Two, this is a huge theme. Rafael Cilenti runs El Paradis as a honey trap, getting major politicians and celebrities caught with his girls in order to blackmail them. The cover-up extends to Hector - sleeping around on Marnie with Kiki - and the police force (of which Laurie Stern and the Commissioner of Police himself are part of).
- Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word: Randall pulls this one on Angus in 2.05. He'll destroy the pictures of Angus and his male lover in exchange for information about the nuclear deal that Cilenti brokered. But don't call it "blackmail", he's simply informing Angus of options.
- Blitz Evacuees: Freddie stayed with the Elms family during the war, which is how he met Ruth.
- Bolivian Army Cliffhanger: Thanks to the show being cancelled before a third series, series two ends with Freddie's life hanging in the balance after having been brutally beaten up. Abi Morgan later stated that had it been recommissioned, Freddie would have survived.
- Brainy Brunette: Lix.
"Darling, I can recite the names of every minister, Prime Minister, and President in my sleep."
- Brainy Specs: Bel, Lix, Randall, and Isaac wear them.
- Break the Cutie: Ruth comes pre-broken.
- Freddie and Bel in the Season Two finale.
- Bury Your Gays: Adam LeRay doesn't last too long after we find out about his affair with Angus.
- Career Versus Man: Bel isn't willing to give up her career for marriage or become The Mistress for Hector.
- The Chanteuse: Kiki. Rosa Maria, her understudy, wants to be one too.
- Chick Magnet: Hector. Fame has its privileges; shame that he's actually married.
- Clear My Name: Hector is accused of beating Kiki in 2x02. Zig-zagged in that Bel does help him, Marnie takes her time but eventually bails him out, but no one is entirely sure if he's guilty or innocent until Kiki recants live on The Hour and names the man who did beat her up - Commander Stern.
- Cold War: Fears of Russian spies, the development of Britain's own nuclear deterrent and civil defense procedures all feature prominently.
- Cool Big Sis: Lix to Bel. Bel to Sissy.
- Corrupt Cop: Commander Stern
- Deadpan Snarker: Freddie, occasionally, but Lix much more frequently.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Isaac, for Sissy.
- Domestic Abuse: In Season Two, it's revealed that Laurie Stern was the one who beat Kiki, and he's got a history of knocking women around.
- Dramatic Hour Long
- Driven to Suicide: Commander Stern in the series two finale, after Kiki/Patricia exposes him on the show.
- Eleventh Hour Ranger: In the Season Two finale, it's Angus McCain who comes to The Hour's rescue, providing the verification they need about the nuclear scandal and convincing Randall to put Kiki on the air. He then becomes Kiki's unofficial PR handler, keeping the press at bay.
- Everybody Smokes: Invoked/lampshaded; Isaac tries to take it up because "everyone else does".
- Executive Meddling: In-universe; Angus is firmly of the belief that the BBC should take a pro-government line. Freddie and Bel think the new show should break from this tradition and provide objective journalism.
- Famous Last Words: Freddie's, possibly, are "Money... Moneypenny...".
- Family Versus Career: Season Two reveals that, nineteen years ago, while she was a war journalist in Spain, Lix got pregnant with Randall's child, and gave the girl up for adoption because she wouldn't have been accepted back in England as a single mother with a child.
- Faux Affably Evil: Rafael Cilenti, the proprietor of El Paradis, puts up a front of being a friendly affable guy, but the gloves come off whenever he's threatened with exposure of his blackmailing and profiteering business.
- Feminine Women Can Cook: Marnie Madden and her new cooking show.
- Femme Fatale: Kiki.
- The Fifties: Season One is set in 1956, to be precise, while Season Two is set firmly in October of 1957 with the launch of Sputnik.
- Flying Under the Gaydar: Adam in Season One. Angus does it as well.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Freddie shows up in series two a year after he left England with a French wife in tow. According to him, he was only in France for a couple months.
- Freudian Couch: Randall has one, utilized excellently in his Establishing Character Moment.
- Give Him a Normal Life: Lix and Randall's big secret - she had a child in Spain and gave her up for adoption because he left and she couldn't raise a baby on her own.
- Going for the Big Scoop: No matter how many people warn Freddie against sticking his nose where it doesn't belong, he can't help himself.
- Gorgeous Period Dress: It's set in The Fifties. Commence swooning.
- Government Conspiracy: One a season, apparently.
- Gratuitous French: Marnie, in her television cooking show audition. Camille, who is actually French, doesn't use the language gratuitously, though she does speak it with Marnie.
- Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Lix, but she can hold her booze.
Lix: Whiskey is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
- Held Gaze: Bel and Freddie, all the time.
- Lix and Randall are dancing around them in series two.
- Heroic BSOD: Randall utterly breaks down in a heart-wrenching fashion when he and Lix find out that their long-lost daughter had been killed during an air-raid in 1940.
- Lix has one as well, though hers is silent when she's refusing to leave Randall, and she later ends up crying in the toilets alone.
