Hazel Bellamy: There are two families living in this house. There's us, the Bellamys, and there's the family downstairs. With father Hudson, mother Bridges, and their son Edward—who's in the army now, and so proud of him we are. There's the eldest daughter Rose, who lost her young man at the front. And the two youngest daughters— Richard Bellamy: No, one's a daughter-in-law. Daisy, married to Edward, who lives with her in-laws. Hazel: Yes. Then Ruby, the youngest, rather simple child. Perhaps one day we'll all be one big family, not two. Richard: I think we are now, in one sense. As for the future, I have my doubts, but then, tomorrow's a long way off.
—Season 4, Ep 9. "Another Year" January, 1917
Upstairs Downstairs is a British (LWT for ITV) period drama that ran from 1971 to 1975 (with a Revival in 2010; see below). It details the lives of the well-to-do Bellamy family of 165 Eaton Place and their staff of servants from the years of 1903 to 1930. Created by Jean Marsh (Rose Buck) and Eileen Atkins, who were tired of period dramas where the servants were voiceless extras.
This show provides examples of:
Absentee Actor: Due to having Loads and Loads of Characters, the entire cast is rarely present at any given time. Even during the more crowded episodes, there are absences; for example, Mrs. Bridges misses Elizabeth Bellamy's wedding.
If you watch consecutively, the amount of time the staff spend in hospital due to one accident or another becomes absolutely astounding. In later seasons, Rose seems to spend half her time visiting her family.
Bait-and-Switch Lesbians: First season subtext between Rose and Sarah. Sarah frequently uses "the time we spent snuggled together in our little attic room" to goad Rose into going along with Sarah's latest scheme.
Bawdy Song: "What Are We Going to Do with Uncle Arthur?"
The Bechdel Test: Actually passes with flying colours. Although the young ladies are featured romantically, and Sarah has a string of lovers and at one point goes on the stage as a prelude to a fling with James, the series is very broad in dealing with inter-woman dialogue that does not depend on relationships with men. Rose and Sarah in particular have a very close sisterly relationship in the early series, constantly discussing the world as seen through a young woman's eyes. Similarly, the relationship between Rose and Elizabeth, as maid and mistress, has much more of a dimension to it than just being a way for Elizabeth to complain about her various gentleman friends. The episode about the Suffragette movement convincingly focuses on women's issues. Flapper Dolly Hale and Georgina Worsley in the 1920s episodes, however, tend to drag the series back towards relationship talk again.
Consummate Liar: Sarah and Watkins. Sarah being more of the Lucky Liar variety.
Convenient Miscarriage: Twice; justified, as infant mortality was much higher in 1909 and 1914. Neither case was coverup for a pregnant actress.
If you mean Sarah, played by Pauline Collins, yes, she was. Both her character's pregnancies were real pregnancies of the actress, both by her husband, John Alderton, who himself played the character, Thomas Watkins, who was the father of the second baby. Although, the outcome of the second pregnancy is never known in the context of the show. It is known only by viewers of the spin-off Thomas and Sarah. In real life, both pregnancies (and a third, after the show was over), went just fine.
Dawson Casting: Justified, as there are frequent Time Skips. It's actually a peculiar sort of Dawson Casting, because the original series spans thirty years of historical time, but only four years of real time, so the mainstays of the series never seem to age even though thirty years changes a human being radically, particularly those of Lord Bellamy's, Mrs Bridges' and Hudson's ages. If Rose was twenty as the series begun, she would be fifty at the end, for example. But Jean Marsh herself only ages four years... This is actually quite useful, as, even if they did not know it, it provides a good continuity as to why Rose looks a lot older in the 2010 continuation of the series. If she is actually fifty at the end of the series, then she'd be 56 at the beginning of the 2010 series, so, it all worked out in the end.
Depraved Homosexual: Alfred, who runs away with a German nobleman and later kills him. He later adds Bury Your Gays to the roster as he is hanged for the murder of his Lithuanian gentleman friend.
The Great Depression: The show ends as it's beginning. James's suicide comes after he's wiped out in the Crash of 1929.
Happiness in Slavery: Hudson, with type 3. Not only does he believe it is his moral duty to BE a servant to the aristocracy, but he believes anyone existing outside the Peerage/servant arrangement, (tradesmen in one rant), is the "scum of the earth" and all of society will collapse because of them.
Kinky Spanking: A very mild example. In one episode, Georgina and James get into a flirtatious play fight that ends with her across his knee being spanked with a newspaper. They stop as soon as Hudson walks in.
Law of Inverse Fertility: Subverted, played straight and then ultimately played for drama in the case of Elizabeth. She very much wishes to have a baby with her husband in season 2, but he refuses to sleep with her. However, the very first time she eventually has sex, she conceives. Unfortunately, the man she slept with was not her husband, and she definitely did not want to find out she was having his child while trying to get her marriage annulled on grounds of it never being consummated. Later on, she must then deal with having to raise a baby she is ashamed to have had.
