Upstairs, Downstairs (TV Series 1971–1975) Poster


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Goosey goosey gander, wither shall I wander? Upstairs anddownstairs and in my lady's chamber...
simon-1183 July 2001
It is a widely held belief that Upstairs Downstairs was television at its finest, and the most popular tv drama in the world. But why precisely is so good? It is almost entirely studio bound and looks like it should be just another worthy but squeaky clean period drama. This is why it is very hard to convince anyone unfamiliar with the series of why it is so special. But John Hawkesworth, the producer, believed television was electronic theatre, not second rate film, and this allows the stories to concentrate on words, emotions and intense acting. The grittiness of the series, the performances and its skill at depicting human emotions were its chief assets. Gordon Jackson's magnificent character performance as Hudson is a display of a modest, warm actor who made a character who stood for all he disliked totally loveable. David Langton's charming, liberal Richard Bellamy was a far less snobbish and severe man than his butler, but his first wife, the statuesque Lady Marjorie certainly made up for him. Simon Williams' portrayal of Lord Lucan lookalike James Bellamy showed real development over the years, the haughty, caddish son who is changed forever by the war and plays his final episode "All The King's Horses" nothing short of brilliantly. Lesley Anne-Down and Jacqueline Tong's introduction, the Christmas story "Goodwill To All Men" in many ways sums the series up, combining a devastating look at the London poor with the escapist charm of a traditional Edwardian Christmas, leading to a bittersweet conclusion offering an idyllic scene of Georgina being giving her presents as the snow falls outside, just after her grandmother's wise observation that her outing to help the needy was more out of a need for adventure than real charity. If the first season was the series finding its feet and the second was it settling down to more of the same, the third season is the oddest of them all. It reflects a period of change both in pre-war Britain and behind the scenes, as Elizabeth and Lady Marjorie were both written out at the actors' requests. This leaves the upstairs structure of the house unsettled, and the series is dark and sombre, as James' doomed marriage and Richard's bereavement make the house seem a far cry from the high society gatherings and royal dinners of the early seasons.

Although the fourth series, which depicts the war years so powerfully is considered the best, I would personally dispute this. Good as it is, what is most interestiung is the fifth series, as Britain's social structure is collapsing, and the full impact of the war is felt. The roarring twenties try to blot out the horrors of the trenches but leave James and many like him haunted, directionless, forgotten and despairing. The fifth series also introduces a new wife for Richard in the form of the delectable Hannah Gordon. Her interpretation of Virginia is a joy to watch; beautiful, witty and poetic. The daring storylines provide all the characters with moments to shine in, from Lady Marjorie's adultery in the excellent "Magic Casements" which deals unconventionally with an age-old theme, to the heartbreaking "I Dies From Love" which details the suicide of a kitchen maid. The sexual attitudes of the day were explored in "A Suitable Marriage", the bleak "A Cry For Help" and the astonishing "Whom God Hath Joined." Some of the wildest plotlines should not have worked but did, such as Hudson's hopeless affair with a parlour maid in "Disillusion" and Mrs Bridges' breakdown in "Why Is Her Door Locked?" There are really only two unsuccessful episodes of the entire sixty eight, but many masterpieces. "The Glorious Dead" and "Another Year" are devastating essays on the tragedies of the war, and "Distant Thunder" is a superbly claustrophobic episode, as war looms both in the household and in Europe. "The Sudden Storm" ends the third season with war declared, Daisy crying with the fear of what is to come while the rest of the world seems to be celebrating. The final episode, "Wither Shall I Wander" ended the series marvellously, with a perfect mixture of the happy and the sad. The pomp of Georgina's wedding allows a diversion from the sale of the house and the loss of James. Hudson delivers a tremendous speech to Edward on the tradition of service now dying out, and one can't help but be swept along with the fever of the episode. The final scene, as Rose is left alone in the house with the ghosts of the past echoing around her, is both a fine depictuion of the sentimentality of leaving a lifestyle behind and a cunning wallow in nostalgia. The like of Upstairs Downstairs will never be seen again. This type of television, like the England it depicted, is gone forvever.
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The Perfect Time Machine
haddock6 October 2005
Probably the best TV series ever! For someone Anglophile like me it is the perfect time machine to enter a typical household of the Victorian/Edwardian era. Although it shows an "upper class" household, the focus is on the "downstairs" personnel. The problems and stories of the kitchen maidens, footmen etc are much more colorful and sympathetic than the actions of "her ladyship" and Lord Bellamy upstairs. Nevertheless absolutely all characters are designed thoroughly, sympathetic and authentic. Furthermore this series shows a sort of real "theater" which has left TV long time ago and will never appear again! Long close-ups which show the affection of every actor, long dialogs with full sentences and - long pauses between them to enable the actors and the viewer to reflect everything. In addition the fine set design, the costumes, the "funny stuff" around, for example an early - hand-crafted! - vacuum-cleaner! Another extraordinary fact is the combination of fictional characters with real history: Everything finds its way into the story, the death of Queen Victoria, the Titanic Disaster, WW I, the Spanish Influenza, Wall Street and so on. A period of nearly 30 years is described, and with the last episode you are crying, just because you wish to know how everything will continue... But, that was a lack of this absolutely brilliant series: The main characters hardly age during the decades! Butler Hudson and cook Mrs. Bridges for example are already "old people" in the first episode, playing 1901. In the last episode - 1929 - they have not changed in any way, they even plan to "start a new life", running a small guest-house. After having seen it in German TV, where several episodes are not shown, I bought the complete DVD edition and can only recommend this to everyone!
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Still pure magic.........
snoopy-113 September 2003
Having first watched this series as a mere boy of 10 years in the early 70's, it is indeed a pleasure to see it being repeated on UK cable TV as I write.

