Upstairs, Downstairs is the saga of the Bellamy family and their household staff in the early 20th century. Throughout the series their lives, loves, tragedies and triumphs are portrayed. This set of 13 episodes includes the COMPLETE first season as seen in Britain, including some black and white episodes never seen on tv in the US. In the first episode we are introduced to the colorful Sarah (Pauline Collins), in the second (B&W episode) Lady Marjorie has her portrait painted only to discover at the Royal Academy Show that the artist has also painted two half-naked maids in an attic room (possibly Bellamy maids?). In episodes 3 and 4 (B&W) we are introduced to the children, James and Elizabeth Bellamy. Episodes 5 and 6 show us the romance between Elizabeth Bellamy and a German Baron (and it's dark underside), and the pregnancy of the new maid, Mary. More familiar episodes to the US audience come in #7 and #8, Lady Marjorie is spellbound with a young army captain who is friends with her son James, and Emily (the annoying kitchen maid) falls for a neighboring family's footman, with disastrous results. Episodes 9 and 10 have Mrs. Bridges, the cook, behaving in a most improper way and stealing a baby, and the erstwhile Sarah returns with a new plan to improve her social standing. The two penultimate episodes in this set include the further adventures of Sarah the housemaid with a Swedish valet, and the further adventures of the Bellamy's daughter, Elizabeth, with a group of young Socialists. Finally we are left with the now estranged Elizabeth Bellamy and her relationship with a leftist poet, Lawrence Kirbridge--and a great eagerness to own the next 13 episodes, now also available.
Upstairs, Downstairs is the classic "Masterpiece Theater" series, with costumes, drama, comedy, and riveting characters that we take to our hearts. If you are a fan of more recent costume dramas on A&E and PBS, you will very much enjoy this early series which holds up remarkably well, after nearly two decades.
We completed the First Season last night and I'm hooked. The writing is terrific and all the performances are enchanting. My particular favorites are Mr. Hudson, the butler, and Rose, played by the gifted and gorgeous Jean Marsh.
The print quality of the videos is excellent overall, but I know that I shall be buying the series again when it comes out on DVD, as I'm sure some jerking of the picture (mostly in the credits, never in the performance itself) and other flaws will be removed as far as possible.
The social structures of both the wealthy class and the servant class are jarring, especially to an early 21st-century viewer. We have come quite a long way from that time when a servant must "know his place". Yet, it wasn't just they who had to know who they were and what place they occupied in the world: in many ways, the wealthy were just as trapped in their positions - if not moreso - than the servants who ran their lives. And make no mistake - the servants DID run things if this series is to be believed.