It can be both a blessing and a curse to be linked to a previous hit program or series. Calling a comedy “…the next Seinfeld” or a drama “…the next Sopranos” can be great for a few fleeting moments, but then you have to deliver. Tonight’s U.S. premiere of The Hour (after a July premiere on the BBC) has been tagged, rightly or wrongly, as Britain’s answer to Mad Men. Unfortunately, not an association that will help the series as it progresses beyond its initial broadcast.
While Mad Men is set in a 1960’s ad agency, the newest output from the BBC drama department is set in a 1950’s television newsroom. Both during a time when racism and sexism were either commonplace or overt. Close enough for government work, I guess, for comparison purposes. Unfortunately, that’s about where the similarities end. Maybe those making the comparison are focusing on the fact that everyone smokes and men wear suits to work. While Mad Men has been put on a pedestal for its’ historical authenticity and spot on visual style, there are those that lived through the early days of television journalism that seem to be bristling just a bit over what they’ve seen so far. Some valid criticisms, some seem just a bit on the bitter side to me.
While honored with the initial comparison, those associated with The Hour are just as quick to downplay it. The BBC series centers around a single critical event (Suez crisis) and takes place at a time when television journalism, in its infancy, is just beginning to come in to its’ own amidst an industry dominated by the print media. Whatever the case, comparison or not, The Hour is worth a shot. All in all, it’s a drama. A drama that could turn out to be a good one. Watch it with that in mind.