In 1936, Sir Hallam Holland and Lady Agnes Holland arrive at 165 Eaton Place six years after the Bellamy family left at the end of the original Upstairs, Downstairs. 165 Eaton Place is in disrepair and Lady Agnes renovates it and hires a new staff to work there with the assistance of Rose Buck, who was the original upper house parlor maid when the Bellamys lived at 165 Eaton Place and who eventually becomes the new housekeeper. When the Hollands move in, Sir Hallam's mother, Lady Maud Holland, arrives unexpectedly to stay and brings with her her secretary, Mr. Aminjit, and her pet monkey, Solomon.
There are some familiar faces in the latest version of Upstairs, Downstairs. The cast and characters in this version are almost entirely different from the original series; the exception is Jean Marsh who portrayed Rose in the original series and has repriced her role in the new series. Also, another interesting fact: Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins, the original writers for Upstairs Downstairs, both have roles in the new series.
|Actor/Actress||Character||Also Seen In|
|Keeley Hawes||Lady Agnes Holland||Wives and Daughters (1995) as Cynthia Kirkpatrick, Under the Greenwood Tree (2005) as Fancy Day|
|Eileen Atkins||Lady Maud Holland||Cranford as Deborah Jenkyns, Cold Comfort Farm as Judith Starkadder, original creator of Upstairs, Downstairs|
|Anne Reid||Mrs. Thackeray||Bleak House (2005) as Mrs. Rouncewell|
|Claire Foy||Lady Persephone Towyn||Little Dorrit (2008) as Amy Dorrit|
|Jean Marsh||Rose Buck||Upstairs, Downstairs (1971-1975) as Rose Buck, Sense and Sensibility (2008) as Mrs. Ferrars, original creator of Upstairs, Downstairs|
|Blake Ritson||The Duke of Kent||Emma (2009) as Mr. Elton|
|Anthony Calf||Anthony Eden||Pride and Prejudice (1995) as Colonel Fitzwilliam|
|Lady Agnes and Sir Hallam Holland|
|Lady Maud Holland|
|Rose Buck returns to|
165 Eaton Place
|Mr. Pritchard and Mrs. Thackeray|
The story takes place in 1936 -- before England entered WWII. Like the original series, real life events play a role in the story line, and you may walk away from the new series with more of a background about pre-WWII. A lot of the story had to do with the rise of Nazism and how it affected people in England. What was also talked about was the death of King George V and the succession of his son, King Edward VIII and later his abdication. There are a couple of historical figures that show up in Upstairs, Downstairs including Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Kent (the brother of King Edward VIII and the brother of the future king, George VI).
|Upstairs and Downstairs together|
We return to the well known address to many fans of the original Upstairs, Downstairs: 165 Eaton Place. When we first see it after all these years (though in the story, it was only six), it looks pretty run down (hence why Lady Agnes was renovating it). Upstairs, it was almost like it was a different house after the renovations were complete. While the upstairs was different from the original series, it did look nice! (Do I dare say even better?) The downstairs was pretty much the same after the renovations, so probably it was fixed up, but not redecorated. So probably the most familiar thing in the house was downstairs.
One of the things that the new Upstairs, Downstairs excelled at that the original series didn't do so great of a job with (mainly because of current technology) is the film quality. The film quality is excellent! The colors are very nice to look at, there is more opportunity for camera effects, and we also get more of a variety of scenes (outdoor scenes and other indoor scenes that would have otherwise been on a set).
Not knowing all that much about 1930s fashions, I cannot comment on their accuracy. But the costumes did look nice. Lady Persie, though she is a very unlikable character, did look great in her red dress and furs. But Persie did have a worst outfit... that all black outfit that she wore to that rally! It did not flatter her skin color at all! Thoughout a good chunk of the series, she looked very pale, almost sickly.
The staff's uniforms looked a little different from the original series since the series. Skirts were shorter than the older uniforms from the original series, but they still maintained the same (or similar) colors. I would say that the uniforms were similar to the uniforms in Series 5 of the original series.
I'm going to comment here about the theme song. The theme song is the same tune that the original Upstairs, Downstairs had for it's theme but it was redone with a different arrangement (as can be expected after nearly forty years). Personally, I preferred the older theme song more, but the newer theme was nice and very flowing. The new series also had more music during the episodes than the older series where the music was fairly limited.
My personal opinion: despite the limited music and film quality, I thought the older version of Upstairs, Downstairs was better (okay, you had to work past the first couple of series, but once you got to Series 3, it got good). I don't know if it's because I really got to know the characters in the original series and the new characters just weren't the same or what, but I found myself missing the old characters. It was nice to have Rose back, though. The first episode really didn't impress me all that much, but the second and third episode did get better. I know this rating is very usual for me considering I tend to favor newer period dramas (mainly the 90s and later) than older (particularly 70s and 80s period dramas), but it must be said: the newer version did not live up to the original to me.
For content, the new series was about TV-PG, like the original series. There is a suggestive nature to Upstairs, Downstairs all together with some scenes (though not graphic) and some of the language. There is also a little bit of violence (but again not graphic) and there is a death, but that's pretty much it.
Upstairs, Downstairs is available on DVD. It is made up of three one-hour length episodes.