It’s been almost a lifetime since a young head parlor maid, Rose Buck (Jean Marsh), put her hand on the bannister at an empty 165 Eaton Place for what, she thought, would be the last time. Little did she know that some 40 years later, she would return full of memories and put her hand to that bannister once again.
I have to believe that the long-awaited return of Upstairs Downstairs, which begins tonight on PBS stations nationwide, presented a much bigger challenge to the producers than your traditional re-make. Just how does one set about to create a sequel that would need to have universal appeal both to those devoted to the original series that ran from 1971-1975 and to a number of new viewers that have never experienced the daily drama that unfolded both above and below the staircase.
Obviously, the perfect way to start is to tap the services of head writer Heidi Thomas, (Cranford, Return to Cranford). You then keep the same formula of allowing the real events of England and the world to unfold around you, in this case, events that mirror the recent Oscar winner, The King’s Speech. Finally, you top it off by adding both creators of the original series, Jean Marsh and Dame Eileen Atkins to the cast, not to mention the likes of Keeley Hawes and Ed Stoppard.
You probably won’t be able to get in a marathon screening of the recently released 21-disc 40th anniversary DVD set of the original goings on at 165 Eaton Place, but Bob Mondello from NPR’s All Thing Considered suggests this is perfect moment to re-acquaint yourself with the beloved residents and staff above and below the stairs.
Upstairs Downstairs will air as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series beginning tonight at 9pET/PT and 8pCT and continue for the following two Sundays, April 17 and 24. KERA will air over the next three Sundays at 8:00pm beginning tonight. For those who want to do a bit of studying before tonight, here’s a quick primer. Remember, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard.