Upstairs Downstairs is back on the TV. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00x2yqp
What can I say? They done good Sir, an no mistakin'. I cannot recall a drama like Upstairs Downstairs that had such quality production values since The Jewel in the Crown, which boosted a lot of careers, including that of Art Malik, who turns up as an enigmatic Sikh factotum in this series.
Like all BBC historical dramas it suffers from hindsight and left wing perspective and more than a little contemporary argot but it's a nice rattle through all the events of the pre-war years. The strength is in the writing and characterisation. These people have back stories and inner lives that reveal themselves as the episodes develope. I particularly liked the chauffeur, played by Neil Jackson - a future star if ever there was one, who gets involved in the Fascist movement and is later horrified at the reality of it, whilst the young, Mitford clone of a posh sister, played by Claire Foy, from Upstairs teams up with the German Nazi elite and elopes to Germany.
The glue for the show is Rose, who comes to Eaton Place decades after it first hit our TV screens. Jean Marsh made me cry. She is complex; sometimes proud, sometimes vulnerable, then harsh, then so very human. It is rotten to single people out in this cast. The new butler is not Mr Hudson and never could be but he is his own man, a kind man who is utterly convincing in the role (Adrian Scarborough). Is it just me or do I suspect he will be blackmailed by rent boys at some point?
The rest of the Upstairs folks are great but they are all too familiar with the Downstairs lot, which is an indication of the show leeching into PC. Let us hope the next batch corrects that before they all end up sharing cutlery.
If this does not win several BAFTAs I shall publicly eat my nipples.
Connections: I was hitchiking to London and got a lift with Gordon Jackson, who played Hudson the Butler in the original series. During the ride I mentioned that my step-uncle, who I was going to stay with, was in the business, writing and directing. A few years later Gordon Jackson featured in a long running TV series that had episodes written and directed by my step-uncle, who also acted as series script editor.
Odd fact: Jean Marsh said in an interview that she never wore knickers.
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