Upstairs, Downstairs: The Complete Series - 40th Anniversary Collection
DVD | Box Set
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"Great fun and marvelous television" --The New York Times
"One of the brightest gems ever to come over the ocean from the British" --The Washington PostUpstairs: the wealthy, aristocratic Bellamys. Downstairs: their loyal and lively servants. For nearly 30 years, they share a fashionable townhouse at 165 Eaton Place in London’s posh Belgravia neighborhood, surviving social change, political upheaval, scandals, and the horrors of the First World War.
The most popular and successful British drama series in television history, Upstairs, Downstairs won seven Emmy® Awards, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody. This epic saga of life and love in Edwardian England captivated viewers for five heart-tugging, humorous, and satisfying seasons. Seen by a billion people in over 40 countries, it’s beloved around the world.
The ensemble cast of top British actors includes Jean Marsh (Agatha Christie’s The Pale Horse), Pauline Collins (Shirley Valentine), David Langton (The Spoils of War), Gordon Jackson (The Professionals), Simon Williams (Sword of Honour), and Lesley-Anne Down (North and South).
Acorn Media's 40th Anniversary Edition of the beloved British TV series aims to be definitive, and it is: at 21 discs and something like 28 hours (including the audio commentaries) of bonus material, it replaces previous collections of the show. Perhaps the most significant aspect of this release is the improved video and audio quality of the episodes, an upgrade that addresses a complaint about previous editions. This version includes a 1996 documentary, Upstairs Downstairs Remembered, which provides a useful overview, but there's also a new offering, The Making of Upstairs Downstairs, which clocks in at more than 4 hours and has everything you'd want in behind-the-scenes info. We also get segments featuring 1970s British chat show host Russell Harty interviewing cast members, which are flip and amusing, and capture some of the surprise of the show's huge success. (There's also an odd Harty special passing through the Upstairs Downstairs set, with the cast in character, just after the final episode.) Shorter pieces highlight writer Alfred Shaughnessy and composer Alexander Faris. The commentary tracks, more than 20 of them, might be the real fun of the set. The participants are exceptionally articulate and amusing, especially whenever Jean Marsh or Simon Williams is around; the first episode also features novelist Fay Weldon, who scripted a few shows. There's good dish on the quirks of actors, on how certain episodes took final shape, and even disagreements about the meaning of it all. Wonderful stuff for devotees. --Robert Horton
"The Making of Upstairs, Downstairs"
24 Episode Commentaries
25th Anniversary Retrospective "Upstairs, Downstairs Remembered" including interviews with the stars, composer, and editor alternate pilot episode
Essay by star and cocreator Jean Marsh
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I was also able to look at the opening titles with the drawings from "Punch" (A British humor magazine) and admire how the producers selected amazingly apt drawings to fit the particular episode.
Some of the initial episodes, sadly, are recorded only in black and white due to a technicians' strike in the early 70's. It doesn't actually detract from the enjoyment, just makes it a bit sad we can't see the sets and costuming as they were filmed. The black & white are sharp and clear, but the color episodes can be somewhat lower in resolution. The colors can be dim as well, but it doesn't detract. The cropping is often odd. This is not a perfect conversion from the television to DVD, but it's adequate and probably a lot has to do with changes in technologies since the 70's and the early days of television-to-DVD remastering.
The extras are lavish:
5-part documentary: The Making of Upstairs Downstairs
24 episode commentaries
Upstairs, Downstairs Remembered - with Gareth Hunt (51:50)
Russell Harty Goes Upstairs Downstairs (30:00)
Sandy's Last Stand with composer Alexander Faris (13:15)
Simon Williams and Alfred Shaughnessy in Conversation (22:50)
"Russell Harty Plus" Interview with Gordon Jackson (6:40)
"Russell Harty Plus" Interview with Jean Marsh (11:15)
"Russell Harty Plus" Interview with Angela Baddeley (9:40)
Alternate version of Episode 1 "On Trial"
Essay by star and co-creator Jean Marsh
It's nice to go visit old friends again and have all the episodes and extras. There is a lot of value here, plenty to watch and re-watch, especially if you are a fan of BBC historical drama series. If you are a fan of "Downton Abbey" and don't know this series, you are in for a treat.
Finally I found this 40th Anniversary set -- produced by Acorn -- at an irresistible price and took the plunge.
My wife and I sat down and watched episodes 1 through 3 and each of us had the same reaction. What was all the fuss about? Upstairs Downstairs seemed to be a mediocre, low-budget, Brit sitcom and nothing more. We took a few days off and then decided to give it another go. And are we glad we did! For starting in episode 4 the entire feel of the series changed from a cheap sitcom to thoughtful human drama.
Okay, the "cheap" feeling stayed for somewhat longer. Only as the years went by did the production values start to go a bit upscale. Never near the level of something like Downton Abbey, mind you, but good enough to become invisible.
The production and mastering of the Acorn set is so-so at best, both as to image and sound quality and the interface. (Oh, the junk you have to sit through on each year's disc one before the program starts! Ugh!) And instead of defaulting to having no subtitles 4 out of the 5 sets defaulted to subtitles on. Grrr!
But the drama itself is the thing and all that technical stuff pales into insignificance once we got absorbed into the characters and the stories. This is human drama as real as life -- full of the complexities, ambiguities, triumphs, joys, disappointments and sorrows of real life and told with feeling and an underlying appreciation for what it means to be human. As such Upstairs Downstairs is highly recommended.
Upstairs Downstairs is the story of the Bellamy family of 165 Eaton Place, London from about 1903 to 1930. The Bellamys are an aristocratic family with a houseful of servants. The interplay of story line and personality between Upstairs (the Bellamys and their friends and relatives) and Downstairs (the assorted servants) was beautifully done. Some of the episodes tended to be a bit too soap operaish, but at its best the series was utterly spellbinding and memorable.
This megaset contains every episode of the original five seasons. Some of the transfers are not all that clear, and a few of the openings have been truncated or even omitted entirely. The megaset also contains a spin off of the series, Thomas and Sarah, based on the lives of two of the servants after they left 165. Thomas and Sarah has nowhere near the quality of the original series and does not, in my opinion, deserve to be grouped with it. But nevertheless this megaset is the best way to obtain and enjoy Upstairs Downstairs today.