Madonna-Whore Complex: Laurence's problem. He has no problem having sex with a "bad" woman like his snarky, experienced bohemian girlfriend Evelyn, but he idealizes his virginal aristocratic bride Elizabeth as "pure" to the point where he refuses to have sex with her and tells her that she's "morbid" for wanting sex.
Mrs. Robinson: Lady Marjorie is old enough to be Captain Hammond's mother.
Not So Different: Elizabeth to Lady Marjorie when confronted about her recent infidelity in the episode "The Fruits Of Love".
Present Day Past: Many of the woman's clothing and interior sets have colours and patterns that belonged much more in the late 1960's and early 1970's than Edwardian England. Notably, Lady Marjorie's dresses in season 1 and the chocolate brown and baby blue trimmed walls of one house. Also an example of Hollywood Costuming.
World War One: Great examples of life on the Home Front; as well as the viewpoints of an officer (James), soldiers (Edward, Gregory Wilmot), an RFC pilot (Jack Dyson), and a nurse (Georgina) in France.
A very small part of the cast.
Upstairs Downstairs was resurrected in 2010, with the show now airing on The BBC. The revival series is set in the year 1936, and features the character of Rose Buck as the link towards the original series.165 Eaton Place has been sold to a new family, the Hollands. Lady Agnes hires Rose Buck (now running a hiring agency for domestic help) to staff the house, but the new mistress's stinginess with salary hurts Rose's options for hiring new employees. She ultimately hires her best friend (the snarky cook), a rebellious young orphan (the maid), a former cruise ship butler (as head butler), a young teenager attendant with a dark past (the footman), a young wannabe fascist (the chauffeur), and Rose herself as the head housekeeper.Upstairs, meanwhile, Sir Hallam Holland is secretary to Anthony Eden and a personal friend of the Duke of Kent. With the accession of Edward VIII and his relationship with Wallis Simpson and the growing rise of fascism in England, he's kept busy. His wife Agnes has her own problems - firstly, her mother-in-law has shown up after spending several decades in India, with the reveal that Hallam's father's will requires he provide his mom with a permanent home in order to keep his inheritance. Agnes meanwhile has her own problems: a high risk pregnancy that she fears will end with another miscarriage and her younger sister Persephone. Persephone is a head-strong fascist sympathizer who resents her dependence upon her sister and brother-in-law for financial help, causing her to act out.
Big Bad: Persie is the cause of most of the trouble on the show, directly or indirectly. She embarrasses Hallam by flirting publicly with Joachim von Ribbentrop in front of much of London society at a party. She encourages Harry Spargo's interest in fascism. She runs away to Germany, where she becomes the girlfriend of an SS officer and then starts a sordid affair with Hallam that ends up ruining Hallam and Agnes's marriage (she eventually rubs the affair in Agnes's face and implies that her abortion was because she was pregnant by Hallam instead of Friedrich during their fight in the series finale). The revelation of her relationship with Harry Spargo nearly causes Beryl to break up with him. She uses her relationship with Hallam to glean British government and military secrets, which she passes to the Nazis; the cloud of suspicion and scandal surrounding him force him to resign his position and nearly destroy his whole career. Her suicidal gesture with a gun after it's clear that neither Hallam, Friedrich, nor Harry will have anything to do with her any more leads to her accidentally shooting and nearly killing Beryl, thus preventing Beryl and Harry from emigrating to America as they hoped. Her suicide brings further scandal to the family and heartbreak to Agnes. She's cruel to Pamela (because of her disability) and to Blanche (because she's a lesbian). Her constant drama disrupts everyone's lives over and over.
Driven to Suicide: Persie, after watching everything she'd done wrong come back to haunt her, and then managing to (by accident for once) make things even worse, quietly climbs over a railing. There's a very loud THUD and lots of blood.
Never My Fault: In season 2, Hallam blames just about everyone but himself for his marital problems and Agnes drifting away from him. This reaches its peak when he starts a fight with another man over the mistaken belief that said man was having an affair with Agnes (both of them truthfully told him they weren't) and then insists that it was Agness's fault, that she somehow orchestrated the scenario to have two men fight over her honor.
Pretty in Mink: Agnes wears a number of first, at least in the first episode.
The Reveal: Pamela isn't dead. She has Down's syndrome, and her mother's kept her hidden away in a mental hospital.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Deconstructed; Spargo's belief in fascism is rooted in his hatred of the class system in England and his disdain for the social isolation that exists between the help and their employers. Ironically, Hallam DOES interact with Spargo and starts to break down the walls between employer and employee, until he finds out Spargo's political beliefs. Beliefs that are then severely damaged when Persephone, who DOES treat Spargo like a human being AND is sympathetic towards his right wing beliefs, dumps him for the German ambassador after the two hook up.
In season two, Spargo has renounced fascism and gotten himself a new girlfriend; but with World War II on the horizon and Spargo accidentally catching Persie and Hallam making out, he blackmails Hallam into giving him the cash to flee to America with his girlfriend. Then Persie shoots said girlfriend and kills herself. Spargo then gives the money back to Hallam, having been shamed by his actions though having regained Hallam's trust and forgiveness as Hallam tells Spargo that he is willing to forget the whole blackmail thing