To me, it has lost none of it's charm and appeal, particularly the richness of characters, characters which were allowed to develop fully over the period it was screened.

If you haven't seen this, make an effort to do so - it was and is one of the most beautifully written and acted British drama series to grace the screen.
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The Best Drama Ever on Television
Kirasjeri27 July 1999
It wasn't a huge budget that made this series great, immensely popular, much honored, and the biggest hit in PBS history. It was the fabulous writing and the rich characterizations presented to us every week. All these people we cared about, even negatively in the case of James. And that's why even now there is a U/D web site. Interwoven were the historical events of Edwardian England stretching through World War One into the Twenties. The series reached it's peak halfway through the war with "Women Shall Not Weep" - a magnificent episode available on video. By the Twenties the upper class was cracking more than the lower - a theme of the series. U/D was such a hit America tried its own hand at the wealthy/servants scenario with "Beacon Hill" - highly touted but dismally written flop. Special credits to Jean Marsh as Rose (who never found happiness, but wouldn't have been happy anyplace but the world she was brought up in!); Marsh also was a creator of the series. It was an absolute joy.

P.S. In case the credits don't reflect this, Daisy's last name was 'Peel".
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Classy, intelligent, and engrossing Edwardian era drama
roghache2 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is the best dramatic series ever produced in Britain or aired on PBS. It chronicles life at 165 Eaton Place, depicting the personal lives of the aristocratic Bellamy family above stairs and their servants below. Actual historical events are incorporated into the story, including the death of Queen Victoria, the sinking of the Titanic, World War I, the General Strike, and the Wall Street Crash. It paints a vivid portrait of the discrepancy in social status of those in service as compared with their wealthy, titled employers. Nevertheless, we see the loyalty and affection these servants frequently have to the family they serve.

The master of the household is Richard Bellamy, a Conservative Member of Parliament and clergyman's son who married above his station in life. He is a man of both professional and personal integrity, whose political views sometimes come into conflict with his wife's titled family, the Southwolds. His wife, Lady Marjorie, is the Earl of Southwold's daughter, an elegant and gracious lady, the very epitome of poise, who can handle any situation with admirable aplomb.

Their tall, dark, and handsome son and heir, Captain James Bellamy, is transformed from a haughty, aimless cad to a wounded, anguished officer devastated by war. Really, much of the series is a depiction of James's struggle to "find himself". The spoiled and rebellious daughter, Elizabeth, disdains the debutante life expected of her, opting instead for charitable and feminist causes, frequently setting the household into a stir. Eventually she makes an ill fated match with the poet Lawrence Kirbridge.

The middle class comes into play when James marries his father's stately, radiant, and dignified secretary Hazel, a kind and giving individual who is neglected and rejected by her husband in favour of his step-cousin, Georgina Worsley. Georgina is a stunning but absolutely self absorbed creature, initially engrossed with the social whirl of her own season. Her sole redeeming behaviour is her wartime nursing but alas, she follows it up with a decade of partying, cigarette holder in one hand and cocktail in the other.

After the untimely death of Lady Marjorie on the Titanic, the genuine chemistry at Eaton Place is between Hazel and her father-in-law Richard, who hold the fort together while James is off soldiering. Later Richard marries a Scottish widow, Virginia Hamilton, a rather willful individual I never much took to. She lacks both Lady Marjorie's grace and Hazel's earnest integrity, making an uninteresting lady of the manor when compared with her two predecessors. Once again 165 is home to children after Virginia moves in with her two young offspring, Alice and William.

Frequent upstairs visitors include Lady Prudence, Lady Marjorie's loyal and outspoken friend, the most overbearing creature on earth and provider of comic relief, and Sir Geoffrey Dillon, the Southwold family solicitor. I quite enjoyed the character of this harbinger of financial gloom and discrete maker of "arrangements" to cover up the frequent family scandals.

Downstairs the servants form a family unto themselves at their own kitchen table, with Mr. Hudson presiding in state at its head. Hudson is the stern Scottish butler who takes pride in the Bellamy family upstairs, manages their household efficiently, and puts the other servants in their proper place when necessary. The cook, Mrs. Bridges, is queen of her own domain, the kitchen. She can be maternal, but is generally in fine scolding fettle, always in a huff over some outrage, culinary or otherwise, and shouting at her poor scullery maid.

