The original series of Upstairs Downstairs from the early 1970s is starting this week on Talking Pictures. It’s one of those shows everybody was aware of at the time — easier when there were only three channels!
If you don’t know, Upstairs Downstairs was an award winning ITV series that can be seen as paving the ground for Downton Abbey. It ran for five series, unlike the revival which managed two. It was very much focussed on life below stairs though the upstairs family played their part. It was conceived by Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins; Jean Marsh played one of the maids, but Eileen Atkins was unavailable so her role went to Pauline Collins. Many household names appeared, including Gordon Jackson, Angela Baddeley, Christopher Beeny, Rachel Gurney, David Langton, Simon Williams and Nicola Pagett.
The setting is a house in Belgravia, and the series depicts the servants (downstairs) and the family (upstairs) between the years 1903 and 1930, and shows the slow decline of the British aristocracy. Great events feature prominently in each episode but minor or gradual changes are also noted. The show stands as a document of the social and technological changes that occurred between those 27 years, including the Edwardian period, women’s suffrage, the First World War, the Roaring Twenties, and the Wall Street Crash. It was a ratings success for ITV and received outstanding acclaim worldwide, winning multiple awards. [From wikipedia]
On Trial. (1971). Stars Pauline Collins, Gordon Jackson, Jean Marsh. On a crisp autumn morning in 1903, a young woman seeks employment in a fashionable London townhouse.
The rest is television history.