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Series / Manor House

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A 2002 British TV Series, the latest in a long trend of Historical Recreation Reality Shows. Following the success of 1900 House, this series attempted to recreate life in an English country estate at the height of the The Edwardian Era. A modern-day, moderately well-to-do British family are brought in to step into the polished boots of turn-of-the-century landed aristocracy, while other normal people from different walks of life take up the roles of the staff.

During the three-month social experiment, all participants are required to not merely talk the talk, but also walk the socially-stratified walk. Abovestairs, the Oliff-Cooper clan adopt the lifestyles of the landed gentry while navigating the labyrinthine rituals and customs of a typical Edwardian social season. Belowstairs, the servants are expected to carry the full workloads of their turn-of-the-century counterparts, while also observing all period etiquette, protocols and restrictions. Hilarity Ensues.


This show contains examples of:

  • A Father to His Men: Edgar, the butler, to the staff. He actually admits to coming to think of them as his grandchildren.
    • Sir John sees himself as this. Meanwhile, the entire staff are giddily constructing an effigy of Sir John to burn during the finale.
  • Butt-Monkey: Kenny. Being hallboy basically means being this professionally. 17 hours a day, seven days a week, bed in the front hall, first to get up, make the fires, and wake everyone else up, plucker of ducks, and lowest paid into the bargain. On the other hand, he's also the one who successfully carries on a fling with Ellen the scullery maid, right up to the end.
    • Also, the scullery maids, Kelly, Lucy, and Ellen. Seventeen hours a day, keep the fires stoked, and take orders from Dubiard the chef.
    • Really, all the belowstairs staff, in descending order of monkey-buttness.
  • Deadpan Snarker: M. Dubiard, the chef. Yes, he's French, why do you ask?
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Sir John Oliff-Cooper hands down a particularly harsh one to the entire staff after a social faux-pas. The Oliff-Cooper clan gave the entire staff the night off while he and his family dined out. They all had a rowdy get-together at a local pub to blow off some steam. Uncannily, they chose the exact same restaurant the Oliff-Coopers had been planning to go to. Sir John suspended all time off for the entire staff as punishment. Truly, this was unforgivable.
    • To be fair, the night had been mentioned as being overly excessive, and the punishment was "only" that the lower servants' families would no longer be allowed to visit the coming bazaar (already a generous allowance, and he did eventually re-allow that visit).
  • The Ditz: Kenny the Hallboy.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Well, okay, yeah. The family and the higher-ranking staff get the good duds. Though not capes and elaborate ballgowns, as it's the Edwardian Era, so it's more understated and modern, but this trope still applies if you like that sort of style.
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  • Heel Realization: An intriguing inversion. Mr. Edgar's grandfather had actually been a real butler in the Edwardian era. An icy, distant, authoritarian figure, he inspired silent terror in the young boy. In his shoes sixty years later, a shaken Mr. Edgar comes to understand just why he had to be that way.
  • Invisible to Normals: Some of the staff. According to Edwardian social dictate, they were to remain out of sight, and, if present, were not to be acknowledged.
  • Meganekko: Becky. Kind of a pity that she's Out of Focus.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Rob, Charlie, Kenny, Tristan.
    • Jonty Oliff-Cooper, for girls who like the more refined, intellectual type.
  • Out of Focus: Mrs. Davies, Becky, Tristan, Jessica, Ellen. Responsible? Good-natured? Did your backbreaking labor day in and day out without drama or secret love affairs? Well... good for you.
    • After two failures walk out, Ellen arrives and successfully assumes the role of scullery maid. You will never hear from her again.
    • Poor, poor Jonty Oliff-Cooper.
    • Miss Morrison is evidently Out of Focus enough to not have been mentioned even here.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Edgar, the butler, to the staff. Though undeniably strict and intimidating, it's noted that he would actually have been considered lenient by the standards of the old days. Also noteworthy that an early act of leniency comes back to bite him, rather viciously, at which point he is forced to affirm the "Authority Figure" part of the trope.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Good scullery maids are so hard to find these days...
  • Scullery Maid: Kelly, Lucy, Ellen, the, uh, scullery maids.
  • Single Tear: Edgar lets one slip during the aforementioned Heel Realization.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Mr. Edgar, Rob, Charlie, and Kenny.
  • Supreme Chef: M. Dubiard, naturally.
  • Stanford Prison Experiment:
    • Several participants eventually Became the Mask, most of them belonging to the privileged upstairs. For instance, John, playing the roll of a newly-knighted nouveau riche, becomes arrogant, assuring himself constantly that he is a benevolent employer who understands the hardships downstairs is going through and absolutely hates to add to their burdens, while at the same time being unyielding, unsympathetic, demanding and bigoted to them and others, seemingly oblivious to the fact that his personal opinions are starting to sound increasingly dismissive and self-entitled—at one point, his servants overhear him saying there are three levels of society, the knobs, the scutter, and the dregs (the latter referring to the servants), and he even tells his sister-in-law that he thinks educating women is a waste of money. However his wife, Dr. Anna Oliff-Cooper, is possibly the most extreme example. A modern, well-educated, capable, intelligent medical doctor in the beginning, but after just three months of living the life of an upper-crust Edwardian society woman... it's like she's been brainwashed. It gets just a tad eerie.
      Lady Oliff-Cooper (in reference to her young son, Guy): And I was thinking to myself: 'He mustn't get too close to the servants'. Because eventually when he inherits the house, he'll have to stand his distance as the lord and master. And then I thought to myself: 'Oh dear, how ridiculous'. Of course because this isn't all for real, in three months time we go back home again. But for just that brief moment, this seemed completely real.
    • Averted, by contrast, by her sister Prof. Dr. Avril Anson. Because her Edwardian position as an unwed spinster is no where near as critical to the household or as pleasant as Lady Oliff-Cooper's, she spends most of the series quietly disagreeing with everything she sees, trying to deal with the "gilded cage" she's been locked in, and deeply upset by the changes in personality her family members have displayed. She becomes stressed and emotionally exhausted to the point where she has to leave the show temporarily for her own emotional wellbeing.
    • Also averted by the above-mentioned Master Guy, who enjoyed being able to boss people around for the first few days and then seemed to grow quite lonely and constrained within the rigid hierarchy, prefering to spend time with the downstairs staff since they were more informal and warm. If the downstairs is having an event (like second footman Rob's birthday party), he'll usually attend and be perfectly comfortable amongst the servants.