The new version of 1970s UK favourite Upstairs, Downstairs has crossed the pond to PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre, and something about this reboot lacks the spark of the original or the similar Downton Abbey. Masterpiece has been raking in viewers with both shows, but whether Upstairs, Downstairs has the staying power remains to be seen.
This version of the show returns viewers to 165 Eaton Place in 1936, just in time for the death of George V, the coronation and abdication of Edward VIII, and, of course, the Second World War, which looms over the series like a shadow. Or perhaps hangs around its neck like an albatross: Upstairs, Downstairs comes with a heavy-handed dose of political commentary and moralising, and it does not always flow well.
Rarely does the show miss an opportunity to remind viewers that war is looming in Europe, and politicians in Britain haven’t decided which way to jump. Viewers naturally know which side they’re supposed to root for, which relieves much of the tension about which directions their favourite characters will eventually lean in. After all, we can’t have the delicious, and clearly still socially ambitious despite being past her prime, Lady Maude (nor her pet monkey) springing for Hitler, now can we?