Upstairs Downstars Series One DVD Review–Top-Floor British Drama, Slightly Dark
Sometimes it escapes our notice, that television developed all over the planet. And while Americans settled in to watch things like The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie, the Brits settled in for things like Upstairs Downstairs, a copy of the first series the folks out at Acorn sent out for us to see.
Upstairs Downstairs takes us to the Bellamy household at 165 Eaton Place, the lovely townhouse in the Belgravia neighborhood of London. Upstairs live the Bellamys, a family of aristocratic types with a lot of aristocratic type problems–social upheaval, family troubles (the son is a lech and the daughter is best described as “headstrong”, neither of which is exactly a sought-after quality in turn of the century England) the changing of the times in general, and of course, the onslaught of World War I (Upstairs Downstairs is set around about 1903). Meanwhile, downstairs is the Bellamy house’s servants, full of constantly bustling servants keeping the house in order. There’s a lot going on in the house, and it’s not just the normal back and forth, either. You’ll be surprised at what all goes on in the Bellamy house, and you’ll see it all right here.
When I said that you’d be surprised, frankly, I meant it–there is an abundance of strange occurrences going on here. Former employees, the family in turmoil, the technicians’ strike, and so on make the Bellamy household a strange one indeed.
That last one is actually just slightly meta–when you watch this DVD set, you’ll note that some episodes are in black and white while some are in color. That’s not a problem with the disc, but rather how the episodes were presented originally due to a technicians’ strike early on in the first season.
And that’s only going to add to things. Frankly, this show is a little on the creepy side. You get this constant sense of foreboding from Upstairs Downstairs, even when there’s a bit of laughter going on. Of course, a lot of that might have to do with the era, which would make it doubly appropriate with the war on its way and all, but watching a dramatic series where the primary mood is “sinister”, well, it’s not exactly an entertaining proposition.
It’s very watchable, no mistake, but it’s still kind of creepy. Upstairs Downstairs comes off with entirely too much vague dread to be really entertaining.
The Screenhead Ten Scale gives Upstairs Downstairs Series One a seven out of ten–it’s a good quality show and there’s plenty to like, but it gives me entirely too much of a chill for my liking.