The Hour Series 2 First Look: Tucker Turns Up

 Smokey, drinky journo-drama The Hour is back and out to prove everyone who thinks it’s just a British Mad Men rip-off completely wrong. It’s not just a British Mad Men rip-off; it’s a British Mad Men rip-off that now has Peter Capaldi in it. And that makes it great.

But the character given to the Thick of It star, an eccentric and obsessive Head of News, could’ve been too cartoonish were it not saved by his talent for making even the most preposterous and unusual characters seem not only utterly believable, but also searingly honest. If Peter Capaldi played a banker who turned up on a spacehopper and spoke like a pirate, I’d probably just sit back and think “Yeah, he’s absolutely nailed that, that’s exactly what bankers are like, those bouncy, treasonous bastardsâ€?.

The return of Dominic West as Hector Madden is another example of the same. Smooth-talking, womanising and heartless, Hector could have been too much, but West is consummately brilliant as the formerly-untouchable presenter whose life rapidly begins to fall apart. In fact, he could not make a more perfect arsehole if he was surrounded by genuine bum cheeks.

Completely bullet-proof in the first series, his morality tale will be completed this season as the first episode leaves him with angry media tosspot types queuing down the street and fighting to get their hands on him. Like an iPhone 5. And to make things worse, Ben Whishaw’s young, idealistic reporter Freddie Lyon is back, new French wife in tow, and gunning for his job.

The undoubted highlight of this first episode is the scene in which Lyon’s producer, Bel (Romola Garai), getting slightly past it and hopelessly in love with him, unexpectedly meets his new wife, unfortunately a typical cutesie, doe-eyed movie French girl whose name escapes me, and tries to keep it all together. It is subtle, and it is devastating.

In truth, so is much of the rest of the show, and apart from Joshua McGuire’s office loser character Isaac Wengrow, who veers slightly too close to the American high school nerd archetype and will probably start the next episode wedgied on a coat peg, I can’t see much going wrong with this new series, which starts just as well as the last series finished.