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‘Upstairs, Downstairs’

March 16, 2013
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

I don't know why British television shows seem to be the popular thing these last few years, but it seems like the library here in Marshall has quite the selection of them. And it's not just the past three seasons of "Downton Abbey" (which reminds me, I still have to watch the Christmas episode from season 2 before proceeding to season 3).

So last weekend I checked out the 2010 version of "Upstairs, Downstairs." What I didn't realize was that it was a continuation of the show from 1971. Here I thought it was a remake (like most shows and movies seem to be these days).

The original series, which ran for 68 episodes in five series (seasons), took place in the Bellamy family mansion on 165 Eaton Place. Richard and Lady Marjorie Bellamy have two children, James and Elizabeth. The series starts in 1903 and ends basically in 1930. Just like "Downton Abbey," it's about the lives of those "upstairs," the wealthy family, and those "downstairs," the maids, butlers and other servants. In watching both of these shows, I have to say I like seeing the apparel, from the dresses to the hairpieces - heck Maud on the 2010 "Upstairs, Downstairs" had a tiara.

The 2010 revival picks up six years later, in 1936. New owners of the Bellamy House, Sir Hallam and Lady Agnes Holland are getting ready to move in. But after being shut up for six years, the house is "like a mausoleum," Lady Anna says. It's dark, kind of falling apart and dusty - your usual fare of abandoned mansion. The new version has Jean Marsh, one of the original stars of the 1970s series, reprising her role as the housemaid Rose Buck. Agnes calls on Rose to help hire a staff. But Agnes needed to do so inexpensively. Then Hallam's mother, Maud, played by Eileen Atkins, who along with Marsh had a hand in starting the original series, arrives with a monkey and her Indian secretary. The downstairs cast of characters is interesting and fun, with orphan Ivy as one of the maids, Spargo, the good-looking chauffeur, Pritchard, the pale, highly-strung butler and Mrs. Thackery, the cook. I could see some parallels with these characters with the "downstairs" characters of "Downton" - Brandon, the blond and attractive chauffeur, Mrs. Patmore, the outspoken cook, Mrs. Hughes, the ever prim and proper.

Unfortunately the "Upstairs, Downstairs" revival lasted only nine episodes, and I've watched the first two. And since the library has the original series, you can be sure I'll be viewing those in the near future.



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