Rose, the longtime parlourmaid, is one of the real stars of the entire series. We see much of life at "good old 165" through her eyes. She is such a kind, hard working, and loyal soul and deserving of so much better than life in service offers. She longs for a husband and children of her own, and has her own ill fated romance with Australian sheep farmer Gregory Wilmot. There's also the blossoming romance and marriage between the vulnerable housemaid, Daisy, and her footman, Edward. During the series, we witness Edward's progress from cheeky young footman to shell shocked soldier to struggling unemployed husband to new chauffeur to butler-in-training.

Various other servants come and go from 165 Eaton Place, including the feisty, brazen Sarah who both causes trouble in the household and induces it upon herself; the crafty chauffeur Thomas; Lady Marjorie's aloof and snooty personal maid Roberts; the deranged footman Alfred and the smug one Frederick; the naive parlourmaid Lily; the embittered governess Miss Treadwell; the tragic Irish scullery maid Emily and her later replacement, poor dear Ruby.

Upstairs Downstairs depicts society galas, country house weekends, and an elegant dinner party fit literally for a king. It features five series, which can be divided into three groups based upon who is mistress of the household. Series 1-2 with Lady Marjorie involves almost a scandal an episode! Series 3-4 sees Hazel as the new mistress and casts a darker, more serious tone with her marital difficulties and all the drama of the Great War. The final Series 5 features Richard's new wife Virginia, Georgina's flapper years, and focus on James's post war wanderings. The characters do not age during the thirty or so years spanned by the series, from the latter Victorian era to the Roaring Twenties.

It's an absolutely magnificent series that boasts both wonderful screen writing and acting, as well as authentic period costumes and decor. It flawlessly captures a past era, contrasts graphically its titled and servant class distinctions, and involves the viewer emotionally in the fate of its characters, both those above and those below stairs.
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the finest thing that has ever been on television
lewis-5115 June 2006
My wife and I are just starting the fifth and last season. Last fall we started going through all the episodes on DVD in order. We do around 3 per week.

I never saw the series in the 1970s, though I heard of it. Some time in the mid 80s the local PBS station in New York showed most of them in order, a couple per week. I was absolutely enthralled. It's been about 20 years so we decided to have another look.

They absolutely stand up well. Better than well. I will emphatically repeat the judgment I made twenty years ago: this series is the finest thing that has ever been on television.

Yes, I know, you can't compare "apples and oranges" like that. I suppose the single ONE best thing that's ever been on television (in the sense of a one day or briefer event) in my experience was the moon landing in July 1969.

Still, in spite of that, all in all, if I had to pick, Upstairs-Downstairs is the best PROGRAM that has ever been on television. Far and away. If you are new to it, I envy you. I am already mourning the last episode, which I will see again in a few weeks at most. My only consolation is that in twenty years, I can watch it all again.
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an Edwardian soap opera
didi-59 July 2005
Set from pre-World War I to the late 1920s, this series ran for five years and was a cornerstone of ITV drama in the UK.

Co-created by Jean Marsh and debuting in good old black and white, before moving into colour, 'Upstairs, Downstairs' remains the best (and the soapiest) drama of above and below stairs.

Too many people in the cast to mention, but kudos should go to David Langton, who played Richard Bellamy throughout, to the two Lady Bellamys, Rachel Gurney and Hannah Gordon, to Simon Williams and Nicola Pagett as James and Elizabeth, and Lesley Anne Down as Georgina.

Below stairs there were three key characters - Gordon Jackson as Hudson the butler, Angela Baddeley as Mrs Bridges the cook (a character so famous she had her own range of biscuits and preserves for many years), and Jean Marsh as Rose, the house-parlourmaid. I also remember Karen Dotrice as Lily, Jacqueline Tong as Daisy, John Alderton and Pauline Collins as Thomas and Sarah (who got their own spin-off series), and Christopher Beeny as Edward.

Full of drama - the Titanic disaster, debt collectors, intrigue and affairs, and of course the obligatory conflict between ranks, this series had it all. It enjoyed several repeat runs on TV and now has a new life on DVD, well-deserved.

Highly recommended if you've never seen it; if you have you don't need convincing.
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The best TV drama series, ever, period.
bw9211620 December 2009
No other television drama made in any country has equaled or surpassed this one in quality from the beginning to the end of the series. Interesting and relevant themes, historical background, outstanding writing, plots, characters, sets, direction, acting, photography, editing - every aspect is executed brilliantly and and so well that you don't even notice them. And yet it's more than just the sum of those elements - it's a complete package that is compelling and unforgettable. What else can you say? This is a milestone in television production. If you haven't seen it, you're missing a major event in television history. Get the entire series, and watch all 68 episodes, in order. You will never forget this show.
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Upstairs Downstairs
sumersolstyce15 May 2005
I would just like to say that Upstairs Downstairs has got to be one of my most favorite British Soaps of all time. It's such a shame that it had to end. The era is fascinating to me, and I really enjoyed the way the servants interacted with each other and the occupants of the household.

The story lines were believable, as were the characters. And when the Titanic was mentioned as the cause of death to the first Mrs. Bellamy, it brought a sense of reality to the show.

The whole premise of the show was brilliant, because I'm sure that was the ways it really was in those days. What with the class distinctions and all.

