One of the most loved television series of all time is brought back to life with a stellar cast and a story full of scandal, romance and intrigue set against a sweeping historical backdrop.
1936. The house at 165 Eaton Place has stood empty since the Bellamy family sold it six years earlier. Now the doors are finally flung open by new owners, diplomat Sir Hallam, his wife Lady Agnes, and, back from the Raj, Maud, Lady Holland, his mother. With the arrival of Agnes’s debutante sister, Lady Persie, the sumptuous home is ready to come to life.
And who better than Rose, the house’s former parlourmaid, to recruit the new staff? The new 'downstairs' family is as full of characters as its previous incarnation with the highly strung butler Mr Pritchard, cook Mrs Thackeray, chauffeur Harry Spargo and a vivacious and spirited young team.
Soon both the elegant upstairs world and the downstairs staff have built their own labyrinth of secrets, lies and scandal, and as they feel the tremors of royal and political upheaval and the ominous threat of war, the house reverberates to the familiar sounds of rumour, excitement and dread…
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I remember the first series being on when I was younger, but wasn't into it all all. However, watched this new version and thoroughly enjoyed it. This series is beautifully done in true BBC period drama style, with a host of instantaneously believable actors and actresses. The new 'Upstars Downstairs' allows us to explore the ideas and manners of a time gone by, but not to be forgotten. At a time when good TV is getting scarse, and trash TV seems to be the norm, this is a breath of fresh air.
This first episode of Upstairs Downstairs felt bogged down with exposition and scene-setting, and despite a hyperactive subplot featuring Ivy the housemaid and Johnny the inebriate footman, it walked blithely into the Momentous Events from History trap which recently hamstrung Any Human Heart. This may be a result of the timorous decision to make only an exploratory three episodes, causing everything to be crammed in and speeded up. In this first hour, we learned of the death of King George V, with Rose taking the opportunity while queueing to view the lying-in-state to persuade Mrs Thackeray (Anne Reid) to accept the post of cook in the Holland household. We had the accession of flaky Edward VIII, gossip about that brassy Mrs Simpson, Hitler ranting on the wireless, and a warning from Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden to Sir Hallam (Ed Stoppard, rendered virtually immobile by starch and Brylcreem) about that bounder von Ribbentrop, in London to whip up support for the Nazis. It was like a Coles Notes summary of the path to World War Two Thank heavens for Dame Eileen, playing Hallam’s feisty and eccentric mother Lady Maud, who had returned from decades of colonial service in India accompanied by a precocious pet monkey and a manservant, Mr Amanjit (Art Malik, verging on the ludicrous in beard and turban). Hallam, who’s a bit wishy-washy, like one of Bertie Wooster’s daft chums from the Drones Club, has found himself caught in a titanic clash of wills between Lady Maud and his wife. When Maud airily rewrote both the menu and the guest list for Lady Agnes’s cocktail party, there was almost an ahistorical outbreak of nuclear war when her invitee Wallis Simpson (Emma Clifford) swept through the front door, accompanied not by the anticipated King Edward, but by the supercilious von Ribbentrop (Edward Baker-Duly). It took quick thinking by the dyspeptic butler Mr Pritchard (Adrian Scarborough) to effect the speedy egress of the Boche from the premises. But I don’t think Lady Agnes would really have bellowed “Perhaps you’ll let me choose my own guests next time” across a room full of politicians and aristocrats at her mother-in-law, do you? All good fun, but this mini-series will be over by tomorrow night. We may have to wait for a full-length run before Upstairs Downstairs II can really prove its mettle
Is it really 35 years since I saw Rose? I was uncertain whether to watch the new programmes as I’d been so engrossed in the 1970’s series. It hadn’t been a barrel of laughs so I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to go there again. As I get older I go for lighter and lighter entertainment! Surprisingly I was soon hooked. My favourite characters were the haughty Lady Holland above stairs and cantankerous Mrs Thackeray below. Upstairs Downstairs sparks the imagination and brings history to life making a stroll around the streets of Belgravia a must.
What a lovely suprise, I did not plan to watch this programme and then found myself engrossed with it all. Rose, from the original series, was a lovely touch and being back in the Bellamy House was lovely. The Upstairs, was set against the back drop of the build up to the abdication of Edward VIII, which was interesting. The Upstairs story line also ended up dealing with the sensitive issue of a downs syndrome child being placed in a home/institutuion - which I imagine was commonplace back in those days for wealthy families. However, the child (now adult) came back to the family for Christmas, so very heartwarming and dealt with brilliantly. The snooty "Lady" suddenly seemed so much more human when the story unfolded. Downstairs dealt with a young lad who had a criminal record, yet was still welcomed at the end, it also dealt with the relationship between the staff and their employers. A 3 part programme, which was brilliant and I really hope will continue again with more programmes at a later daye
I just can't believe that your so-called television critic failed to watch, let alone even review, Charlie Brooker's excellent 2010 Screenwipe, that was shown last night on BBC Two. In my considered opinion it has been the only really new programme actually worth watching throughout the entire festive period so far. His caustic and satirical diatribe of a whole year's worth of absymal detritus that is constantly pumped into our living rooms under the disguise of so-called news or entertainment, was both superably exposed and ridiculed for exactly what it was really worth. He often doesn't really need to take the piss out most of the goddamn awful programmes featured anyway, as they are usually so inane that they frequently become a parody of themselves.
I am old enough to have seen the original when first broadcast ! and have been eagerly awaiting this sequel. Feel it was nicely linked with the past with "Rose" being involved especially as she became Housekeeper. Jean Marsh as Rose and Eileen Atkins as the formidable mother-in-law also nicely tying in as they were the original creators of the series and both giving sterling performances. I particularly like the historic links to the times in which the play is set and of course the settings and costumes are fabulous. The only downside is only 3 episodes, here's hoping a new series might emerge.