DVD Picks: 'Upstairs, Downstairs' Bob Mondello's looks back at the acclaimed British television drama about an aristocratic family — and their servants — who live in a posh London neighborhood during the early 20th century. It's out in a box set.

DVD Picks: 'Upstairs, Downstairs'

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Time now to give our movie critic Bob Mondello another opportunity to help build up your video queue. This month, PBS airs a new incarnation of the British series "Upstairs, Downstairs." So, as Bob suggests, this is a perfect moment to check out the original series.

(Soundbite of music)

BOB MONDELLO: Edwardian London, 165 Eaton Place - the Bellamy family upstairs, their servants downstairs, and on the first episode, a new parlor maid, Sarah, being introduced to Rose, the head parlor maid, played by Jean Marsh.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Upstairs, Downstairs")

Mr. GORDON JACKSON (Actor): (as Mr. Hudson) Rose, you are to instruct Sarah in her duties...

Ms. JEAN MARSH (Actress): (as Rose) Yes, Mr. Hudson.

Mr. JACKSON: (as Mr. Hudson) ...with a good heart and a glad will, if you please, Rose.

Ms. MARSH: (as Rose) Naturally, Mr. Hudson.

MONDELLO: "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 embraced it quickly, 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, 20-disk set includes the 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 Jean Marsh, the only cast member who'll return in the new series. In the final show, she had paused with her hand on the empty house's banister, replaying moments from the previous 67 episodes in her head.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Upstairs, Downstairs")

Ms. MARSH: (as Rose) Oh, yes, (unintelligible) afternoons off. (Unintelligible) but I know there's somebody.

Unidentified Woman (Actress): (as character) I think I'd rather not say, Rose.

Ms. MARSH: (as Rose) It's best to be truthful.

MONDELLO: At the outset of 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.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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