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Series / Upstairs Downstairs

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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 (produced by London Weekend Television 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 between 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.

Downton Abbey was its Spiritual Successor.

This show provides examples of:

  • Animated Adaptation: Called The Upstairs, Downstairs Bears, and it aired on ITV's CITV block in the early 2000s. (Somewhat ironically, it aired on the final day of LWT under its' own brand in 2002; it even featured in their recreated startup sequence.)
  • Artifact Title: The original was broadcast in Portugal as A Família Bellamynote . When the revival, featuring no Bellamys and only one of the old servants, was broadcast there, guess what title they went with?
  • 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?"
  • Benevolent Boss: Mr. Bellamy, even when it gets him into trouble.
  • Bus Crash: Lady Marjorie perishes in the Titanic disaster.
  • Cast Herd: They're conveniently labelled for you in the title!
  • The Charmer: Footman Edward Barnes
  • 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. Both Sarah's pregnancies were real pregnancies of the actress, Pauline Collins, with her husband, John Alderton, who himself played 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.
  • 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.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: Sarah performs the stately march of the titles as Bawdy Song in her music hall act.
  • Driven to Suicide: Scullery maid Emily in "I Dies of Love".
    • And James Bellamy in "All the King's Horses".
  • The Edwardian Era
  • End of an Age: The series chronicles the slow decline of Victorian society in the face of modernity. This is lampshaded a few times near the end of the series:
    • Richard, in his last argument with James, says Britain fought the war to preserve the world it knew.
    • In the final episode, shortly after the Viscountess remarks that no one can afford servants anymore with the whole staff in earshot, Mr. Hudson observes to them all when they are alone:
      The world we knew is falling about our ears.
  • Family Drama
  • Fashions Never Change: Averted, even the servants' uniforms change.
  • 555: The Bellamys' address, 165 Eaton Place, doesn't exist. The house at 65 Eaton was used for the exteriors; a "1" was painted next to the number.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Hmmm... 1912. April. America. A Ship. Do the maths. If you don't know, Lady Marjorie Bellamy and Mrs. Roberts are taking the Titanic. Yes. THAT Titanic. It ends about as well as you would expect it to end.
  • The Gay '90s
  • Geodesic Cast
  • Gold Digger: Frederick, although Lady Marjorie's family also sees Richard as one.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress
  • Grand Finale: "Whither Shall I Wander?"
  • The Great Depression: The show ends as it's beginning. James's suicide comes after he's wiped out in the Crash of 1929.
  • Happily Married: Marjorie and Richard. The two are so happily married that they even - admittedly offscreen - tell each other to remarry if the other dies.
    • Richard later does and is very happy with Virginia.
  • 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.
  • Heroic BSoD: James, Edward
  • I Am Not Pretty: Elizabeth is fond of announcing that she's unattractive when (physically, at least) she's quite a beauty.
  • 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.
  • Kissing Cousins: Georgina and James, although Georgina is adopted.
  • 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.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Several. William (to Emily). Georgina (to James in the Fifth Season).
  • 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.
  • Old Retainer: Hudson, Rose and Mrs Bridges all came from the Southwold Estate and have served the Bellamy family for more than thirty years without appearing to age at all. Other servants come and go - Ruby and Edward being pretty long-standing - but these three are rather immortal and look like they will outlive even Sir Richard...
    • Rose actually does outlive Sir Richard, though it's implied that the shock of James killing himself finished Richard off too.
  • The Plan: "The Swedish Tiger"
  • 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.
  • Proper Lady: Lady Marjorie is a near spotless example
  • Put on a Bus: Elizabeth goes to America.
  • Rebellious Princess: Elizabeth is not happy about her debut.
  • Rewrite: The First Season ended in the setting of the year 1909, but it was deemed important to keep the storyline within the reign of Edward VII, who died the next year. So, although the Second Season continued its developed storylines, it reversed the chronology to the year 1908.
  • The Roaring '20s
  • Sex Equals Love: Subverted into Love Equals Sex between Elizabeth and Laurence.
  • Sexless Marriage: Elizabeth and Laurence.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Edward, James, and Mrs. Roberts (from her Titanic experience).
  • Silk Hiding Steel:Hazel Bellamy.
  • Spinoff: Thomas and Sarah
  • Spoiled Brat: Elizabeth
  • Time Skip
  • Upper-Class Twit: James Bellamy, and Gentleman Snarker in his better moments
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Played sympathetically in Elizabeth's stints as a socialist and suffragette.
  • Wham Line: In the third series opener:
    Richard: So, a wireless message to Lady Marjorie Bellamy, stateroom number six, aboard White Star Liner R.M.S. Titanic en route from Southampton to New York.
  • Written-In Absence: Edward spends almost half a season off-screen supposedly recovering from having fallen down the back stairs and broken his leg. In reality, actor Christopher Beeny broke his leg in a motorcycle accident on the way to the studio.
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.

This show provides examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Persie's death, and Agnes's reaction to it.
  • 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 past 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.
  • Black Shirt: Spargo in Season One.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Ivy disappears between seasons without explanation.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Amanjit asks to go with Lady Holland and Lotte, Maud tells him that it will be enough of a circus without him.
  • Cute Mute: Lotte.
  • 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.
  • Femme Fatale: Persie.
  • From Dress to Dressing: Lady Agnes stems the bloodflow of Beryl the housemaid Bride-to-be when she is shot in the shoulder by Lady Persephone.
  • Historical Domain Character: Wallis Simpson, John F. Kennedy, Neville Chamberlain, Anthony Eden, Cecil Beaton, Oswald Mosley and Joachim von Ribbentrop all appear onscreen at various points. Prince George, Duke of Kent is one of Hallam's close friends, and is a supporting character (the actor is credited in the Title Sequence).
  • Ignored Expert: Sir Hallam's insight into foreign policy is pretty much always spot-on, yet his superiors rarely follow his advice.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Rachel.
  • Last Minute Hook Up: Johnny and Eunice.
  • The Mole: Persie.
  • 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 Agnes's fault, that she somehow orchestrated the scenario to have two men fight over her honour.
  • Pretty in Mink: Agnes wears a number of first, at least in the first episode.
  • Put on a Bus: Maud, Lady Holland. She dies offscreen between series 1 and 2.
  • 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
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Persie's apparent attitude to Rachel and Lotte.
  • Young Future Famous People: John F. Kennedy is just an awkward university student when we see him.