Over all I truly enjoyed the entire production.
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"What are we going to do with Uncle Arthur?"
ShadeGrenade25 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
'Upstairs, Downstairs' was the surprise television drama hit of 1971 despite originally going out late on Sunday nights with very little fanfare. The Edwardian drama was the brainchild of actresses Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins, inspired by the immense popularity of the B.B.C.'s 'The Forsyte Saga'. Set at 165 Eaton Place, it told of the lives of the Bellamy family and their servants. Marsh played 'Rose Buck', the ever so-prim head parlour maid, with Atkins earmarked for 'Sarah a.k.a. Clemence', the cheeky Cockney girl who brings scandal and shame to the Bellamy household. When she proved unavailable, Pauline Collins ( fresh from the first series of 'The Liver Birds' ) replaced her. With all due respect to Atkins, its impossible now to think of 'Sarah' being played by anyone else. I loved the way she stood up for herself, dreamt constantly of a better life, and gave as good as she got. Gordon Jackson played the strict Scottish butler 'Angus Hudson', with Angela Baddeley as 'Mrs.Bridges', who ruled her kitchen with a rolling pin of iron. Tory M.P. 'Richard Bellamy' ( David Langton ) seemed a decent man. In addition to him, there was his elegant wife 'Lady Marjorie' ( Rachel Gurney ), their caddish son James ( Simon Williams ) and wayward daughter Elisabeth ( Nicola Pagett ).

When not working, the servants used to discuss what was going on upstairs, such as James' money troubles ( 'A Pair Of Exiles' ) or The King coming to dinner ( 'Guest Of Honour' ) or Miss Lizzie marrying an impotent poet ( 'For Love Of Love' ). One of the strongest episodes was 'I Dies From Love' in which Irish scullery maid Emily ( Evin Crowley ) hanged herself after being cast aside by a footman. To add insult to injury, we then found out that her body had been earmarked for medical experimentation despite her Catholic upbringing. There was no equality in those days even in death.

Other servants were cheeky footman 'Edward', played by Christopher Beeny, and Jenny Tomasin as dimwitted scullery maid 'Ruby'. John Alderton came aboard in the second season as chauffeur 'Thomas Watkins', a fairly straight character to begin with, but who then evolved into a devious con-artist - witness his fleecing of the Bellamy's when a blackmailer came on the scene with Lady Marjorie's love letters to Captain Hammond ( David Kernan ). Thomas and Sarah later got their own show. Poor Lady Marjorie went down on the Titanic ( funny how James Cameron never mentioned this ) at the start of Season 2. Her replacement was the tasty Meg Wynn Owen as 'Hazel Forrest', Richard's secretary. Elisabeth's successor was 'Miss Georgina Worsley' ( Lesley-Anne Down ), a vacuous deb who eventually enlisted as a nurse during The Great War. One of the great things about 'Updown' was that, as well as being top-notch drama, you got a history lesson as well. The Great War episodes were fabulous. One of the most moving scenes ever shown on television was when Edward came back from the trenches with shell-shock. Full credit should go to script-editor Alfred Shaughnessy and producer John Hawksworth, who both took all the major creative decisions. The wonderful Strauss-like theme tune was by Alexander Faris.

'Updown' caught on in America, despite five Season 1 episodes being omitted due to being made in black and white. The Americans attempted their own version, the unsuccessful 'Beacon Hill'.

After five seasons, 'Updown' ended in 1975. A lengthy repeat run then followed, and 'Guest Of Honour' was chosen as part of I.T.V.'s 'Best Of British' season in 1982. It is presently to be found on I.T.V.-3.

Sagitta Productions moved to the B.B.C. in 1976, where they did the equally popular 'The Duchess Of Duke Street'. 'The Two Ronnies' did an 'Updown' parody, as did Stanley Baxter ( filmed on the same sets used in the show! ), the 'Carry On' team spoofed it in two editions of 'Carry On Laughing', and it inspired Jimmy Perry & David Croft's last sitcom 'You Rang Milord?'. Perhaps the most inane spin-off was 'Russell Harty Goes Upstairs, Downstairs' in which the late chat-show host was seen dropping in on the residents of Eaton Place for tea and a chat.

Forty years after it first appeared, 'Updown' remains compelling, powerful ( it tackled difficult subjects such as homosexuality, adultery, suicide, mental breakdown, and the aftermath of war ), sometimes humorous, always entertaining viewing. in 2010, the B.B.C. revived 'Updown' with Jean Marsh reprising her role as 'Rose' and a new family at Eaton Place. Despite it boasting superior production values, it failed to grab the imagination the way the original did, and was axed two years later. T.V. bosses would do well to take a long hard look at the original in order to learn how to do a show of this kind. It managed to pull in big audiences without insulting anyone's intelligence.
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British Drama at its Best
timcon196411 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
One of the greatest dramatic series of all time, Upstairs Downstairs (U/D) is about life at 165 Eaton Place in Belgravia, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in London. It reflects the tensions between masters and servants, between different categories of servants, and between the existing order and those who do not fully accept it--servants who aspire to careers outside of domestic service, persons motivated by middle-class values, and the nouveau riche who respect money and power more than tradition. Both upstairs and downstairs residents are influenced by British imperialism and xenophobia.

