I watched every episode of this series and have come to the conclusion that it could have been great were it not so flawed. The concept is a good one. Take the viewers to twenty great houses and castles visited by Queen Victoria, and in each episode and show both the upstairs and downstairs while making use of Queen Victoria's diaries, the accounts of others and menus, account books etc. from the period. Add to each episode a complex dish prepared downstairs for the Queen. With this concept lies the first big problem of this show. How do you introduce viewers to a country house, show them the upstairs, add period narrative and cook a dish all in half an hour, of which several minutes are wasted at the end watching the two hosts eat and fawn all over the dish that was prepared? The result is that the show is reduced to a number of soundbites, three minutes upstairs, then three minutes downstairs, then back upstairs, and so on. The viewer is left with just bits of information. With a one hour format and less switching back and forth this show would have been stellar as many of the houses such as Chatsworth and Castle Howard are incredible complex treasures both inside and out.
The choice of the two hosts Rosemary Shrager and Tim Wonnacott was most unfortunate. They really grind on you after a few episodes with their repetitive language, gesticulations, overblown enthusiasm and the over enunciation of words like "stunning", "fabulous" etc. To top it off they pull all kinds of faces while doing this. The repeated references to the owners and the guests of the houses as "toffs", "aristos" etc. is very annoying. For me the worst part are their constant lame attempts at humor and / or being clever. In some of the episodes the make-up and clothing assistants were absent as the two look like they've slept in their clothes and Ms. Sharger's hair looks greasy.
Two further points that I found annoying are, the music and dirty hands, read on. I found myself fast forwarding the loud rock riffed studded theme music by the first DVD. Accompanying the constant back and forth upstairs / downstairs is the background music which changes in unison to a bewildering number of styles, rock, classical, blues, folk, etc. It's as if they spent hardly any time on it, and often it does not match well with what we are seeing. In each episode Ms. Shrager and a food historian, Ivan Day, prepare a dish which Queen Victoria might have eaten. During these sequences the camera often zooms in on their hands and in many of the episodes their dirty fingers and fingernails. How difficult is it to wash your hands before a close up shot? Talk about lack of attention to detail.
Lack of attention to detail is the overriding feeling one gets after watching a dozen episodes. Evidently made hurriedly on a low budget with minimal care given to script, music and detail. A real pity of because many grand homes are visited and the camera work is quite good. Also some interesting bits of information are gleaned. This is the only reason I'm giving this two stars and not one. With the right budget, production and hosts, this should have been a stellar five star show. A pity with Downtown Abbey and other period shows there seems to be enough viewer interest in the subject.