* THE HOUR. 9 p.m. Wednesday, BBC America.

ACTORS IN period pieces often crow (or complain) about the costumes or the hairstyles, but one of the biggest adjustments Dominic West ("The Wire") had to make to play a 1950s TV newsman in BBC America's "The Hour" was to his attitude.

Early on, "I made the mistake of adopting some of the interview style and attitude of more modern interviewers . . . TV interviews have developed enormously over the last 40 years and I hadn't quite taken that onboard," West said in an interview this past summer.

"When I look back at the interviewers of the '50s, it was much more deferential . . . Not deference, but a gentler approach to interviewing," he said.

"It's something that is coming back now in England because everybody's a bit sick of particularly this guy, [BBC "Newsnight" presenter] Jeremy Paxman, who [once asked] a politician the same question 25 times.

"He's brilliant because he's the scourge of politicians. If they come on and they don't know their stuff, then he kills them," he said.

Twenty-five times?

Maybe only a dozen, West conceded. "He's our best TV journalist."

In "The Hour," which returned for its second season on Nov. 28, West plays Hector Madden, co-anchor of a BBC News show - "The Hour" - whose playboy ways have occasionally gotten him into trouble at the office.

In this week's episode, he's just been sprung from jail after being falsely accused of beating up a young woman.

But while the first season portrayed Hector as a journalistic lightweight brought in as window dressing - "The Hour" creator Abi Morgan cites "Broadcast News" as an influence - he seems to be growing in the job.

He's even being described "as a good journalist," West said.

"And that's sort of what he's learning by being with 'The Hour.' His natural home is light entertainment. But he happens to have fallen into this job with very serious journalists, and I think that awakens something in him and he steps up to it. And, yeah, he becomes a good newsman."

"The Hour," set this season in 1957, is looking at a time when "the BBC was evolving from being a propaganda organ of the war to being journalists who held the government to account. And that's something that we take for granted now," he said.

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