Upstairs, Downstairs: Series One (2011)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Upstairs Downstairs

Battles of words, and of greater import, ratings were waged between BBC’s continuation of the classic series and ITV’s recent spin Downton Abbey. From my understanding the latter came in just over the top (at least, where ratings were concerned) but with such a similar plot line, it is sometimes distracting to know which was better.

165 Eaton Place has been empty for far longer than any house should be. It was shuttered shortly after the owner acquired the stylish place, but its layers upon layers of dust make it a poor prospect. Nevertheless, the young couple who have taken residence in the home see prospect. Sir Hallam Holland (Ed Stoppard) has brought his beloved wife, Lady Agnes (Keeley Hawes) home, or at least to their first “proper” home. Not someone to be deterred by dust and shadows, Agnes is prepared to take everything in hand – she plans on making the home sparkle with life again. First, she must seek a staff.

Rose Buck (Jean Marsh) instantly recognizes Lady Agnes’ address having been in service to the previous family for many years. Knowing the amount of money the Holland’s are prepared to pay won’t be likely to bring more experienced workers to their home, Rose sets about finding a competent, yet small staff. As this takes place, Agnes’ younger, flamboyant sister Persie (Claire Foy) arrives in a flurry of excitement. Only invited in anticipation of the London season, Agnes hopes for only the best for her young sister, something that may cause Agnes more grief than she was expecting.

With their staff in place – misfits consisting of an orphaned upstairs maid who’s plucky attitude contrasted with unceasing emotions are trying on everyone, a troubled young footman, a chauffer whom Persie takes a decided interest in and a butler (Adrian Scarborough) who’s only experience is from the high seas – Lady Agnes is ready to host a small soirĂ©e. Clashing with her live-in mother-in-law was not Agnes’ intentions but when Maud (Eileen Atkins) invites the scandalous Mrs. Simpson, instead of the king whom everyone assumed would be her guest, she brings into their home a German with Nazi ties.

From there, their home is thrown into turmoil, from which they might not recover…

TV MINISERIES REVIEW | Upstairs, Downstairs: Series Two (2012)
Upstairs Downstairs

As I read up on this, I read a reviewer's thoughts who commented on how difficult it is not to draw comparisons between this and Downton Abbey, but that it was inevitable, for a variety of reasons. And I confess that I quite agree with that assessment. Because of the resemblance that the stories have, that cannot be helped. Downton Abbey’s writing is much superior over this mini-series. Perhaps to its advantage, ITV’s latest masterpiece was what I saw first and my verdict rests that it is the best. Even still, that doesn’t negate that this three-episode production is a lot of fun though it doesn’t seem to desire to set things up nearly as well. During those first few moments, it is crucial to set up an intriguing production. There isn’t confusion exactly, but there also isn’t as much of a pull to engage us in these characters lives either. It is a slow build up to that point and hopefully with another season (finally making its way stateside early 2013), it will have improved.

Originally this was said to be a re-make before being reclassified as an adjoining continuation of the classic series. Being someone who is a newbie to the entire collection, it didn’t bother nor hamper the effectiveness of the scope of the series. I didn’t feel lost in those regards or like I should be visiting the original first. The cast is quite impressive, although over half weren’t familiar to me. Regardless, the ladies stole the show. Between the always adorable Keeley Hawes and screen legend Eileen Atkins (both of whom depict characters that are sometimes hard to like), there wasn’t much room for the rest of the talent!

One of the series driving forces are the politics. Persie becomes involved in some radical group that, I must confess, didn’t explain itself very clearly. Apparently it is a German cause, and talk revolves around socialists and the fact that any immigrants shouldn’t be allowed on English soil. The second episode “Ladybird” deals mostly in the politics, all of which do come full circle in the final hour, playing a greater role for one of the central characters as it shows her true colors – not only of herself but that no one is too sad at her absence; an entity that all but seals this show’s fate.

CONTENT: young staff members flirt and Ivy tantalizes Johnny with her body as he is peeking under the door while she is bathing [she promises “later” - that turns into some kissing outside her door after which he is forced to leave when she locks her door]. Persie takes a lover, although each time we see them lying in one another’s arm, they are clothed; there is a lot of kissing and caressing. An unmarried lady runs off with a womanizer. After losing his temper in a tavern, a man punches a fellow patron who badly cuts his neck on a shard of glass. A political rally turns dangerous.


  1. I loved this three part series! And actually Season 2 (and as it turns out, the final season of this re-boot) is coming to PBS at the end of September with a DVD release in late October (I think).

  2. I watched this twice and then never again. For some reason, I couldn't love it nearly as much as Downton Abbey. =)

  3. Oh, they made a new one. I needs let my sister know.

  4. Ruth - I know! I am so excited that I'll finally get my hands on a region 1 DVD set!

    Despite not liking this like 'Downton,' I liked it and am giddy over seeing S2. :-)

    Hm... I hadn't head that there'd be no more of this other than the 2nd series. I am not surprised though. Everyone is so "into" the alternative series. ;-D

    Charity - I watched it once but hopefully will again with the second set releasing. I remember liking it quite a bit BUT not nearly as memorably so as 'Downton.'

    Miss Jack - yes! The second series took forever to get here but it will be available in the U.S. this fall. (It has been for some time in the U.K.)


  5. Oh, I have heard nothing but good things about this series! Especially from people who adore Downton Abbey before it was cool :)
    I definitely need to watch this...maybe the original as well! And I just found your blog, and I really like it! I adore reading reviews ^^

    ♥ x i x i a |

  6. Rissi, I just want to say thank you for being so sweet.=] I love your kind comments on my blog, and I think your blog is great. You are an amazing girl, and I know God has something special in store for you.<3

  7. Xixia - yes, this is an entertaining series though I'd recommend Downton Abbey before this because in my opinion it is just better. Hope you enjoy this one - it is full of fabulous performances!

    Aw! Thank you so much for dropping by! I hope you do so again sometime. :-)

    Brooke - aww! Thanks for dropping by. Your posts are always so cute. :-)

    Thank you for your sweet compliments. They are very kind of you to say.


Have a thought? Don't be shy, go ahead and leave one... or two... or three! I reply to every comment. If you're new to the blog, please don't hesitate to introduce yourself and your blog - we love chatting around here!

Feedback and every comment is appreciated and read - I always leave a response; your opinions are respected and I ask that you show mine the same courtesy.

(If you post under “anonymous,” please leave a name. If you don't have a Google account, you can type your name into the Name/URL and if you have no site, just leave "URL" blank.)

If you are still reading my ramblings, thank you for following this little blog and for being one of its supporters. I’ve enjoyed getting to know each of you, friends!

Latest Instagrams

© Finding Wonderland. Design by FCD.