- Holding the Floor: Freddie does stall Pike and Cilenti from going out to find Kiki long enough for The Hour to go on the air but it's subverted in that while Freddie might have saved Kiki's life, he may not have saved his own.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Kiki and Rosa Maria.
- Hot Scoop: Everyone.
- Housewife: Played straight with Marnie in series one, then deconstructed with Marnie in series two as she begins to look for fulfillment outside her home/marriage.
- Hysterical Woman: Angus tells Bel she only got the producer's job because Clarence thought she would be "easier to steer" than a man.
- Intrepid Reporter
- It's Personal: Freddie's interest in Ruth's death is initially sparked by the fact that she's an old friend.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Bel and Freddie try to be this for each other, but admit that they love each other too much to see each other unhappy with other people.
- Isaac would love to be the man in Sissy's life, but she's happy with Sey.
- Camille tries to work things out with Freddie, but ultimately she realizes that he only truly loves two things - the news and Bel, and she goes back to France without him.
- By accepting Marnie's pregnancy, Hector implies that he will raise another man's child, since she's confessed her infidelity and Hector knows for certain he will never be able to have children.
- Just Friends: Bel and Freddie.
- As of the Season Two finale, they've stopped denying this.
- Karma Houdini: Mr. Pike. He never answers for any of the crimes he commits onscreen during the second series - the racially-motivated vandalism he pays the young fascists to do, murdering Rosa on Mr. Cilenti's orders, the brutal No-Holds-Barred Beatdown of Freddie (which may or may not have killed him) - and it's implied that he's going to take over El Paradis when Mr. Cilenti is arrested again.
- The Lad-ette: Lix, who drinks every man in the station under the table.
- Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Bel Rowley and Lix Storm play the types straight - blonde Bel is more guileless and sweet where dark-haired Lix is more sarcastic and tough.
- Kiki Delaine and Rosa Maria Ramirez play with the trope in S2. Blonde Kiki looks sweet and virginal, but she's anything but, where Rosa Maria looks the obvious Femme Fatale, but turns out to be more fragile and honest.
- Love Triangle: Freddie has feelings for Bel, who's sleeping with Hector, who's jealous of Bel and Freddie's extremely close friendship.
- Love Dodecahedron: Meanwhile, Marnie really does seem to love Hector, Freddie has a brief fling with Lix, and off to the side Angus is involved with Adam, and gets him engaged to Ruth Elms to cover up her affair with Peter Darryl.
- It gets further complicated in Season Two: Bel is still holding a torch for Freddie, who married a girl in Paris and has brought her back to England. Meanwhile, Hector is continuing to cheat on Marnie with Femme Fatale Kiki, said Femme Fatale has Hector's friend Laurie - who is also a commander in Scotland Yard - on a hook, Angus has a new boy-toy and a beard (his cousin Vera), and Lix and Randall have a mysterious past together that involves the Spanish Civil War and their long-lost daughter Lix gave up for adoption.
- Manly Men Can Hunt: Hector. Freddie, unsurprisingly, is crap at it.
- May-December Romance: Twentysomething Freddie and fortymumble Lix have a drunken fling the night of Freddie's birthday.
- The Mole: The reason MI6 are taking an interest in Freddie is that they suspect there's a Soviet mole in the BBC, and he fits the profile...
- My Beloved Smother: Varda Rowley, who combines this and Dirty Old Woman into an unholy combination. Bel hides in her office and cringes whenever Varda comes to the station.
- Never Suicide: Ruth's Plot-Triggering Death in the pilot.
- New Old Flame: Randall is Lix's, but this aspect of his character is secondary to his position as director of news.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Freddie is brutally subjected to this in the Season Two finale. It's left purposely ambiguous if he survives it.
- Not So Different: Bel and Varda Rowley, and their taste for married men. Bel hates the thought of ending up like her mother, though.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Unless you'd paid attention during one of Bel's throwaway lines during episode 1, you'd never know Lix's full name is actually "Alexis".
- Public Secret Message: Freddie discovers that the spies are being contacted through codes embedded in the daily crosswords.
- Plot-Triggering Death: Ruth's in Season One.
- Plucky Office Girl: Sissy.
- Proper Lady: Marnie embodies it in both seasons, but she's deconstructing it in Season Two.
- Pull the Thread
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Clarence, in contrast to Angus, fights his subordinates' corners on occasion.
- Randall Brown, who brings Freddie back, supports Bel, and wants to put The Hour back on top, even if it means bucking tradition with the BBC brass.
- Running Time in the Title: Both the show's title, and that of the Show Within a Show.
- Sacrificial Lion: Thomas Kish and Adam LeRay in Season One.
- Rosa Maria Ramirez and Laurie Stern in Season Two.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Randall, whether he's quoting someone else or not.
