Upstairs Downstairs is a revival of a popular 1970s series, which I unfortunately have yet to see. Jean Marsh, one of the creators and actress from the original, reprises her character here. I thought that sounded interesting since it’s been so many years. It seemed to have everything going for it. I highly enjoyed Downton Abbey, which I’d heard had the same feel- showcasing the family as well as the servants of the house. Also, I absolutely adore Claire Foy, and it looked great in all the teasers I saw. Unfortunately, I thought it was a disappointment.
I don’t know if it’s because it had the misfortune to be aired so soon after Downton Abbey or what, but I couldn’t help comparing the two. I just felt this one paled in comparison. Honestly, it was pretty good…but not great. I don’t know if I would think more highly of it if I saw it first or not. I’m inclined to think not, but I’m really not sure.
I’ll say one thing I loved about the show- the look. It was gorgeous- the sets, the costumes, the production values were all top-notch. Claire Foy has always been beautiful (and looks great in period clothing) but I have a soft spot for ’30s fashions (my favorite part of the 2005 King Kong was the costumes and scenery as well!) and she really shined more than ever in them. I found myself so envious at times and wishing I could look just like her…silly I know. Her character wasn’t very nice, but she sure was pretty.
The main point against this show was the lack of likable characters. Jean Marsh was pretty forgettable, which I found surprising, given her history with the show and her performance as Mrs. Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility. I’ve never been a big fan of Keeley Hawes and she gave the usual blah performance here. It’s not that everybody was bad or anything, but most of the decent characters were simply not very memorable.
The other big problem was the storytelling itself. There were a good bit of nice moments throughout, but the whole was less than the sum of its parts here. Everything seemed to move too fast- the character development and everything just didn’t seem believable to me. One minute a man and woman are fighting, the next they’re in bed, the next they’ve broken up. A new character is introduced, given a backstory, and killed off in the same episode. Everybody’s got all these issues but then at the end everything gets all wrapped up with no explanation.
Maybe with a new screenwriter, the next season could be an improvement? I dunno. It wasn’t terrible. It had some nice moments and was a beautiful production. Unfortunately, they just tried to cram too much in to too little time and it’s not good for the sets and costumes to outshine the actors and story.
My Rating: 6/10