Sadly, the BBC’s 40-year renovation project at 165 Eaton Place has come to an end. Upstairs Downstairs has been axed following a relatively poor showing for the second series in the UK. The second and final six episodes of the updated Upstairs Downstairs series will air in the States beginning in October 2012 as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series.
In the end, some will say that it was simply another example of The Downton Abbey effect in that the ITV mega-hit more than doubled the ratings of the BBC series. Personally, I think it had more to do with a last-ditch effort following series one to gimmick up the storyline rather than focus on the characters with a good story and a glimpse of the times much like the successful original version.
Unfortunately, it’s been an uphill battle since the doors opened on, perhaps, the third most recognized address in the UK along with 10 Downing Street and 221b Baker Street. After a successful first series, Upstairs Downstairs suffered some insurmountable setbacks when co-creator Dame Eileen Atkins quit the series last August, two months before filming began. Then, Jean Marsh, who co-created the original series with Dame Atkins, was forced to scale back her involvement after suffering a minor stroke. As the only cast member to appear in both the original series and the revival 40 years later, she eventually appeared in just two scenes during the six episodes.
Upstairs Downstairs co-creator Dame Eileen Atkins said last night: “I think it’s sad it’s not going on but you can’t blame the cast, who were wonderful.” A BBC spokesman said yesterday: “2012 has been a great year for BBC drama but at this stage there are no plans for Upstairs Downstairs to return”. Indeed it has given the fact that this year has seen the likes of Call the Midwife, Sherlock, Great Expectations and Birdsong and we’re not six months through the year as of yet.