DIANNE BUTLER OUT OF THE BOX
THERE’S a lot of talk online about which came first and who’s ripping who off — Downton Abbey or this latest Upstairs Downstairs, and did Julian Fellowes borrow from the original Upstairs Downstairs, or what?
And do we care, is what I want to know. It’s rough when a person can’t come up with their own material, but it’s not like we haven’t seen this sort of thing before from a television show. What we need to mainly know, as viewers, is the show much chop? I found Downton Abbey self-conscious, and a tiny bit humourless, my least favourite quality of all time. Whereas the first thing that struck me about this new Upstairs Downstairs was its sparkle. It isn’t a remake per se. Jean Marsh was one of the creators of the old one and she also played Rose the parlourmaid. The way into this new one is Rose is approached by Sir Hallam Holland (Ed Stoppard) and his wife, Lady Agnes (Keeley Hawes), the new owners of 165 Eaton Place — where the Bellamys used to live — to help them find staff.
They’re going to be doing a lot of entertaining, Hallam’s in the foreign service, and so they need the following: a butler, with sommelier experience, of course, a housekeeper, a parlourmaid, chauffeur/manservant, a pantryboy/footman/ kitchenmaid and the best cook going. Rose, it transpires, didn’t get a pension out of the grand Bellamys, after 40 years of service. Got a nice teapot though. Not quite the same thing. Turns out it’s harder getting the staff than either Rose or the Hollands imagined — it’s 1936, or thereabouts, and the only thing on the grow is fascism. Hallam’s mother arrives tonight, her teadrinking monkey Solomon and Indian secretary in tow.
Last they heard she was in Tangiers, but she’d only ended up staying three days. ‘‘ It was full of the British wintering and that sours a place like nothing else.’’ Upstairs Downstairs UKTV, 8.30pm
New owners: Lady Agnes and Sir Hallam Holland.