The Hour returns to BBC 2 tonight and we’ve decided to pit the period series against the other big journalistic drama that hit UK screens recently in the shape of Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom and see which comes out on top.
This is The Hour’s win by a country mile, as The Newsroom’s contemporary and slightly dishevelled group of reporters can’t hold a candle to The Hour’s gorgeous 1950s suits and expertly coiffed hair.
It’s not just the outfits though. The Newsroom, despite its best efforts, always looks like a TV show, if one with a rather large budget to spend. The Hour on the other hands looks absolutely sumptuous, every shot a rich snapshot that wouldn’t look out of place on the silver screen.
Even with Ben Whishaw’s big screen debut as 007’s favourite provider of gadgets and weaponry, this one has to be given to The Newsroom.
Before Whishaw’s bow as Q, it would have been a no-brainer to call this one in the way of The Newsroom, with it not only boasting Jeff Daniels in its leading role, but Dev Patel, Emily Mortimer, Allison Pill and Olivia Munn as members of its star-studded cast.
As much as we love the brilliant Dominic West, Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw and Romola Garai and Anna Chancellor, they don’t quite have the same kudos of the American HBO drama.
This is very much a cultural battle, with American dramas traditionally having a ‘case of the week’ structure compared to the British style of one clear plot thread throughout an entire series.
While this structure may have proved very effective in the past, the recent rise of consistently plotted dramas throws up the problems with The Newsroom’s format. Far too quickly are dramas brought up and then conveniently solved with a moment of genius, which made it’s setting all the more ridiculous.
The Hour did the rational thing and focussed on one massive crisis that took place over the whole series, making the Suez Crisis its centre point and weaving the ins and outs of the show on top of it.
With this allowing the drama to build to a fantastic crescendo and giving the show a great sense of timing and consistency, it gives the victory to The Hour.
Once again, this one is chalked down as a win for The Hour. From the debonair anchor-man Hector to the ambitious Freddie and the incredibly likeable Bel, these may be archetype’s, but The Hour never lets them be dominated by one character trait, never become just a one note piece to a puzzle.
The Newsroom wanted to have a group of buccaneering, truth seeking journalists who won’t ever be persuaded from the truth. What we got was a group of rather sanctimonious and preachy egotists, who could teach a colony of deaf mutes how to poorly communicate.
While The Hour’s cast of characters isn’t going to make Homeland jealous any time soon, they win this battle.
This one’s easily going to The Hour. Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom definitely isn’t the best thing he’s produced over the last few years, but still puts up a good fight against the BBC’s stellar period drama. One too many miraculous turnarounds, one too many preachy tirades coming out of the mouth of Aaron Sorkin Will McAvoy and characters that are nowhere near as likeable as those in The Hour make it fade in comparison to the British challenger.