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A Review of Both Series

A Review of Both Series

We just can’t appear to get enough of the ‘have and have-not’ story. “Downtown Abbey” could also be one of the best recognized “above and under stairs” drama, but before “Downton,” there was “Upstairs, Downstairs.”


Courtesy BBC / Masterpiece

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The period collection premiered on British Television in 1971 and was resurrected in 2010 with a brand new, all-star forged, together with Keeley Hawes and Ed Stoppard. Each mini-series take place in the early 1900s and concentrate on the lives of the occupants of 165 Eaton Place, a gracious townhouse in Belgravia in central London.

Some see the brand new model from BBC and Masterpiece as the superior watching experience, and others insist the unique is one of the best. Under, Michelle Cox evaluations both versions, and provides 5 points to think about, that will help you determine which to observe. The excellent news: you’ll be able to’t go flawed, and each are available to stream. 

The Innovation

Courtesy LWT

The unique “Upstairs, Downstairs” was thought-about groundbreaking at the time of its release because there had never before been a drama collection on British tv that examined society from the servants’ viewpoint. London Weekend Tv (LWT) held off on airing the first season – the network wasn’t convinced that the British public can be fascinated with a period collection – and the executives almost scrapped the present before lastly giving it a 10:15 PM slot on Sundays.

The general public liked it. “Upstairs, Downstairs” turned the preferred drama collection on TV at the time, choosing up over twenty-five awards, including the rare Peabody Award and two BAFTA’s, in the course of the course of its run (1971-1975).

The collection was also a favourite with American audiences when it aired in the US in 1974. Viewers delighted in watching the intrigues of the aristocratic Bellamy family alongside the lives of the servants who served them. The period drama gained several awards stateside, including eight Emmys and two Golden Globes, and was one of the highest-rated exhibits in PBS history.

Likewise, the newer model was progressive in it’s own method, as it was not just a remake of the original however as an alternative moved the story ahead in time with an entire new forged. What’s uncommon is that it’s the setting—the home—which stays in place, not the story or the characters.

The Talent

Jean Marsh in Upstairs, Downstairs (1971), courtesy LWT

“Upstairs, Downstairs” was the brainchild of Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins, two British actresses who came from working class backgrounds; each had mother and father who labored as servants.

Atkins (Queen Mary in The Crown) and Marsh (Mrs. Ferrars in Sense & Sensibility) had loved the mini-series “The Forsyte Saga.” “However we stated, ‘Yes, however our poor mother and father would have been ironing those frocks and blacking those grates and washing up all that stuff, and wouldn’t it’s fantastic if there was a collection concerning the downstairs individuals?’ And initially it was simply going to be about downstairs. After which we realized you couldn’t have downstairs without upstairs so we had to let the rich individuals in.” (Eileen Atkins)

Marsh and Atkins’ first concept had been to create a comedy referred to as “Behind the Inexperienced Baize Door” a few prepare dinner who drinks too much, and a butler who takes benefit of his employers. The undertaking morphed into “Upstairs, Downstairs,” with Jean Marsh enjoying the position of Rose Buck, the parlor maid. Eileen Atkins was enjoying Queen Victoria in a stage play and had to forgo a task in the manufacturing. Years later, she was forged as Mrs. Croft, the top prepare dinner in “Gosford Park,” so she had her flip at enjoying a servant under stairs.

One face younger viewers might acknowledge from the 1970s collection is Pauline Collins. Collins performed the much-loved character of the maid Sarah, and went on to star in the “Upstairs, Downstairs” spin-off “Thomas and Sarah,” but period drama fans will extra doubtless know her from her position in “Bleak Home” as Miss Flite, or as Mrs. Baker in “Albert Nobbs,” and Mrs. Gamp in “Dickensian.”

When the collection was rebooted in 2010, each Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins took roles for the primary season of the brand new interval drama. Marsh returned as Rose Buck, now the top of an employment agency tasked with supplying 165 Eaton Place with a recent crop of servants, and Atkins performs the eccentric mother-in-law.

Ed Stoppard (House Fires) and Keeley Hawes (Mrs. Wilson) have been recruited to play the new upstairs occupants, they usually positively sizzle together. As fans of “The Durrells in Corfu” know, Hawes is properly suited to a 1930s setting. She appears to have virtually stepped out of the pages of a periodical of the day, not just in the type of her garments and hair, however in demeanor. Claire Foy (The Crown), who plays the devious younger sister, Persie, notably shines in her position. While Hawes’ character, Woman Agnes, is elegant and dutiful, Foy’s character virtually shimmers in her naughtiness.

The House that Lives On

Courtesy BBC / Masterpiece

The 5 seasons of the original collection are set between 1903 and 1930, shifting via the Edwardian, First World Struggle, and Interwar eras. The 2010 version picks up in 1936 with a continuation of the story of the home – 165 Eaton Place – however not a continuation of the unique Bellamy family storyline.

No spoilers about how the original collection ends and what occurs to the household and the beloved servants under stairs, however the brand new collection begins with a new household. Sir Hallam and Woman Agnes Holland take up residence within the now dilapidated 165 Eaton Place. When Woman Agnes sees the home for the first time, she proclaims “It’s like a fairy tale. This home goes to see such life!” Over the course of seasons, it does, however the irony is that it already has.

