'The Hour' Leaves Viewers Wanting More

TV show: The Hour – The short take on this six-part BBC series (on BBC America) is that it’s an English answer to Mad Men, which seems to be the inspiration for a number of new American series that seem to vaguely get the form but haven’t a clue about the content.

Yes, The Hour is, like Mad Men, very redolent of its era (1956), stylish, sexy and exceptionally well acted, written, plotted and directed, plus a revelatory look at society and media coming into the modern digital age.

But this taut and dusky drama about a new and innovatively serious BBC news show which is intertwined with suspense and secret conspiracies is very much a series all on its own.

This is unlike so many shows that won’t let go until they’ve exhausted the concept and all but ruined what made it special in the first place.

See the once charming Weeds for how bad that can get as it jumps not just the shark but an ocean full of them in its turgid latest season.

It’s a show that ends leaving you wanting more after its six episodes. When’s the last time you could say that?

(After the final episode was aired, BBC announced it was commissioning more episodes.)

Documentary film: Mann v. Ford – The calls from the right wing to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency feel inhumanely heartless once you see this film in which the EPA actually comes off as nearly as bad and in dire need of strengthening and internal reform. It details the horrors and ravages suffered by the Ramapough Mountain Indians of New Jersey whose lands were thoroughly polluted by toxic waste from a nearby Ford car plant that were dumped there in the 1960s and ’70s. The results are cancer and disease that has touched every home in this small community, and pollution so pervasive that the area was listed as a superfund site and then re-listed after an EPA supervised clean-up that was thoroughly inadequate. It’s hard not to feel outrage and disgust at how the poor and powerless have been so abused by both the Ford Motor Company and the government. But a lawsuit filed on their behalf will, if won, make at least some small measure of redress even if the community so victimized has been permanently poisoned, damaged and ruined.

Yet as with many such tales, there are heroes, both among the afflicted and those who chose to help them.

And none are more inspiring and also unexpected than Memphis lawyer Vicki Gilliam, a Southern belle who rose from a impoverished childhood and life as a poor single mother to earn her law degree and has never lost touch with the less fortunate and oppressed.

Comedy special: Colin Quinn Long Story Short – Knowledge of history is no longer this nation’s strong suit, a point proven by the frequent mistaken utterances by GOP and right-wing politicians. In his Broadway show (directed by Jerry Seinfeld) now on national tour and filmed by HBO, comedian Quinn offers a pungent combo of historical intellect and quite funny common sense for common folks that makes Santayana’s observation that those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

This clever notion of looking at the cultures of the past and explaining them and their falls in terms we all can understand today is rich with laughs, irony, insight and wisdom.

From The Progressive Populist, November 1, 2011


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