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Is this the new Mad Men?

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In a few weeks BBC2’s hotly anticipated period drama series The Hour hits our screens. Stylist was invited on set for a sneak preview...

Once upon a time a little-known show called Mad Men arrived on our screens. Fast forward four years and it’s one of TV’s biggest success stories. Countless contenders have come along to knock it from its lofty perch – but none have been successful. Until now. Because if there’s one show that looks set to rise to the challenge it’s The Hour.

Set in a TV newsroom in the Fifties, BBC series The Hour shares the same hit formula: a bygone era set against the glamorous backdrop of the media, complex gender politics, romance (in this case, a love triangle) and faultless costumes. It also boasts some serious acting heavyweights including Atonement’s Romola Garai and The Wire’s Dominic West. Understandably the buzz around the show is huge. So Stylist visited the north London set to get an inside glimpse of what’s tipped to be summer’s biggest hit.

Walking into Hornsey Town Hall, the location of the show’s replica TV recording studio and newsroom, is like stepping back in time. Nothing has been overlooked in the newsrooms, there are fictitious production schedules that have been fully researched and written despite the fact they’ll never be seen on screen. Criminal Justice’s Ben Whishaw is rehearsing lines amidst authentic vintage studio lights, microphones and cameras. There’s also a retired ex-BBC editor on hand to ensure every scene captures the essence of Fifties TV news broadcasting.

“It’s the story of the time before shows like Panorama and Tonight,” creator of the series, Abi Morgan tells us. “I wanted to pinpoint the moment when TV news changed and became a place where people could analyse and debate things impartially.”

Placing three ambitious journalists – Bel (Garai), Hector (West) and Freddie (Whishaw) – centre stage, Morgan reveals the drama also depicts into a “culture in transition”, setting itself against a backdrop of a changing work place for women.

Still, wandering around the set, you can’t help but notice the meticulous attention to detail. The clothes hanging in the wardrobe in Bel’s flat are based on colour palettes from a 1956 issue of Vogue. Watching the cast film the final episode of the six part series, it’s becoming all too apparent that the staff of Mad Men’s Sterling Cooper may be about to see some gaps in next year’s trophy cabinet.

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