The household is headed by Richard Bellamy (David Langton), the son of a clergyman, who has married Lady Marjorie, scion of the prominent Southwold family. As a political and social conservative, Richard attains high administrative offices, but, as a member of Parliament, he prefers to vote according to his conscience rather than the Southwold family's preferences. Lady Marjorie (Rachel Gurney) is imperious and aristocratic. Their son James (Simon Williams), an army officer, is plagued by such bad judgment that we generally cannot sympathize with him. His sister Elizabeth (Nicola Pagett) is idealistic and romantic, but unrealistic. Her relations with the male sex always turn out badly, until (having left U/D after Series 2) she is said to have found marital happiness in America. Following Marjorie's death, management of the household falls to James's new wife Hazel (Meg Wynn Owen), the daughter of an accountant, who is guided by different values than other members of the Bellamy family. Marjorie's niece Georgina (Lesley-Anne Down) arrives in Series 3, with a sense of idealism and adventure. After the war, Richard marries Virginia (Hannah Gordon), who provides companionship and support.

The downstairs staff is directed by the butler, Hudson (Gordon Jackson), who relies on discipline to preserve traditional standards, and discretion to prevent scandal, but can be sympathetic when the occasion warrants. Mrs. Bridges (Angela Baddeley), the cook, overcomes kitchen crises and follows household gossip. Rose (Jean Marsh), the head house parlor maid, later ladies maid, is devoted to the family, but occasionally expresses dissatisfaction with her "place" in the system. Under house parlor maid Sarah (Pauline Collins) makes up in imagination what she lacks in education; anxious to escape domestic service, she becomes a chorus girl. Chauffeur Thomas Watkins (John Alderton) is something of a con-artist, but he evidently has genuine affection for Sarah. Under house parlor maid Daisy (Jacqueline Tong) marries footman Edward (Christopher Beeny) and attempts to advance his career. At the bottom of the servants' hierarchy is the kitchen maid Ruby (Jenny Tomasin).

The stories deal with a wide range of subjects. Many episodes are connected to such real events as the death of Edward VII, World War I, the Silvertown munitions factory explosion, the 1926 General Strike, and the Stock Market Crash. The producers gave great attention to verisimilitude -for example, consulting with Buckingham Palace staff regarding protocol for hosting the king's visit to 165 Eaton Place.

Many viewers consider Series 1 (1903-1909) U/D's least successful series. It had a lower budget than subsequent series; and, due to a technicians' strike, the first half dozen episodes were filmed in black and white. Writers, directors, and actors were still trying to set the parameters for the program. As a result, this series includes several strange stories; and some characters (especially the footman Alfred), lack credibility. Some performances are too loud, too demonstrative, and poorly choreographed. Many of the stories in Series 2 (1908 - 1910) provide various perspectives on marriage; others deal with problems created by a superannuated nanny and by Elizabeth's suffrage activities. King Edward VII is a dinner guest in one episode; and this series ends with his death. Series 3 (1912 - 1914) witnesses the arrival of Hazel Forrest as Richard Bellamy's secretary, and her marriage to James Bellamy. Lady Marjorie having died on the Titanic, Hazel assumes the management of the household. She eventually overcomes downstairs resentment; but her middle-class outlook leads to clashes with Richard and James. This series ends with the outbreak of World War I. The war casts a shadow over Series 4 (1914-1918), which many consider the best. The Bellamys take in a family of Belgian refugees, James Bellamy and footman Edward join the army, other members of the household take on war-related duties; and a local baker, of German descent, becomes a victim of anti-German hysteria. The war impacts the household in various ways--the staff must dine on ersatz meat and potatoes, James comes home severely wounded, and the house is hit by a bomb. Series 5 (1919-1930) deals with life in the 1920s. Richard finds happiness with his new wife Virginia. But old values are challenged, as the younger generation engage in wild parties and other reckless behavior. As a result of the stock market crash and the Depression, both upstairs and downstairs residents must leave Eaton Place to start new lives elsewhere.

U/D's 68 episodes were the product of 9 writers and 8 directors—so there are some inconsistencies, and some episodes are better than others. But, overall, the performances are outstanding. By informal count, U/D was nominated for 17 Emmys and received 7, most significantly, 4 successive awards for outstanding dramatic series. It was nominated for 9 BAFTA awards and received 2; and was nominated for 4 Golden Globe Awards and received 1. It also received a Peabody Award, a Royal Television Society Award; and its theme song won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Theme From a Radio or Television Production. The program could have continued beyond five years, but the actors, writers, and directors chose to end it. Thus, there have been no further episodes of this outstanding drama.

Christopher Hodson, who directed 14 episodes, described U/D as "the sort of series that doesn't come along more than once in a lifetime." Few would disagree.
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30 years of family life at 165 Eaton Place
barryrd10 August 2012
I first viewed this series in the 1970's on PBS and have taken up the habit again. It is just so entertaining and classy that I can't shake my addiction to this wonderful period drama. Sadly, most of the actors have passed, only the younger ones are still alive. But that doesn't reduce the rich legacy of the whole cast. During the five seasons of this series, viewers witness the evolution of an aristocratic London family from 1901 to the early 1930's.

