John Walsh: I can't wait for Britain's answer to 'Mad Men'

Share
Related Topics

How sick are you of reading articles about the inferiority of British TV drama, when compared to recent outpourings from the Yanks? Very sick indeed. And how much do we applaud the news that the BBC has announced the imminent filming of The Hour, a hard-hitting new series which will blow 24 out of the water, deep-six The Wire, crucify Six Feet Under and make The Sopranos look like pretty small potatoes? Very much indeed is the answer.

Like Mad Men, The Hour is set half a century ago but, rather than concerning a 1960s advertising agency, it takes place in a London TV newsroom in the 1950s, when on-screen newsreaders were a new phenomenon. There is, we're told, a "love triangle" between the "charismatic host", a "young female TV producer", and an "outspoken journalist", plus a "hard-drinking foreign correspondent", just to scotch any rumours of stereotyping. I can't wait. Just imagine the potential for Mad Men-style sexism, racism, hard drinking and vintage frocks...

Scene 1. The Hour newsroom, 1955. Newsreader Bernard Baker is rehearsing his script.

Bernard: "Here is the news. Because of the national rail strike, the Government has declared a state of emergency. Because of the strike by Fleet Street maintenance workers, there will be no newspapers for a month. Ruth Ellis has been hanged in Holloway Gaol. And a border collie called Timmy has won the Most Charming Pet Prize in Solihull."

Hector The Producer: Bernard, love, don't look down so much when you're reading. I'm sure your wife loves seeing the top of your head, but the rest of us aren't so keen.

Bernard: I can't help it. They should invent some screen auto-thingy that has the script running along it.

Hector: Also, I think we're in danger of overdoing the gloom. Move the border collie up the list, and say Ruth Ellis has been "severely chastised" or something.

He reaches for a biscuit. Enter Roger, abrasive, silver-haired studio boss.

Roger: Your third chocolate bourbon before lunch, Hector? I'd go easy if I were you.

Hector (coldly): Help yourself, Roger, why don't you? The Thermos is over there.

Roger (pouring): Who's the new popsy in the horn-rims? Makes the typing pool look like the Riviera.

Hector: Actually, Myrtle Wickham-Smythe has joined the Corporation from Cheltenham Ladies College and Newnham, Cambridge. She is a brain in a liberty bodice. She is more than a match for you, Roger.

Roger (cockily): We'll see how she feels after her second Earl Grey in Lyons Corner House at 7pm.

Hector: You swine.

Enter Cora: young, feisty Assistant Producer (News). Curly hair, gingham shirt, beige slacks.

Cora: Hector, I've been through Bernard's script, and I can't see any sign of Princess Margaret announcing that she's not marrying her Group Captain. We must have it in tonight's programme.

Hector: I think it unwise. We don't want repercussions from the Palace.

Cora: For God's sake, Hector. The announcement's come from the bloody Palace.

Hector: Yes, but still. [Taps nose.] Can't be too careful, you know.

Cora (heatedly): You're ridiculous. You represent a craven, outmoded, forelock-tugging England which will soon be swept away by the forces of youth, as represented by Tommy Steele and the Ban the Bomb movement.

Roger (suavely): My dear Hector, won't you introduce me to this young firebrand?

Hector: Roger, this is Cora Maguire, a young, feisty Assistant Producer (News) who takes no nonsense from anyone.

Roger: Delighted to meet you, my dear. What a marvellous bust you have there. Can I interest you in some gala pie at the Stockpot?

Cora: I'll get my coat. [Aside to camera] Next stop, Panorama...

A lesson in 'conflagrating' from the King of Bollywood

Newly mangled words department, No 157. The "King of Bollywood", the white-bearded, gravel-voiced, heftily bespectacled Amitabh Bachchan, is suing a tobacco manufacturer who has used a voice that sounds a bit like his to advertise its wares. Mr Bachchan, who lends his noble presence to flogging suits, watches and even the state of Gujarat, drew the line when his voice was used to extol the virtues of gutka, a delicious-sounding compound of crushed betel nut, spices and chewing tobacco. "For someone that does not smoke or propagate smoking or any kind of intoxicant by keeping away from endorsing such products," he fumes on his blog, "it is most disgusting to find someone conflagrating the law of the land and the law of ethics, if ever they possessed one." Conflagrating the law? It's a brilliant conflation of "flouting" the law and doing it "flagrantly". But will it catch on? You bet.

The haunting image of a young huntress

What is it about Huntress with Buck, David Chancellor's image of a redheaded girl on a horse holding the horns of the buck she's killed – the picture that won this year's Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, and is on show at London's National Portrait Gallery – that so disturbs?

Is it the look of dull neutrality on the face of 14-year-old Jodie Slaughter from Alabama (on her first hunting trip in South Africa), as if she were doing nothing more interesting than taking out the rubbish on her bicycle? Is it the contrast between the little madam's foot, trainered and safe in its stirrup, and the stiffened legs of the dead animal around the horse's neck? Is it the memory of the magnificent stag, the Emperor of Exmoor, that was killed last week by just such another dead-eyed, incurious "hunter"?

Or is it, in fact, the air of fathomless disgust that hangs over the horse, as it bears its double burden – one dead, one loathsome – home to camp?

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Technical Support Analyst (C++, Windows, Linux, Perl, Graduate)

£30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global leader in trading platforms and e...

Junior IT Consultant (SQL, Java, C++, Oracle, Graduate)

£28000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A fast growing consultancy to the financia...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Forty per cent of global trades in euros are cleared through London  

The success enjoyed by the City of London owes nothing to the EU

Nigel Farage
Sami Khedira of Germany runs past Oscar of Brazil with the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between Brazil and Germany  

If they weren't obsessed with instant profits, England could have a team as good as Germany’s

Mark Steel
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil