THE SHOW "The Hour"
WHEN|WHERE Wednesday night at 9 on BBC America
WHAT IT'S ABOUT The second season of BBC's noirish drama about a newsmagazine launches tonight (though check out season one -- repeated in full, from noon to 5 p.m. on BBCA today). Last season was built around the Suez Canal crisis in 1956; this one takes place in fall of the following year, with Sputnik aloft and Cold War nuke hysteria building in the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, callow caddish anchorman -- called "presenter" by our cross-pond cousins -- Hector Madden (Dominic West, "The Wire") is deep in his cups and about to get a surprise: "The Hour" has a new producer-overseer, Randall Brown (Peter Capaldi), who wants to shake up both star and show. His first move: Make Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw, Q in "Skyfall"), back from the States, his co-host. Hector is gobsmacked, and so is his other boss, Bel Rowley (Romola Garai).
MY SAY "The Hour" has been called the BBC's "Mad Men," though apparently by someone who never saw either show. Both are workplace dramas, both revel in period details, and both -- or at least both leads -- like their bourbon neat. That's about it, though, and newbies (Iamong them) probably shouldn't be expecting much of anything beyond that.
"The Hour" is good but moves along at a very low throttle -- unhurried and leisurely. Even the brilliant Capaldi ("The Thick of It"), as the phlegmatic clerk determined to bring some energy to the flagging "Hour," seems like a character who could use an extra cup of coffee. Whishaw's Freddie is almost the exception: He's the full-of-himself crusading muckraker -- think Early Geraldo Rivera -- who wants to stick it under the nose of the Ministry, or whatever bureaucracy's nose they stick it under over there.
BOTTOM LINE There are real pleasures with "The Hour," but the hour (actually, about an hour and 15 minutes Wednesday night) ticks by far too slowly.