We journey with the family upstairs and their downstairs staff through many of the pivotal events of the era: the Titanic disaster, the Great War, the clash between labour and wealth, the market crash and depression. Not all the episodes are riveting but most of them kept this viewer transfixed to the screen. Lord and Lady Bellamy, performed by David Langton and Rachel Gurney, are the main characters upstairs as the series begins. Richard Bellamy is a Member of Parliament; Lady Marjorie, who comes from the landed gentry, oversees the staff with grace and a strict code of behaviour. She has her society friends and Lord Bellamy comes in touch with the leading figures of the day, from Lloyd George to Churchill. We even watch the family welcome Edward VII, the King of England, whose visit is punctuated by a servant giving birth.

Downstairs is dominated by the butler Angus Hudson, performed by Gordon Jackson, as an upright, no-nonsense Scot who runs the household with admirable efficiency and strict discipline. Angela Baddeley is the cook, a true perfectionist in the kitchen who tolerates no insubordination. If things go wrong, she can become unhinged until Hudson steps in to calm her down. Jean Marsh, who conceived the series with Eileen Atkins, is the head parlourmaid, Rose. Rose typifies many of the changes going on in her world and manages to be a friend and confidante to characters upstairs and down. Atkins never did appear...more the pity, but with the rest of this stellar cast, the series always sparkled anyway.

The cast changes as time passes and some remain to the end. Some characters with minor roles rise in prominence and more prominent ones disappear or recede. In this respect, it resembles family life in any era. The audience feels like a fly on the wall over the period as we see the intimate details of the lives of characters upstairs and down amid the changing face of British society. When the series ends, we feel the loss of the characters but with a great sense of satisfaction for knowing them and the world in which they lived.
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Classy and just wonderful
TheLittleSongbird18 January 2011
I love a good period drama, and Upstairs, Downstairs is that and more. Everything about it is wonderful, and it is also very classy and a delight to watch. The series looks sumptuous; the photography is marvellous while the locations, scenery and costumes are a delight to the eyes. The music is beautifully composed, the pace is warm and lively without being too rushed or draggy and the direction is always controlled. There is also the fabulous writing, the engrossing stories and the rich characters and their development. And the acting is great across the board, I personally do not think there is a weak link in the cast. All in all, this is a wonderful series and worth looking out for. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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Classic television
Pyrasphinx28 May 2004
I have just bought the whole 5 series on DVD and am currently watching them all, especially the first two series which i never saw on their first showing. The series has not dated and is just as powerful as when it was first shown. Pauline Collins was a revelation as the sassy housemaid. I had only ever seen her before in the strange sitcom 'No Honestly,' in which she again co starred with real life husband John Alderton. They also starred in 'Thomas and Sarah' and the environmentally aware series 'Forever Green.'
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the finest moment in television history pinpointed
henry-18516 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I saw for the first time recently the episode of Upstairs Downstairs where Richard Bellamy (m'Lord) is sitting in the morning room with Hazel and he says "as for the future: I have my doubts, but then tomorrow's a long way off". He is in profile, and his hair is white with age, though it looks vaguely like a wig that was worn centuries before by the aristocracy. I've always thought that the key to learning history is to find the points when one way of life changes, and that moment in Upstiars Downstairs showed me how those values and characters were not part of a distant past, but very real and wonderful people. I found myself feeling so at home with the situation in 'good old 165' that I have found no other more precious moment in a film or on television that is finer. What I mean by that is the kind of moment like at the end of Hannibal where Sir Anthony Hopkins says to Julianne Moore: "all you would need for that, Clarice, is a mirror".

All worth tears and smiles
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Blueghost29 December 2012
The post Victorian era in London and countryside are abound with adventure and intrigue. This series shows us the social dichotomy of those who owned homes and wealth, and those who served them. A variety of circumstances course through this show depicting an era without television, limited radio, biased newspapers, phones whose service shut off at regular hours, and other than trains and limited automobile use, horses were still the predominant mode of transportation.

Upstairs live the masters. Downstairs work (and live) the servants. The family are a traditional "posh" set with some money--more than average, though not ravishingly wealthy. Their servants are well behaved, reserved, obedient, loyal, and love the family they serve. The family themselves are respectable in nearly every way. Their code clashes with the loose morays of those outside the home, and social combatants engage in venomous and confrontational dialogue.

Apparently the DVD sets are going for $60+ American. Well, "Upstairs Downstairs" isn't Star Trek nor Aliens, but seeing the trappings, hearing the dialogue, watching the mannerisms in old PAL video (a finer definition than American NTSC), and streaming it from an authorized website like Amazon or Acorn TV is well worth the low cost. The images are crisp. Much clearer than they could be seen when first broadcast, unless you were living next to a transmission tower.

Another perk of this show is that the actors aren't all pretty. They are real character actors. The performances they deliver past muster with flying colors, as they deliver lines that could only have been written by someone in an authority of the period.

