Uptown Downstairs Abbey: A Brilliant Spoof of a Captivating Show

GeekMom TV and Movies

The other night, a bunch of us GeekMom writers fell into a Twitter conversation about Downton Abbey. Readers of my author blog know I’m crazy about that show. Crazy. An intricate, suspenseful drama about the intrigues of family and servants on an early-2oth-century English country estate, this show feeds that British period drama craving that dominates my TV-watching life.

Sometimes maddening, sometimes hilarious*, always gripping, Downton Abbey was one of the best shows I watched last year and absolutely makes my list of shows I wish I could watch for the first time all over again. And I’m champing at the bit for season two, which I’ve just learned (thanks to GeekMom Jenny Williams) is coming soon.

*Dame Maggie Smith, who plays the meddling family matriarch with a quietly vicious glee, had me in stitches every time she opened her mouth. And sometimes even when she didn’t. Her reaction to electric lights, a ghastly modern contrivance she views with horror and suspicion, is a masterpiece of body language. Never mind what happens when she encounters a swivel chair for the first time:

Our Twitter conversation reminded me of the recent Downton Abbey spoof made for BBC Comic Relief Night: “Uptown Downstairs Abbey.” If you haven’t seen the original yet, you might want to save this brilliantly funny satire for later. Then again, it just might whet your appetite for the real thing.

And there’s a part two!

While you’re waiting for Season 2 of Downton Abbey (and hopefully another installment of Uptown Downstairs Abbey, as well), here’s a list of other period dramas I have enjoyed:

• Upstairs, Downstairs–a true classic! There was a recent reboot, too; I only watched a few episodes. It didn’t quite grip me like the original long-running series did (which my hubby and I watched on DVD a few years ago), but I loved the poignant homecoming feel of Jean Marsh’s Rose-the-housemaid returning to 165 Eaton Place, this time as housekeeper.

• Lark Rise to Candleford. If you’re a Downton Abbey fan, you’ll recognize the wonderful Brendan Coyle (Downton‘s Mr. Bates) as Laura’s sensitive, shrewd, often exasperated father in this tale of a small English town and its even smaller neighboring hamlet. (Coyle also appears in the BBC series North and South, which I’m told is quite good. GeekMom Jenny recommends it in her piece about actor Richard Armitage, who also appears in North and South.)

Pride and Prejudice. Goes without saying, right? The gold standard.

Berkeley Square. A series about the trials and tribulations of Victorian nannies, which: you had me at hello.

Garrow’s Law. Courtroom drama set in late-18-century England. It’s like Law & Order with knee breeches and powdered wigs. Be still, my heart.

Life on Mars. An unusual police drama set in the 1970s, but that’s still period drama. Modern-day detective goes back in time (or does he?) to the late 70s. A great deal of adult subject matter and violence, but brilliantly acted and quite gripping.

The Railway Children. This was a TV movie, not a series. This one, from 2000, not the 1970 version. (Bit of trivia: the mother in the 2000 version was played by the same actress who played Bobbie in the original. Other bit of trivia, the 2000-version Bobbie was played by Jemima Cooper, who was the lead in Lost in Austen.) Anyway: I love this movie even more than I loved the book, which was a lot. Jemima’s Bobbie is a wonder.

What are your favorite period dramas to watch and rewatch and pine for when they’re over?

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8 thoughts on “Uptown Downstairs Abbey: A Brilliant Spoof of a Captivating Show

  1. I have a new one for you: The Way We Live Now, a 4-part series from the Anthony Trollope novel. I had never heard of it, but my husband found it on Netflix.

    I also liked the TV miniseries of Bleak House, from 2005. The BBC Martin Chuzzlewit wasn’t quite as good, if I remember correctly, but it scratches that itch.

    Not a costume drama, but a Canadian series we absolutely loved was Slings and Arrows, about a Shakespeare festival in Canada. Three wonderful, short seasons, each centered around a different play (Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear). Funny, heartbreaking — great stuff!

  2. I love Downton Abbey.

    Another favorite is Bramwell (except the last two episodes done later and just not right in any way).
    It’s very loosely based on Elizabeth Blackwell, the first openly identified woman doctor, though Bramwell takes place in England.

    I also like North and South, an adaptation of an Elizabeth Gaskell story.

  3. Thanks for the reminder of this wonderful series–I can’t wait for the 2nd series.

    Of course so many Jane Austen adaptations are great–a recent one is the 2008 Sense & Sensibility miniseries that was really well done.

    Another great British series that we truly enjoyed at our house is “North & South,” based on the Elizabeth Gaskell novel. Really well done. I think it is still on Netflix instant watch.

  4. Oh my goodness! Kim!! That was fabulous.

    I can’t wait for Season/Series 2 of DA. Must check out some of the others in the meantime!

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