When Upstairs Downstairs was not included in last spring’s Masterpiece Classic line up I worried that we would not have an opportunity to see the series this year. Not to worry. The first installment of six of Season Two will air this Sunday ,October 7 and end November 11, 2012.
In 2010, Upstairs Downstairs aired just after the wildly popular Downton Abbey, suffering in comparison. To begin with, Downton’s budget was astronomical compared to UpDown’s. And UpDown’s script needed to find a way to tie in to the classic and unforgettable 70′s series with Jean Marsh as Rose and Gordon Jackson as Mr. Hudson. That series was a hard act to follow.
This year UpDown suffered unanticipated setbacks: Jean Marsh suffered a stroke and could not continue to play Rose full time (she appears in two episodes) and Eileen Atkins (Maud, Lady Holland) decided not to return. Frankly, Eileen was the only comedic respite in Series One and the closest that UpDown came to challenging Maggie Smith’s unforgettable Violet.
Season Two’s UpDown is a somber series compared to Downton, even with that show’s foray into WW1. At the beginning of Season 2 in UpDown, World War II is about to break wide open. Air raid drills are a fact of life. Houses are sandbagged and Londoners are preparing for war, even practicing wearing gas masks indoors.
Nothing isquite the same at 165 Eaton Place.
Elie Kendrick as Ivy is gone, replaced by two new maids: Eunice and Beryl.
Alex Kingston has come on board as Maude’s sister, Dr. Blanceh Mottershead, an unwanted addition as far as Hallam Holland is concerend. Hallam is conerned 24/7 with diplomacy and making sure that the Brits aren’t totally bowled over by oily German diplomacy.
Then there’s Lady Holland’s story arc. Episode One starts with the birth of the Holland’s second child and Lady Holland’s struggle to regain her health after a difficult birth, which has resulted in post partum depression (or has it?)
A handsome Hollywood producer appreciates her charms, even as Hallam is consumed by averting the war. Agnes’s sister Persey is ankle deep in Nazis, living abroad and living the high life until Kristalnacht, when she realizes that Nazi German politics is uber false and dirty and bent on annihilating innocent Jews.
Fans of the original series know that UpDown was never ever a precursor of Downton Abbey. It always had a rather serious bent, with comedic elements toned down or nonexistent.
Downton Abby, which I adore, is in my opinion a phenomenon of our times – history mixed with rather outrageous elements that reflect our 21st century sensibilities. We cannot fault UpDown for staying true to its origins.
I watched all six episodes back to back, wanting to know how the story ends. It is sad to know that this intelligently written series was not renewed for a third season. Knowing this, I backpedaled, not allowing myself to get too invested in the story line, so that I would not be disappointed that the cliff hanger would not be resolved.
True to form, UpDown reverted to 1970s ways, not making a brouhaha at the end of the season, and almost tying up the story lines in a neat bow . Is Season 2 worth watching knowing that the series is at an edn? Absolutely. Click here to go to PBSs site.