Great Britain had a closed market system empire-wide, known as the Commonwealth, and this allowed for a circulatory fiduciary economy that was insular and protected. Even so fortunes are made and crushed with the stroke of a pen. And the idle rich have their own cruel games to keep them occupied. Another theme and challenge that confront the family Belamy.

I watched the first episode just to see what the series was all about. I actually had seen small portions of it back when it first aired many decades ago. With a better understanding of the world I found the series very engaging for what it was. We're not just seeing a successful family, but one with principal. One founded on the values of right and wrong, and how they deal with the challenges that batter their 19th century castle door (to coin a phrase).

To be honest, I got a little tired of it because it's not normally the kind of TV show that I'm used to liking and watching. But, if you like your entertainment refined, then this should prove worth while.

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Positively Brilliant Television
timcurryisgod7 August 2015
Brainchild of actress Jean Marsh, who plays the house parlor maid, Rose Buck. Gordon Jackson is remarkable as Mr. Hudson, the butler. Set in Edwardian England, much of the story is told from the servant's POV, which makes this series unique imo. The series doesn't shy away from issues of class and sexism. You get to see the changes in this period of history; the manners, fashion, and decor... from horse-drawn carriages to "motor cars," from gas lights to electricity, from bells to buzzers, etc. And the events leading up to and surrounding WWI. Some people call it a "soap opera," but it's so much more, really.

This early series eclipses the newer remake imo, and also much of the first few episodes of Downton Abbey are practically lifted whole cloth from this original series. When it began, Upstairs Downstairs was on a tight budget, and while it lacks the lavish production of Downton Abbey, it surpasses DA in substance and accuracy. I find the servants far more interesting than the bourgie or aristocracy. I love the way the meticulous labor of the servants is addressed, and how the daughter, Elizabeth rebels against the status quo and challenges social mores, albeit from her privileged position and in sometimes misguided fashion. This show is brilliant.
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Great for binge watching
gary-kramer4 February 2014
We watched all five series back to back and what a wonderful experience it was. One really got to know some of the characters and could see where the story was going (although there were definitely some sad surprises).

No wonder this was so highly rated and so highly watched during its release days.

You get a really good sense of what life was like in service, and the type of people that did well in that role. A totally different lifestyle to what we are used to today and certainly not one that I would enjoy.

Its sad that many of the actors in this series have now passed away.
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terrydeb-230933 September 2018
A brilliant series for any period drama lovers. The characters well defined and performed by a group of brilliant actors. The series contain 68 episodes with self-contained storylines with the fourth and fifth series being the strongest! A must-see!!!
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They can't make shows like this any more
marktayloruk24 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Only reason for 9 rating the last series-they should have aged other characters as well as James.I also think they should probably have stayed in the Edwardian era but that's another matter. Otherwise-finest drama series ever made by ITV. I'd last to have had sixth series-say the fifth including Hudson dying of a sudden heart attack,Georgina marrying earlier and maybe having an affair with the Prince of Wales, William and Alice growing up-say William expelled from Eton for the usual reason and taken up by James, end series with death of Richard.Sixth series occupying thirties with James Lord Bellamy-end with his being killed and house destroyed in BVlitz.
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Finally I get to watch it on DVD quietly in my own time. Cried, laughed and cried
zendatrim7 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
A friend of mine said you should watch Upstairs Downstairs I missed in 1971 living abroad. I was able to buy a full copy.

First off i have to say that the first series is a bit confusing as it is in black and white for 6 episodes (due to a strike at the time with the broadcasting company), and one of the main characters leave the house at the end of episode 1, and is seen again episode 2, as though nothing happened, so i had to google again to find out why. Sarah played brilliantly by Pauline Collins. This was a continuation issue as the series was sold to the USA, so it was changed slightly to accommodate continuity or something. Anyway it didn't spoil it for me, once i knew what was happening. 

Each episode you get to meet more characters and their 'ways'. I loved Lady Marjorie, and Richard Bellamy not sure at the time about their spoilt kids. Downstairs wow I felt there was more snobbery going on down there then up them stairs. Hudson well played superbly and just like I would expect a good butler to be, Mrs Bridges I adored, and Rose. Ruby poor little ruby, who I felt so sorry for. Sarah introduced who was a bit of a larf and made everyone happy but she was a really sad person behind the mask. 

Rose down trodden Rose who would just do everything for anyone, and made a rod for her own back, i could have shook her a few times was so happy when she found someone and fell in love finally but......

I found the story lines at times quite risqué. We had a terrible suicides which made me cry, also the writer introduced a homosexuality scene, and even though this was in earlier episodes, one of the characters was very cleverly bought back and shown how even in the twenties young men were coerced to be sex slaves. 

Then the perfect Lady Marjorie and adultery, i didn't see that one coming nor did i see her leaving the show. (I read since she told one of the actors she had made a mistake and should have stayed). 

Elizabeth crazy bored spoilt child who tried to make amends in her life, and sadly she left the series, i was gutted, as i could feel a lot more could have been done with her character. 

