It’s been a long time since there has been a good television war of words. Far too long. One has to go all the way back to the 1980’s to remember the Dallas vs. Dynasty smackdown, but that’s all I can think of. Enter 2011 and we have Downton Abbey vs. Upstairs Downstairs. In one corner, we have the challenger, the critically acclaimed audience hit, ITV’s Downton Abbey and in the other corner, the lavish BBC resurrection of the 1970’s ITV classic, Upstairs Downstairs. It’s Larry Hagman vs. Joan Collins all over again.
This time, it’s Upstairs Downstairs creators, Jean Marsh and Dame Eileen Atkins, vs. Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville and the Oscar-winning script writer of Gosford Park, Julian Fellowes. Round one had Marsh refer to Downton Abbey as nothing more than a thinly-disguised Upstairs Downstairs. In true 21st century gentlemanly fashion, Bonneville, who plays the Earl of Grantham in Abbey, replied on Twitter, in 7 characters under the 140 characters limit, I might add, with, “I thought Jean Marsh was bigger than that – running down Downton while bigging up Upstairs? Downton never downed Up when upping Down.” Not sure I completely understand what he said, but I know where he’s coming from.
That said, having screened both, they are equally well worth the time. You can decide for yourself here in the States….and, it’s not even pay-per-view. Downton Abbey premieres this Sunday, 9 January, on PBS stations nationwide and Upstairs Downstairs premieres Sunday, 10 April, 2011, again on PBS.
From an audience standpoint in the UK, who won round one? Can’t wait for round two.