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Monday, December 20

Downton Abbey Creates a Stir & Hissy Fit

Read about Dowton Abbey, a marvelous new series, on Jane Austen's World. This Edwardian special is coming to PBS Masterpiece Classic on January 9th. The four part series (for the U.S.) was a surprise blockbuster in Great Britain, and a second season has been ordered.

Jean March, co-creator of Upstairs Downstairs has discharged a salvo, denigrating the originality of Downton Abbey:
Hackles were raised when Marsh suggested that Downton Abbey, one of the unexpected hits of the year, was a thinly-disguised facsimile of the original Upstairs, Downstairs, which ran from 1971 to 1975 and has been watched by an estimated 1 billion people worldwide.
Jean Marsh as Rose in Upstairs Downstairs
 "I think we were all surprised," Marsh told BBC1's The One Show. "The new Upstairs, Downstairs had been in the works for about three years. We were trying to sort out … 40 years of rights and then it also started – Downton Abbey – in the Edwardian era, which Upstairs, Downstairs did. So it might be a coincidence and I might be the queen of Belgium."
Bonneville, who plays the Earl of Grantham in the ITV drama, replied on Twitter: "I thought Jean Marsh was bigger than that – running down Downton while bigging up Upstairs? Downton never downed Up when upping Down. -  - War declared as Upstairs, Downstairs creator fires volley at Downton Abbey, Guardian UK
Upstairs, Elizabeth McGovern as Countess Grantham and Hugh Bonneville as the earl.
Ooh! Cat fight! As if there is not enough entertainment room for two costume dramas about the upper crust and their servants in turn of the 20th century England.  Julian Fellowes, who wrote the script for Dowton Abbey, has impeccable credentials as the screen writer of Gosford Park. (His wife, BTW, is lady-in-waiting to Princess Michael of Kent.) One suspects that Julian knows whereof he writes. Here is his response to Ms Marsh's comments:
"There are a limited number of ways you can bring people of different backgrounds and ages under one roof. We have all had masses of lawyers' offices, police stations and hospitals, which are obvious, and the staffed house is rather less obvious. I think there is certainly room for more than one. Good luck to them, say I." - The real Upstairs Downstairs, The Independent
Downstairs: Lesley Nicol (front) as Mrs Patmore and Sophie McShera as Daisy
Featuring a sterling cast (Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Dame Maggie Smith, Dan Stevens, Penelope Wilton, Jim Carter, and Brendan Coyle), Dowton Abbey offers 6 hours of entertaining drama. The schedule in January is as follows: Episode One, January 9; Episode Two, January 16; Episode Three, January 23; and Episode Four, January 30 (my birthday -oh, what a treat!)

Read The Daily Mail's take on this brouhaha as the new Upstairs Downstairs makes its debut this holiday season.


Dzhimbo said...

I didn't see Downton Abbey, but I well remember seeing Upstairs, Downstairs on Saturday evenings (or was it Sunday?) when I was a kid. My dad liked watching it; he was born in 1899, so I guess there was a strong element of childhood nostalgia for him. I don't recall any story lines - I remember Captain James returning from the war, and the exquisite Lesley Anne Down played a girl called Georgina) but unless DA steals any plot points then I can't see what the problem is. Bonneville's tweet is priceless.

Eliza Martin said...

If the creators are so mad, why haven't they gone after movies like Gosford Park?

Diana Birchall said...

Great post, really puts us "in the picture" of this cinematic controversy. Thanks.

Ruth said...

Okay, news of this "hissy fit" just cracked me up. The new Upstairs, Downstairs is going to be wildy loved I'm sure, but good grief I think three is room in the world for two shows with sprawling casts and varied storylines. Bonneville's response is hilarious and oh so appropriate! Love it!

Italia said...

Downtown Abbey is a period piece masterpiece, the sort of rare treasure I could find myself watching all day while curled up in a woolly blanket. It's like comfort food for the soul. It is witty, well-acted and totally absorbing. Fans of period movies will undoubtedly love it. If you find it is a bit slow at the start, stay with it. My sister was complaining at the beginning but she ended up loving it.