Netflix adds hard-to-find but brilliant Ben Whishaw series that was controversially axed

Ben Whishaw
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Netflix has recently added The Hour, the BBC's marvelous 1950s period drama starring Ben Whishaw which was controversially axed after just two seasons.

The highly stylish 2011 series starred Whishaw, Romola Garai and Dominic West as three journalists involved in a love triangle who launch a topical news show called The Hour in London in 1956. Despite being largely critically acclaimed, the series has since been somewhat difficult to find on streaming services, so you should grab the chance now to watch it on Netflix.

Whishaw's character Freddie Lyon becomes the heart of the drama when he's asked to look into the murder of a college professor by the daughter of a House of Lords member who employed his mother. When another body turns up, Freddie appears to have been drawn into a conspiracy involving the highest members of the British government.

The Hour cast

The three main characters in The Hour (Image credit: Kudos Film & TV / BBC)

Describing Freddie, Whishaw once said: "He sees himself as being the front man of The Hour when in actual fact he's such a loose cannon, a maverick, unpredictable, and opinionated, that the 'powers that be' wouldn't dream of giving him that role."

The Hour is superbly atmospheric and it's not surprising that it drew comparisons to Mad Men, which made our Top 100 TV shows of all time list. But while it has some obvious similarities with the American drama, not least its brilliant acting and storytelling, it remains very British.

Writer Abi Morgan, who went on to create The Split, talked at the time about her love for the Watergate scandal movie All the President's Men as she revealed why she set The Hour in a newsroom in 1956 against the backdrop of The Suez Crisis.

"I've always loved drama with a deadline. Broadcast News, All The President's Men, The Front Page, His Girl Friday four very different films but all enhanced by the pace, drama and office politics of the newsroom, be it for broadsheet or broadcast. 

"When Jane Featherstone at Kudos first suggested the idea of doing a newsroom drama set in the Fifties it was already irresistible. The research that followed sealed the deal. As a year 1956 felt like a real turning point, Prime Minister Eden was leading a government through times of monumental change. The empire was nearly over and the establishment was on the edge of reinvention. The birth of the teenager was heralded by the arrival of rock and roll. The 'new' was on the horizon ready to kick down doors."

The Hour cast

The Hour boasted an amazing cast (Image credit: Kudos Film & TV / BBC)

The Hour did get a second series, set in 1957, which aired on the BBC in 2012. However, despite having a loyal audience, the BBC took the controversial decision not to give it a third. The great cast also included Anna Chancellor, Anton Lesser, Peter Capaldi, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Tom Burke.

Since The Hour the three leads — Whishaw, Romola Garai and Dominic West — have only grown in fame. As well as playing Q in the Bond movies, Whishaw is also, of course, the voice of Paddington, which will return for a third outing later this year. You can watch both seasons of The Hour now on Netflix.

David Hollingsworth

David is the What To Watch Editor and has over 20 years of experience in television journalism. He is currently writing about the latest television and film news for What To Watch.

Before working for What To Watch, David spent many years working for TV Times magazine, interviewing some of television's most famous stars including Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, singer Lionel Richie and wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough. 

David started out as a writer for TV Times before becoming the title's deputy features editor and then features editor. During his time on TV Times, David also helped run the annual TV Times Awards. David is a huge Death in Paradise fan, although he's still failed to solve a case before the show's detective! He also loves James Bond and controversially thinks that Timothy Dalton was an excellent 007.

Other than watching and writing about telly, David loves playing cricket, going to the cinema, trying to improve his tennis and chasing about after his kids!