- Sexual Extortion: How Cilenti gets what he wants, utilizing blackmail and photographic evidence of his girls in bed with powerful men.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Commander Laurie Stern
- Shirtless Scene: Freddie and Hector both have their share of these, mostly in Season One.
- Show Within a Show: A pioneer of the Prime Time News genre.
- Silk Hiding Steel: Very few viewers would have pinned this as being part of Marnie's character, but Series 2 demonstrates she's more than capable of being a strong and independent woman. Bel shows signs of this, too, and Kiki may just grow into this, if her interview in the finale is any indication.
- Silver Fox: Randall.
- Slave to PR: Angus in both seasons. Hector in Season Two.
- Statuesque Stunner: 5'10" Lix Storm.
- Stepford Smiler: We know from day one that Marnie has it down to a science, but Lix has multiple moments when she shows that she isn't all whiskey and sarcasm. Kiki also has aspects of it, especially when it comes to Cilenti, as does Rosa Maria with Pike.
- Super OCD: There are hints that Randall has it, with his constant fiddling with the things on his desk, rearranging the clippings on the cork boards, and lining up all the thumbtacks in order. When he finds out that his daughter with Lix was killed during the second World War, he slowly - and then frantically - tries to rearrange the things on his desk before he gives up and just sweeps everything away before breaking down.
- Surprise Pregnancy: Marnie, as a result of an affair.
- Team Mom: Lix, who treats the rest of the journalists as if they were her squabbling children. Which makes her backstory of the daughter she gave up for adoption doubly tragic.
- Technician Versus Performer: In the news-presenter category, Hector is the performer, reading the copy and relying on his natural charm to sell the stories. Freddie is the technician, the real journalist who believes passionately in speaking the truth and chasing the stories no one else wants to chase.
- The Dog Bites Back: 2x02 gives Marnie Madden a chance to ream out her husband, informing him that while she may be bailing him out of jail, their marriage is effectively over. In public, they will be happy and loving, but in private, she doesn't give a damn what he does.
- Mr. Pike in the Season Two finale. After Mr. Cilenti is exposed, he wastes no time in taking over El Paradis. The smirk he gives Cilenti as he's arrested for the kidnapping (and possible murder) of Freddie says it all.
- The Teetotaler: Randall. It's subtle, but you can see he's drinking orange juice at the pub with Angus, coffee/tea with Lix, and that he always talks about his alcoholism in the past tense.
- Those Wacky Nazis: The British Fascist Party, along with a number of young members, are integral to the plot of Season Two.
- Tomato in the Mirror: The penultimate episode of Season One has Freddie realizing that he was a Brightstone.
- Uncertain Doom: In the last scene of the Season Two finale, it is uncertain if Freddie survives the horrific beating he was subjected to.
- Waistcoat of Style: In Season One, Freddie spends most episodes in a rather nice knitted one. He switches to a classier one for Season Two.
- Hector and Randall wear them in Season Two as part of their period three-piece suits.
- War Is Hell: Various characters speak about their experiences in war, demonstrating this trope. Hector and Laurie both have PTSD from World War 2, and Lix's quote below talks about her experiences during the Spanish Civil War:
That photo, it was taken just outside of Madrid. They were one of the last to surrender in '39. She was running away from her house, leaving everything, a row of men being executed just behind that door. Among them her husband. She - she didn't look back. It was irritating, I had my camera in my hand, trying to find a film. They had been shot, those men, one by one, and all I could think of was 'I've got no bloody film'.
- We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: To the best, most chilling, most ironic effect in the Season One finale.
- Wham Episode: The Season Two finale. Lix and Randall find out that their daughter they've been searching for all season (and in Randall's case, years) had been killed in an air-raid almost twenty years ago, Bel and Freddie share their first kiss, and Marnie tearfully reveals to Hector that she's pregnant (with what must be another man's child; unbeknownst to her, Hector is infertile and can't ever have children with her). At the same time The Hour delivers one of its greatest shows ever (Kiki clearing Hector's name, exposing the profiteering off the arms race, AND implicating Laurie Stern in one swoop, which causes Stern to escape prosecution by bullet to the head), Freddie is brutally beaten by Mr. Cilenti and left to die practically on the doorstep of The Hour itself, his (possible) last words being 'Moneypenny' as Bel runs to him. Did we mention that during that last part, there's a voice-over of Bel reading a letter she never sent to Freddie, where she reveals that she does love him and begs him to come home?
- Women Are Wiser: Bel, Lix, Marnie, Kiki, and the other ladies on the show have it much more together than any of the men.
- Working with the Ex: Hector and Bel. Lix and Randall. The former get over their relationship, the latter seem to be somewhat picking up where they left off.
- Your Cheating Heart: Hector. His wife is fully aware of it, telling Bel that she's the latest in a long line.
- Marnie tearfully reveals in the Season Two finale that she was unfaithful as a result of Hector's neglect, and that she's pregnant with her lover's baby. In the previous episode, it was heavily implied that Hector thought that Marnie and her producer were having an affair.