Viewers who watch each collection will take pleasure in seeing the same set, although it was truly filmed in two totally different places. For the unique version, the outside of the house was shot at 65 Eaton Place with a “1” painted on to indicate 165. The interiors, nevertheless, have been shot at London Weekend’s TV studios on the South Financial institution. When it got here time to movie the new version, the producers chose Cardiff as a location, elements of which have been altered to appear to be 1930s Belgravia in London, and the house’s exterior itself was shot at Leamington Spa in Warwickshire.

The Substance and the Type

Courtesy BBC / Masterpiece

Due to a technician’s strike in Britain, the primary 13 episodes of the original collection have been filmed in black and white. PBS determined towards airing these episodes, assuming that American viewers wouldn’t watch a collection that wasn’t in colour.

The updated version is superbly shot, and within the arms of Arwel Jones (Sherlock) and Eve Stewart (Call the Midwife), has a production worth that we’ve come to anticipate from BBC and Masterpiece. The original collection’ grainy quality and easy costumes have been changed by beautiful gowns from costume designers Amy Roberts (The Crown) and Ralph Wheeler-Holes (Name the Midwife), and opulent, detailed units from Julia Citadel (The King’s Speech) and Hannah Nicholson (Traitors). The newer version is beautiful to take a look at, however some critics have negatively critiqued it, saying that the scripts are not any match to the original.

The original version had the good thing about an extended run than the mini-series. Comprised of sixty-eight episodes, it was capable of cover a big breadth of subjects, with plot strains centering around historic occasions, such as the Jazz age, the sinkings of the Lusitania and the Titanic, the First World Struggle, and the stock market crash. Over 4 years, the collection developed deep intrigue between the characters, accentuating the acute distinctions between the worlds upstairs and down.

Plot strains within the up to date model also revolve round real world events, such because the king’s abdication, Hitler’s rise to power, and the build up to the Second World Conflict, but it isn’t afforded the area of time wanted to utterly discover the relationships between the characters in the identical method that the first model does. The effect is that the stories of varied characters appear to run in parallel, as an alternative of being tightly woven collectively.

Both have compelling narratives, and as in lots of our favourite period dramas, their story strains typically revolve round relationships between the sexes. There’s romance, and lustful concupiscent points of interest, each above and under stairs, and typically even between the two. As you’d anticipate, the upstairs occupants typically take liberties with the downstairs employees, though in the updated version, it is a lady above stairs who takes advantage of the chauffeur.

The Gender Query

Though over three many years cross, little modifications for ladies between the start of the previous, and the top of latest, versions of “Upstairs, Downstairs.”

Under stairs, the position of girls stay basically the same from one collection to the subsequent with few exceptions. The feminine servants remain in harness, both versions have plot strains involving the thwarted goals of maids who dare to succeed in for a better life.

The choices aren’t a lot better for the above-stairs ladies, who find themselves simply as boxed in and optionless as the ladies servants under them. Both Woman Marjorie within the unique collection and Woman Agnes in the second are meant to be merely beautiful equipment to their husbands. Their position is to facilitate their husbands’ careers by working the social strings in the background, and to satisfy their obligation to supply youngsters.

Both collection provide insight into class-based societal expectations for ladies at the time. The original model exhibits this towards the backdrop of the minor progress that was made within the first many years of the brand new century, comparable to ladies profitable the vote. Within the newer model, the approaching conflict signifies that the women, both above and under stairs, are beginning to query the established norms.

The Choice

So which is greatest? Each versions have their strengths: the original because the forerunner to “Downton Abbey” with its revolutionary take a look at life above and under stairs, and the brand new version, choosing up the place the previous left off, being usually easier on the eyes with successful forged, beautiful sets and a spotlight to period element. Can’t determine? Attempt both!

Watch Upstairs, Downstairs (1971)

Watch Upstairs, Downstairs (2010) 

Michelle Cox is the writer of the award-winning Henrietta and Inspector Howard collection, including her newest, “A Veil Eliminated,” which is on the market here, April 30, 2019. It’s good for fans of “Downton Abbey” and historic mystery/romance. Cox holds a B.A. in English literature from Mundelein School, Chicago.

Michelle also pens the weekly Novel Notes of Local Lore, a weblog devoted to Chicago’s forgotten residents. She suspects she might have once lived in the 1930s and, having yet to find a useful time machine mendacity around, has resorted to writing concerning the period as a approach of getting herself again there. Coincidentally, her books have been praised by Kirkus, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and lots of others, so she may be on to something. Unbeknownst to most, Michelle hoards board video games she doesn’t have time to play and is, not surprisingly, hooked on interval dramas and large band music. Also marmalade.

You will discover her on Facebook here, visit her website right here.

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For those who loved this submit, remember to see The Period Movies Listing, with the most effective historic and costume dramas sorted by period. You’ll particularly like the Greatest Period Dramas: Interwar Period Record, and need to see the news concerning the Downton Abbey Movie.