Entries in The Hour (1)


'The Hour' Puts a Woman Ahead of the Mad Men

Dave M. Benett/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Mad men, meet the woman of the hour.

The Hour, a six-part drama premiering on BBC America Wednesday, chronicles the goings-on of a newsroom in 1950s Britain -- post WWII, pre-Cold War and on the brink of the Suez crisis. Men dominate this world, but one woman shines: Bel, played by British actress Romola Garai.

As the producer of the BBC's intrepid new news program, Bel bears the weight of The Hour. Clad in wool sheaths and a wavy bob, navigating the newsroom through a haze of cigarette smoke and a heavy dose of whiskey, it's impossible not to compare Bel to her counterparts on a similar series -- Mad Men.

But unlike Peggy, Joan and the rest of the women inhabiting Mad Men's ad agencies, Bel lords over the big boys. She bosses around Hector (Dominic West), The Hour's handsome anchor, and reprimands Freddie (Ben Whishaw), The Hour's wannabe handsome anchor-turned-scrappy correspondent. She chastises a female receptionist for flirting instead of plotting her career.

And sexism? She hits back with sarcasm. When Hector, not knowing that Bel's his future boss, sees her flipping through magazines and says that women only like glossies because of their pictures, she coos, "You're so right, and those things called novels, so many words!"

"She takes it in stride," Garai told ABC News. "It would have been a very contemporary reaction for me to have played her being appalled by the misogyny of her workplace, because that kind of thing would have been completely normal at the time."

In a TV landscape rife with female characters who have sex or scream to get what they want (sometimes, in the case of certain reality shows, they do both), Bel's a breath of fresh air. For Garai, taking her on came with responsibility.

"Even in the context of a show like The Hour, I torture myself thinking about what is a good representation of women and then what is a truthful representation," she said. "When a character does something that disappoints because you because it is not a positive representation of your gender, sometimes you have to allow that to happen."

If Bel is a renegade of a bygone era, Garai might be one of today's. Film buffs may remember her as the elder Briony in 2007's Atonement; The Hour is Garai's biggest role to date.

The Hour is about much more than women in the workplace. A mysterious murder turns it into a noir kind of thriller. The beginnings of broadcast news are at its heart. The humor is very, very British. But in the face of inevitable comparisons to other '50s and '60s era fare, it's worth highlighting how a female protagonist like Bel sets The Hour apart from the rest.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio