10 November 2013 | The_late_Buddy_Ryan
Not too late to catch a great ("great" in the sense of canceled) BBC series
Now available on disk from Netflix and streaming on Amazon Prime, this smart, stylish BBC series, set in the mid-50s, really hits its stride by the end of its first season. Sumptuous Bel and geeky Freddie (Romola Garai and Ben Wishaw), escapees from the BBC newsreel floor, are the offscreen talent behind the eponymous news program; Hector (Dominic West) is the hearty, "highly corruptible" frontman. The plot lines are a little over the top at times—Mr. Kish, the palefaced spook who self-destructs when he fails to hit the target, is straight out of the old "Avengers" series (not necessarily a bad thing)—but the interplay among the main characters is beautifully portrayed. Anna Chancellor and Peter Capaldi are great together as a pair of prickly ex-lovers, and Oona Chaplin, at first mainly decorative as Hector's neglected wife, has an amazing scene in which she kicks her latest rival to the curb in the kindest, gentlest way.
The first season is built around the Suez Crisis and the Burgess-Maclean spy scandal, but the political backdrop is pretty much self-explanatory; the second season reverts to more familiar hardboiled themes—bent cops, shady nightclubs, showgirls in jeopardy and a porno racket (innocuous b&w photos in this case)—before getting back to the big stuff, high-level corruption and the nuclear threat. A "behind the scenes" clip on the second DVD focuses on the obsessively detailed production design, which, as with "Mad Men," is a big part of the show's appeal.