Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Upstairs Downstairs-The Saga Continues on PBS/Masterpiece

Upstairs, Downstairs is back on PBS starting Sunday April 10th

If you are in withdrawal after Downton Abbey finished this week, fear not! BBC and PBS have combined forces yet again to bring us the continuation of the famous historic soap opera of the 1970s, Upstairs Downstairs.

The story opens in 1936, six years after the Bellamy family moved out of 165 Eaton Place at the end of the original series. Recently inherited by young Sir Hallam Holland (Ed Stoppard, Bridey Flyte from Brideshead Revisited 2008), the house has been long vacant and its considerable needs are taken in hand by Hallam’s vivacious wife, Agnes (Keeley Hawes, Cynthia from Wives and Daughters).

The stellar cast includes the original series creators Dame Eileen Atkins (Miss Deborah Jenkyns from Cranford) and Jean Marsh (Mrs. Ferrars from Sense and Sensibility 2008), with Marsh reprising her Emmy Award-winning role as Rose Buck, now promoted from parlormaid to housekeeper, and Atkins appearing as the aristocratic Lady Maud.  Hopefully we can expect some of the brilliant verbal sparring from these ladies that we have so enjoyed with the "Dames of Downton".

Lady Agnes Holland's first order of business is to hire servants, for which she retains Rose (Marsh), the proprietor of a domestic employment agency, although Agnes is unaware of Rose’s previous association with 165. After lining up a butler (Adrian Scarborough from Cranford), a cook (Anne Reid from Bleak House), a housemaid (Ellie Kendrick from The Diary of Anne Frank), and other staff, Rose realizes she may be of no further use to the new family.  But of course, she is needed once again...

And so it continues, just as it did thirty-odd years ago, with stories of the upper-class and working-class intertwining in complex and interesting ways against a backdrop of world events—in this case, the abdication crisis of Edward VIII, the growing belligerence of Hitler and Mussolini on the continent, and the rise of the British Union of Fascists under Sir Oswald Mosley.

You know where I will be every Sunday night in April.  Will you be joining me, Earl Grey tea in hand?


  1. I wonder how Upstairs/Downstairs will fare when it is inevitably compared to Downton Abbey. I think the biggest challenge is to address how the 20 years between the two shows' time periods have changed or not changed not only the roles of servants but whether they're even needed anymore.

    DVR is already set up to record the show.

  2. Hi Jane
    I saw a bit of the first episode online and it seems to be pretty good. I would say almost as good as Downton. It does seem different with respect to the servants. As this was during the depression, the moneyed families weren't quite so flush with cash and had a bit more difficulty funding their lifestyles. I think you'll find they still really need their servants, they just have to spread them more thinly! Can't wait for this to air...

  3. I found UpDown lacking by comparison. Downton might be considered soapy by some but it held me riveted and on the edge of my seat, invested in the characters. How many of us have debated and chattered about the Crawleys as if they exist in real life? I can't say the same about the folks at the newly-renovated 165 Eaton Place (even though some of my favourite actresses were part of the cast - Keeley, Claire and Eileen).

    I partly blame Jean Marsh's sour remarks for my lack of enthusiasm and had it aired before Downton, I might have enjoyed it more. Given how I was so against the media's constant comparisons between the two dramas, I found that in the end, I couldn't help BUT compare and found Highclere and Fellowes to be an unbeatable combination!

    Would still love to join you for a cup of Earl Grey sometime!

  4. Hi Cheryl,

    I did think that UpDown (I love that!) was darker and much less pretty than Downton, but part of that is comparing the prosperous Edwardian era in the Country to the depression in Town, although considering it was set during the depression, it was pretty great looking.

    I didn't see enough to really get to know the characters yet, but as I love most Period Drama, there is always lots for me to enjoy. Downton Abbey will be hard to beat however. It's going to be a long year.

    I think we'd have a lot to talk about over that Earl Grey!




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