One of the many surprises at the 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards was Abi Morgan’s win for “The Hour,” a British period drama set at a news magazine show in the 1950s and starring Ben Whishaw, Dominic West and Romola Garai. The series, which many classified as a UK answer to “Mad Men,” and which was canceled after two seasons, had more surface gloss and class than depth — as Matt Zoller Seitz put it, “for all its fascination with journalistic ethics, political gamesmanship, and the anxiety of Great Britain during empire’s twilight, ‘The Hour’ has never pretended to be anything other than a very classy potboiler filled with attractive people.”
The show’s certainly not bad, and Morgan’s win in itself is less shocking than the people she beat out — Jane Campion (“Top of the Lake”), Richard LaGravenese (“Behind the Candelabra”), David Mamet (“Phil Spector”) and Tom Stoppard (“Parade’s End”), a group of established heavyweights with projects that, while not always solid, were certainly ambitious. Arriving at the tail end of the win comes news that the BBC has commissioned a new project from Morgan — “River,” another dark police drama about a fragile genius.
“River,” which has been given a six hour-long episode season, is about John River, a police officer haunted by the murder victims he’s investigating and dependent on the obsessive pathology that could end his career. “River is a fractured mind navigating a brutal world,” Morgan explains. “And he does it wearing a police badge. I can’t think of a better home for it than the BBC. The chance to tell big stories in a bold way on a channel that embraces so many writers, directors and actors I admire and respect is a huge treat.”
Casting has not yet been announced, but the series will film in London next year to air on BBC One in 2015. BBC America, who aired “The Hour” in the U.S., has not yet joined the project, though it sounds like one the channel would have interest in — it was the U.S. platform for the similarly themed “Luther” and “Wire in the Blood.”
Morgan’s film work includes the screenplays for “The Iron Lady,” “Shame” and “The Invisible Woman.”