6 7 mins 12 yrs

After the news of the demise of another BBC series – this time Upstairs Downstairs. I decided to take a look at some possible motives in our very own court of “TV no more” of what went wrong.

Actor Neil Jackson who plays chauffeur Harry Spargo in the BBC drama announced the news on twitter saying: “Such a shame. I have just heard that the BBC will not be making any more Upstairs Downstairs. I loved the show and will miss is greatly.”

Question is will you miss it? While Mr Jackson moves on to bigger and brighter things with a lead character role in NBC pilot Notorious – Let me set the facts of the case for you…

Exhibit one – Ratings!

When a programme gets axed, ratings is usually the main culprit in most cases – however viewers remained generally loyal totting up an average of seven million in series one and series two ended on a bit of a flat note with 4.45 million; not great but not as bad as some. If you’re like me, you may have been willing the series to do well out of respect for the original (I saw the repeats, I’m not that old) and favoured cast members, sticking with it hoping it would improve; which It did near the end, but too little too late and blind faith really does have a limit.

Exhibit Two – The Pen is mightier than the sword!

Writer and executive producer Heidi Thomas tweeted: “Truly sad about [Upstairs Downstairs], but can now fully and wholeheartedly honour the massive commitments I have elsewhere, including Call the Midwife.”

She added: “Not surprised – and a bit relieved as my diary was looking unworkable. But I will miss the characters.”

Time constraints of the writer is a big problem, but it wouldn’t be the first successful show to acquire another writer to fill the void. And as talented as Heidi Thomas may be…in this world everyone is replaceable!!!

Exhibit three – Death by Downton!

When the news of a revival of the popular 70’s period drama Upstairs Downstairs was announced, there was a mixed reaction. Those who fondly remembered the original, feared it may be tarnished leading to lots of comments saying; “it won’t be as good as the original.” New viewers to 165 Eaton Place and its residents were excited and intrigued – plus with the added addition of fan favourite Keeley Hawes as the lady of the house; it was set to be “one to watch.” Were our expectations too high? Or did Upstairs Downstairs fail to deliver?

That was until Downton Abbey came along with its sized nines and dominated our view of period drama and more importantly our heads had been turned by a new set of characters “in service” to the upper classes. So by the time Upstairs Downstairs aired a mere month after, its fair to say it didn’t set the world alight.

Downton’s charm, is the posh habitants stories were just as dramatic as the comings and goings of what was going on downstairs. Who can forget the will they won’t they of Mary & Matthew, the Dowager Countess and her battle with Cousin Isobel; and yet I struggle to remember anything of note for Lady Agnes and Sir Holland other than she was pregnant! Our service men & women of Eaton Place had all the fun while his lord and lady plodded along with their political drama’s of which became a chore to listen too instead of full of intrigue. We simply failed to find something in our characters to care about. To put it simply as one tweeter said to me; “whatever Upstairs Downstairs did, Downton seemed to do better!”

And finally Exhibit four – It just wasn’t that good!

When I watched series one although I liked it, there was a distinct lack of Oomph and pace to keep me wanting more, I was glad it was commissioned for a lengthier second series as I believed it to be a great chance to come back fighting and iron out the problems. However the flame went out pretty quick when I realised series two was slower, duller and distinctively beige in comparison to its counterparts. There’s no doubt the sets and costumes were beautiful with elegance, and sophistication, but it lacked quality acting, decent scripts, and dare I say less politics and relationships and a bit more romance and intrigue wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Upstairs Downstairs has its supporters, hours after the news broke a petition had already been started to save the ailing programme like a Victorian damsel in distress. When I asked on twitter their reasons “why” they wanted to save it! I was expecting lots of glowing reviews, what I received was a few responses saying how they enjoyed the history element and had learnt something new, compared to the many tweets I received with the words; dull, predictable, boring, bland, with one tweeter even saying “I’m glad my licence fee isn’t being wasted on more.”

To summarise – You be the jury!

As much as I won’t shed a tear for the demise, I shall miss elements of the show, especially the wonderful Jean Marsh who is as much a delight in the new version as the old, and will be much missed by me for six weeks of the year. And what a courageous lady she is to return to her role as Rose after a minor stroke. Always nice to see Keeley Hawes on-screen and Nico Mirallegro is one to watch, shame he wasn’t given very good storylines to work with in this.

As for the History lesson; History is no bad thing to learn, but it’s not edge of your seat-can’t-wait-till-next-week-drama is it?! NEXT!

Let us know your opinions. Are you glad or sad Upstairs Downstairs is to be no more?

Neil Jackson broke the news on twitter 

6 thoughts on “The Plight Of Upstairs Downstairs – What Went Wrong?!

  1. Actually, Series Two is better than the last 2 seasons of DOWNTON ABBEY. But . . . it’s not original and Eileen Atkins’ big mouth actually sunk the series.

  2. I think the new series failed because it made no effort to honour the principle of two families (upstairs and down) which made the 1970’s series so popular – some of the best original episodes focused on the gulfs that existed within the house. It may have been a better idea to do a prequel to the Bellamy era rather than picking up where they left off. I’m rather hopeful though that this isn’t the end of 165 Eaton Place.

  3. Going on those comments, you have to ask if Heidi Thomas was the right person to do the show in the first place. Steven Moffat has two shows, a production company and a family to look after, as well as consultation for re-makes of stuff for other countries, and he still puts his 100% whether people like it or not. And if ‘Call the Midwife’ is the best you can do, don’t bother.

  4. I agree that the BBC didn’t honor Upstairs Downstairs particularly in the way it should have been. What the only problem I can think of is that, the BBC never once repeated the first series just before the second series started this year in February and I think that’s probably why the second series didn’t connect well with the viewers. The writing I thought was still okay in most episodes and there were some great performances by Keeley Hawes and Alex Kingston in the last few episodes. Overall I preferred the second series of Upstairs more than Downton Abbey’s second series.

  5. I agree completely with the previous comment. The writing and dialogue really was exceptionally bad, and led to wooden acting. In fact, it was so poor, it actually came across to me as a parody of a costume drama. Some of the terrible lines, delivered so over-dramatically, looking out to the horizon with a deep and meaningful expression… all it needed was canned laughter and French and Saunders in the background somewhere, and we’d have been laughing at it, rather than being conned into believing it was drama. Thank goodness it’s over, I say.

  6. other notable problems:  Series creators Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh were tethered loosely resulting in Eileen Atkins leaving the show entirely.  From the start BBC didn’t honor this.  Also, PBS/Masterpiece co produced and funded the series and probably didn’t pick it up this time.  Shows get axed when they don’t to well.  The writing WAS terrible and the dialogue was atrocious. The acting was pitiful and my mere virtue of “wanting” it to be a success was it’s demise. End of and lessons learnt.

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