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'Upstairs, Downstairs: Series One'
(Gordon Jackson, David Langton, Christopher Beeny, et al / 4-Disc DVD / NR / (1971) 2011 / Acorn Media)

Overview: Set between 1903 and 1909, 'Upstairs, Downstairs: Series One' introduces Sir Richard Bellamy and his elegant wife, Marjorie, who reside upstairs with their dissolute son, James, and headstrong daughter, Elizabeth. Living and working downstairs are Hudson, the proper butler; Mrs. Bridges, the garrulous cook; the calm and watchful maid Rose; and many more. In this Emmy® winner for outstanding drama series, love blooms, tragedy strikes, scandals are avoided, and wedding bells sound.

DVD Verdict: 'Upstairs, Downstairs' was a British drama television series (funnily enough originally produced by LWT and revived by the BBC) set in a large townhouse in Edwardian, First World War, and Inter-War Belgravia in London! Depicting the lives of the servants "downstairs" and their masters "upstairs," it ran on ITV in 68 episodes divided into five seasons from 1971 to 1975.

Here on this lucious new first series box-set release, the first episode, 'On Trial' is a great opening episode for the show - a lovely introduction to most all the important character, too. And yes, as you plod ever onwards, the subsequent four episodes do come across as rather sluggish, a little slow in their getting-to-the-point (if any) re: 'The Mistress and the Maids,' 'Board Wages,' 'The Path of Duty,' and 'A Suitable Marriage.'

And sure, watching them now, back-to-back you can instantly notice that the budget is totally lame, very lacking. But that adds an era of inner dimension to this show that needs to exist to fully appreciate it, believe me.

As we head through these opening episodes, it is quickly brought to the fore that the 'downstairs' cast has way more color to them; more banter, more fluidity to their well-acted characters. Personal, early on favs include: Alfred the footman, Doris the kitchen-maid, and Pearce the chauffeur; but the fact that they are not given the time or space to develop is a grand shame.

The second half of the season is a lot better, mostly due (one assumes) due to the cast settling into their roles, and with each other. After a slow episode in 'Magic Casements,' a cracking episode entitled 'I Dies from Love' is revealed! Teling the story of Emily, the series' first kitchen-maid, who hangs herself when she is forbidden from seeing an admirer, it feels different to the others that have gone before it.

The subsequent episode, 'Why is Her Door Locked?' deals with Mrs Bridges guilt over her treatment of Emily - her tormented mind having lead her to steal a baby from outside a shop. Now we're cooking and it's around this time that the aforementoned Mrs. Bridges (Angela Baddeley) and Mr. Hudson (the always brilliant actor, Gordon Jackson come to the fore as the main characters of the entire series!

The last episode of the first season, 'For Love of Love,' features the only substantial location work of this season as we see Elizabeth and Lawrence married in church. Highly unusually for the time, this shooting (and most of the other location work for the series) is done on outside broadcast videotape rather than the more common film.

Oh, and for the record, this classic BBC drama was recently revived through two 90 minute TV films. Due for release on BBC Home Video very soon over here in the states it gives all of us the chance to witness the stories all over again - in a crisp, less 'cheap' visual manner ... if one so wishes to venture into, of course! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

The Making of 'Upstairs, Downstairs,' Part 1
Episode Commentaries
Alternate Pilot Ppisode

www.AcornMedia.com





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