Monday, May 26, 2014

Days of FuturePast: The Hour and The Bletchley Circle

So, with it being Memorial Day and all, I thought I'd take a televised road trip with ya'll and highlight two great BBC dramas set in the post-WWII era. Since it's now the unofficial official start of summer, this may be a good time to get some shows queued up for your summer watching.

No, not that 50s. This 50s.

That one. The one where everyone had a push-up bra and smoking was sexy and cool and didn't cause a bunch of cancer. Also, no one wore black-framed glasses ironically. Oh, the good ole days. 

I have waxed philosophic about The Hour before and how it was SO GOOD and then BBC canceled it because ugh. Never fear. Our modern space age era allows us to access moving pictures and television programs at the touch of a button like never before, all thanks to humanity's ability to harness the power of nuclear energy. Well, really it's electromagnetism, but I did want to sound like one of those announcer guys from the 50s.

Plus also:

Clip art!

Okay, so. The Hour. Seriously, this show is da bomb. (See above.) I binge watched all of the episodes about a year ago, and I have been hoping since then that Netflix would make the show available on instant streaming, but it is alas still only available on DVD.  However, it is available on Amazon Instant Video. Originally airing on the States on BBC America, The Hour dramatizes a fictional BBC news and information program entitled (you guessed it), The Hour. Don't ask. It's meta.

It features Romola Garai (Atonement, Vanity Fair, Daniel Deronda) as Bel Rowley, professional news lady and producer of The Hour (the show within the show, not the show show.) Her partner in crime is her bestie bestie (and maybe boyfriend if she could only stop screwing married men), Freddie Lyon, portrayed by the adorbzabear Ben Whishaw (Bright Star, Brideshead Revisited, Skyfall). Freddie is a truth-seeking journalist and co-presenter of the hour, along with Hector Madden (Dominic West). Hector is less of a truth-seeking journalist and more of a man whore. Hector has an affair with Bel, much to the humiliation of Hector's wife, Marnie (Oona Chaplin, really, yes, that Chaplin).

Freddie is totally in love with Bel, but Bel has friendzoned him, although it's clear from their working and platonic relationship that they should be a couple. In the mean time, Freddie sets out to uncover corruption in the British Parliament and PM's office, overturning secrets that are being kept at the highest levels of the incredibly paranoid UK government. His crusading puts both his life and the survival of The Hour in jeopardy. There are spies and all types of intrigue. Also featured are Anna Chancellor (if you remember your 1995 P&P, she threw shade at Lizzie Bennett as Caroline Bingley) and Peter Capaldi as the Season 2 Head of News. (Thaaaat's where I've seen him before.)

This show is smart, sexy, well-written, and engrossing. It had a following in the US, but BBC canceled it after two seasons. :Sadface: It would be nice if someone else would pick it up and make more episodes. I won't give away too much, but Season 2 ends on a cliffhanger and it was the cast's understanding that they would be tying up the loose ends when the execs at The Beeb brought down the ax. There's no reason why BBC America couldn't take up the reins and make a few more episodes. What does a girl have to do to see Bel and Freddie get together?

Is your "I Like Ike" button tingling? Well, that means it's time to discuss The Bletchley Circle.

Now, we all know the British are known for their great muhhhhder mysteries. There is so much murder in Britain, and so many clever people to solve said murders. Bletchley features a quartet of ladies who worked as Nazi code breakers at the top secret Bletchley Park during World War II. During the post-war period, they've found themselves without much to do because if a lady gets it into her pretty little head that she has a knack for puzzles and things, well then she's really not that content to sit at home and discover new ways with Spam.

Set in 1952 and starring the always awesome Anna Maxwell Martin (Becoming Jane, Bleak House, Philomena) as  Susan Gray, a London housewife who sets things in motion when she realizes that a string of murders she has been reading about in the Times shows a distinct pattern. Not taken seriously by Scotland Yard or even by her own husband, Susan becomes convinced that she can crack the pattern's code and find the killer. She enlists the help of her old Bletchley friends, who have found life rather dull after after their time spent cracking Nazi codes on Enigma machines and whatnot. Susan's friends -- Millie (Rachel Sterling), Lucy (Sophie Rundle), and Jean (Julie Graham) -- have, like Susan, had to keep their wartime activities to themselves and so must for the most part confine themselves to 1950s gender roles.

Girl, don't even think I don't have a tire iron in my dainty handbag.

Series 1 aired on PBS Stateside in 2013 and is available on Netflix streaming. Series 2 saw the departure of Martin's character, and the introduction of a new member of the circle, Alice, portrayed by Hattie Morahan (Elinor in Sense and Sensibility, 2008), a former Bletchley worker who finds herself in trouble with the law. 

I find the Brits tend to have a good grasp on the mystery and suspense drama, and if you're looking for something with some strong female leads, I'd encourage anyone to tune in. Series 2 is available on on Amazon Prime. 

Series 2 just finished airing on PBS, but if your fallout shelter has wifi, the series is available for binge watching online.

Now with wireless internet! And in technicolor! Spamdandy!

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