|Index||6 reviews in total|
Okay, so maybe it wasn't the greatest tv show in history, but I enjoyed it and it had a great group of actors, including the recently-deceased Nancy Marchand. It was just getting interesting (soap-story wise) when CBS pulled the plug. But I would like to know what happened to Paul Rudd, who was a fine actor. According to the database, his last credit was in the early 80's. He either died or quit, since there is another young actor named Paul Rudd, and SAG does not allow two people to register with the same name.
I saw the entire series when it originally ran and it was wonderful! David Dukes was excellent as the Lassiter son who'd lost his arm in WWI and was still despondent over it. Paul Rudd played the Irish chauffeur in love with the only Lassiter sister who wasn't considered "pretty", they had a nice, slowly blossoming romance. Linda Purl did an excellent job as the spoiled oldest grandchild. Nancy Marchand was memorable as the elegant Mrs. Lassiter. A great show!
There have always been attempts to take popular British shows and
transform them onto American TV. Steptoe and Son successfully
transformed into Sanford and Son. Unfortunately the transformation of
Upstairs, Downstairs to Beacon Hill missed the mark and did so for two
reasons: it brought 1970's morals and mores to the Roaring Twenties and
almost as bad, it relied on standard soap opera clichés rather than a
real storyline. Here's some examples of both: the Lassiter
granddaughter is sleeping with the fired chauffeur (was that before or
after he was fired?) The other Lassiter daughter is in a rather
Bohemian and morally loose lifestyle. The one-armed son visits a black
whorehouse. All a little hard to fathom for a supposedly well-to-do
Roman Catholic family in Boston. Some other clichés: the new chauffeur
falls for the homely Lassiter daughter. The embittered one-armed son
hates his father who seems to be a decent fellow and the show never
explains the estrangement.
The actors seemed to be well cast and quite memorable, so what's the problem? Again, soap opera clichés rather than an engaging story. In fact, the only ongoing storyline seems to be Prohibition and its effects on everyone. On the other hand, Upstairs, Downstairs had a much more durable storyline - the decline of the aristocracy - and perhaps that is why it seemed more believable to me and was around a lot longer. Still, if Beacon Hill came out in DVD, I might be tempted to purchase it.
This series was an Americanized version of Upstairs/Downstairs which
had just become a huge hit in England and then the USA. It revolved
around the wealthy Boston Lassiter family. It featured a superb cast --
Stephen Elliot, David Dukes, Paul Rudd, Maeve MacGuire, Edward Herrman,
Nancy Marchand, Michael Nouri, George Rose, Beatrice Straight, Kathryn
Another reviewer savaged this series, but I totally, entirely disagree. This was richly produced, had the distinctive 1920's flavor and each episode built on the previous. There was a smack of the early Kennedy money/Irish mob background which would have been great to build upon.
David Dukes was outstanding as Rob Lassiter, the war-injured, somewhat bitter son of patriarch Benjamin Lassiter (Stephen Elliott), returned from WWI minus an arm. His sister, Fawn, was the flapper of the family, and was a fun, sexy character.
I sure would like to see this series out on DVD! It's a shame it only ran 1/2 a season (13 episodes).
Even after all these years, I recall what a well-produced, well-acted fun show this was. It was ahead of the times for prime-time soaps like Dallas, Dynasty and Knots Landing.
The great PBS series, Upstairs, Downstairs, magnificently wove rich
characterizations of the upper and lower classes of one London household
against the historical backdrop of England from 1903-1930. Social issues
were brilliantly added to the personal dramas. The writing and acting were
Then someone got the bright idea of doing something of similar format in Boston about the same time period with servants and upper class family living their parallel lives in the same great house. Unfortunately, the acting even though by competent New York stage actors never jelled, and that was in large part because the writing was an atrocity. It reduced these peoples' lives to the most trite soap opera cliches. Silly people acted silly; pompous people acted pompous. It was all superficial and pointless.
Highly touted and publicized before its first airing by a network that hoped to add ratings and prestige with a classy and popular show, "Beacon Hill" quickly was cancelled - after becoming one of the biggest bombs in TV history. If you want to see how such a show should be done, buy or rent some of the video tapes of Upstairs, Downstairs,
American audiences hailed the UK import 'Upstairs Downstairs' as great
art... because it took place in the past, dealt with the British class
system, and had lots of English accents. In Britain, 'Upstairs
Downstairs' was never an especially impressive TV serial because it was
widely recognised as (I'm being gentle here) a 'tribute' to Noel
Coward's play 'Cavalcade', which followed the progress of two sets of
Londoners (an upper-class family, and the lower-class family who serve
them) from the Boer War to modern times. Several specific incidents in
'Upstairs Downstairs' were direct copies from incidents in Noel
Coward's 'Cavalcade' ... such as one of the upper-class family's ladies
dying aboard the 'Titanic'.
In spite of all this, a boardroomful of greedy Yank TV executives - totally ignorant of Noel Coward, and utterly oblivious to everything else except the high ratings for 'Upstairs Downstairs' on America's PBS network - decided to create an American version. Thus was spawned 'Beacon Hill', which took place in the snobbish environs of that Boston neighbourhood in the 1920s. Boston, remember, is where the beans come from ... and we all know what comes from beans. The wealthy family in 'Upstairs Downstairs' were named Bellamy. The nobs in 'Beacon Hill' were named Lassiter. See a resemblance?
At least 'Upstairs Downstairs' got the details right. 'Beacon Hill' was laughably wrong. Brian Mallory is the Irish chauffeur in the Lassiter household. (How many American households ever engaged an Irish chauffeur?) We can tell he's Irish because - I am NOT making this up - he actually greets people with the words "Top o' the mornin' t' you!" In Britain, we have the useful word 'Oirish' to describe this sort of stage-Irishman. People like this don't exist in real life; at least not since the days of the Potato Famine.
Even more ludicrous was the household's butler Arthur Hacker, who was meant to be the direct equivalent of "Upstairs, Downstairs"'s own Angus Hudson (again, spot the resemblance?). The opening episode of 'Beacon Hill' features an absolutely ludicrous scene belowstairs, in which the butler suppresses a smirk while he informs the other servants that he controls every decision made by the wealthy Lassiter family, and none of them know it, and 'not even the hand of God' can change this. Oh, yes indeed, Hacker. Carry on taking your medication.
The producers of this series hoped that audiences would develop an interest in Fawn Lassiter, the wealthy family's sluttish daughter. In one episode, she caroused half-naked at a party where booze flowed freely (and illegally; this series took place during Prohibition). When word of her escapades reached the Boston newspapers, Fawn expected her wealthy father to use his money and influence to suppress the story. Fortunately for Fawn, this entire series got suppressed very quickly.
Pass the scrod, pass the cod; I'll pahk my caah in Haavahd Yahd.
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