Television

DVD Picks: 'Upstairs, Downstairs'

Upstairs, Downstairs faced production snafus before it premiered in 1971, but quickly rebounded to become one of British television's most beloved drama series. A revised version of the show will debut Apr. 10 on PBS.

Upstairs, Downstairs faced production snafus before it premiered in 1971, but quickly rebounded to become one of British television's most beloved drama series. A revised version of the show will debut Apr. 10 on PBS. ITV Studios Limited hide caption

itoggle caption ITV Studios Limited

Time now for our weekly feature in which movie critic Bob Mondello suggests possibilities for your video queue. This week, he notes that there's an 'Upstairs, Downstairs' reboot set to air next month on PBS, so this might be the perfect moment to check out the original series.

Edwardian London, 165 Eaton Place — the Bellamy family upstairs, their servants downstairs, and in the first moments of episode one, a new parlor-maid, Sarah (Pauline Collins) arriving who will cause no end of commotion. She pretends to have been born to French nobility, but head parlor-maid Rose (Jean Marsh) isn't buying any of her stories. And won't, for a good many episodes.

Upstairs, Downstairs now seems the very model of a sophisticated British series, but it had a rocky start, hit by a technician's strike that made them shoot the first six episodes in black and white, then sitting on the shelf for almost a year. Still, the audience quickly embraced it, and the pilot was re-shot later in color with two endings, in case stations decided not to use the black and white episodes.

This new, 40th anniversary, 21-disk set includes that alternate ending, as well as a five-part documentary, vintage talk-show interviews with the stars, and more than a full day's worth of commentaries, most of which include Marsh, the only cast member who'll return in the new series. In the final show of the original series, she had paused with her hand on the empty house's bannister, replaying moments from the previous 67 episodes in her head.

In the new series, Rose's hand, now covered with age spots, will touch that same banister, now covered with dust. But the dust and the age spots will disappear as she reminisces this time — nostalgia as a fountain of youth.

You may want to refresh your memory too.

From 'Upstairs, Downstairs' - 'Say Something French'

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