Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Upstairs Downstairs: Hello I'm back and it's the 1930s and I'm quite posh

There's more clipped vowels and covered-over double yellow lines plus shots of Anne Reid carrying wicker baskets while wearing a hat a lot then, as the new series of the revived Upstairs Downstairs rolls into view like a wobbly Penny Farthing bicycle on a single-minded pursuit of 'period' detail.

Now back for a full run of, er, six episodes after its three episode stint over Christmas 2010, the two original matriarchs and co-creators of the show have upped sticks and gorn (Jean Marsh is off sick but back later in the run, and Dame Eileen Aitkens didn't fancy coming back at all so her character Lady Holland's ashes are on the mantle-piece) but the stiff upper lip of Upstairs Downstairs is not for quivering.

Instead, Alex Kingston has joined the cast playing herself again as Dr Blanche Mottershead, and so far, she can often be found smoking a cigar and championing the rights of the disabled or the benefits of a plant-based diet, which is all very forward thinking for the 1930s. Fortunately, she's also very watchable so the absence of Marsh and Atkins isn't too noticeable, so that's all alright then.

And while we're on Alex Kingston, she's playing an archaeologist again, although this is not her River Song from Doctor Who with her hair up - for a start, she's not in a demin jacket, and she says things like "I've ordered you porridge with black molasses strips," and she knows about vitamins. SHE KNOWS ABOUT VITAMINS!

Cook Mrs Thackeray gives her ideas short-shrift, mind you. Safe in her downstairs world, she grumbles: "I don't know why she's peddlin' all this new-fangled trash. Lady Agnes [having just given birth prematurely and now recovering from a blood transfusion] doesn't need vitamins, she needs liver."

Whether Lady Agnes ever gets her liver remains to be seen of course, but in the meantime there's the prospect of war, the worry of finding Mr Amanjit a decent plot now his function as the late Lady Holland's secretary is redundant, and whether those scenes with the monkey in the gas proof pram contraption was just the bizarre result of too much Sunday evening Ovaltine or if it did really happen.

Either way, we'll be back at 165 Eaton Place next week for more of its slightly lumbering charm, and also a fair amount of simmering sexual tension between the frisky driver Harry Spargo, with his swollen knuckles and his lingering looks, as a swooning sax plays from somewhere, and the new maid Beryl Ballard who had the RADA-denying task of rinsing out a bucket of soiled nappies while trying not to notice him or admit her mother really did kill herself.

It's drama, but not as we know it. And if you were to choose, would you go for life upstairs or life downstairs? Downstairs definitely looks like more fun but we'll take the clipped vowels and fine bone china tea-cups of life upstairs, please. Thanks awfully.

Related stories:
Upstairs Downstairs: So that was series 2, but will there be a series 3? 
Upstairs Downstairs: Series 2 episode 5: War is coming.. via cook's Lady Fingers
Upstairs Downstairs series 2 episode 2: Dinners, oysters and violet macaroons
Upstairs Downstairs: When 'downstairs' pretend they're 'up'

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    1. I know people are saying this re-make is not as good as the original but I think you can like both as they're so different. Television is slicker now and this version looks amazing! I hope it runs for years!

    2. Love this essential viewing, look forward to it all week. Sir Hallam is fast becoming my ideal man, I would love to see a blog with recipe's from the kitchen as I am already sold on the idea of violet macaroons. I would also like to see a Lady Agnes keep fit dvd of Health and Beauty. I love the stories and cast. I also like downton but find Upstairs explores more issues in each short episode and is far more light hearted and uplifting.

    3. Another BBC program following a homosexual story-line. After the Eastenders long running love affair between Christian and his boy friend I think we deserve a rest. How do you expect to compete with Downton if you don't raise the tone. Remember the children being force-fed this diet.

    4. I love this program, nice I can absorb myself into every character. If you have a brain this show is the one for you. The actors are all first class and the plot twists and turns are intriguing. Eastenders / Made in Chelsea - i'll order a lobotomy now shall I?
      Please make more BBC. Excellent idea about a spinoff website with the recipes and interesting facts. More brain food... I like!

    5. I love it! I can't bear to think it's going to finish soon!