James again another spoilt brat who thought it was OK to toy with the emotions of the staff but came good when he married his fathers secretary Hazel who i adored i think she played a really good part in the series. 

Over the series the characters started to develop and i become more embroiled in it, and the stories more interesting. I did find the first episode a bit like I was sitting on a fence, should i carry on or not, but i am glad i did, as from 2 - 5 it became one of the best i have seen. 

I wont go into it too much, suffice to say, each character was played brilliantly, the writing was superb, the war years and the zeppelins, well i didn't realise they did bombing raids, so learnt something new 

New characters introduced Edward who came back from the war shell shocked, he married Daisy a new housemaid, i loved their relationship. 

Georgina the orphaned member of the family who was a tearaway but played superbly and believably by Leslie Anne-Down, had nothing to do, just parties, but came good in the war, but afterwards her subsequent behaviour was to be the end of someone. 

I cried over James, sad though that some of the characters kept disappearing for episodes, we seemed to miss a lot of their lives etc. 

I loved the episode in Scotland with Hudson and the keeper of the salmon naughty Hudson. 

I did find a lot of racism in the show which was highlighted and Hudson was one of the worse for it. 

Mrs Bridges i could have cheerfully hit when she bullied and belittled Ruby. I actually went off her character to be honest. BUT she redeemed herself over Hudson when he got sick. 

The writer finished the series really well. I do think though we could have had a bit more of Thomas and Sarah, even if we were just given an insight into their life alongside. I did love Richards new wife, Virginia who looked remarkably like Marjorie and the two children, again who suddenly just disappeared. 

Maybe when you see it weekly you don't notice but when you binge watch you can see all the missing people who are there one minute and gone the next. 

I was very sad when i finally watched the last ever episode but it was written really well.
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Wonderful program
donna-6401229 May 2017
The best of the best but I can only give it a 9. I'd rate Upstairs Downstairs a 10 if not for the awful acting abilities of Meg Wynn Owen. I haven't seen any of her other work but her portrayal of Hazel is bewildering. I wonder if the character is supposed to be so odd in her halting speech and mannerisms.
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History and Memory
trefbhe6 July 2010
Many find history cold and uninvolving. It is the memory of others. To make it real, you have to give events an emotional core. I think this series is better at accomplishing that on a consistent basis than any that I have ever seen. History tends to play as Grand Opera, but the reason this series works is because it finds the link between individual responses to the mood of an era and the viewer's own "everyday" emotions. You connect with the mood; you are then invested in the whole household's responses to the events. I find that my memories of the series are tied up with my recollections of the events occurring in my own life at the time. They are mixed; I cannot separate them. It is more than "inviting them into your living room". There is a recurring intimacy available to TV that other media cannot access. Great TV realizes this. The other example that pops into my head is "Scenes from a Marriage", although it is more a pure emotional "history".

If someone wanted to understand how England changed from the Edwardian world to the Great Depression, I would tell them to watch 10 episodes of "Upstairs, Downstairs" rather than read 10 history books.
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One Of My Favorite TV Programs Then And Now
johnstonjames27 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I grew up watching 'Upstairs, Downstairs'. Even as a kid I always thought the show was entertaining and involving. I always really liked the character of 'Rose' the maid played by the extremely wonderful Jean Marsh. Some children growing up during the 70's watched 'Brady Bunch' or 'Starsky and Hutch', I saw those shows too, but the one that my brother and I really respected when we were kids was 'Upstairs, Downstairs'.

Our father was educated in England so we have a lot of the English in us which is why I think two kids got so interested in it. My brother was always well read and liked the erudition. I think I always liked it because it always sort of made me think of 'Mary Poppins' which was my favorite film back then.

My brother and I both had the chance to revisit 165 Eaton Place the other night for the first time in 30 years and were delighted to find that it was just as much fun as we remembered it. We even discovered a new character for us in 'Sarah' since we were too young when the show first started and never saw the first season.

This was always one of my favorite shows growing up and is still one of my favorite shows today. Some might find it too English or dull, but I think it's a involving show with involving characters you grow to love. As far as I'm concerned 165 Eaton Place rocks the house!
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Turn a blind eye when it suits you!
arrival25 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
January, 1914,

Edward is over heard talking in his local Pub that he saw Lord Charles Gilmour leave his bedroom in the middle of the night and enter a lady's whilst Valeting for Captain James a couple of months earlier. Nothing too grand about that, only that now, the woman's husband is filing for divorce, and is siting Lord Gilmour as the reason. This means that having been over heard as being a 'witness' to the said claims, Edward is required to appear in Court to state his information. Richard Bellamy does all he can to see that this does not happen, but this is hampered by the fact that Sir Geoffrey Dillon is acting Solicitor for both parties, and the man in question a 'protege' of Bellamy, and a promising young politician...

This episode is interesting in the form of the morals Hudson, and those ironically of downstairs, than those of upstairs for a change, in that it is shown without doubt that Hudson has more double standards than those above stairs when it suits him! Edward is thus left confused when he is told first to do what is right - then what is 'wrong'... He responds by wishing to join the Army!
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