Preview of Upstairs Downstairs Season 2: Masterpiece Classic PBS

Image from Upstairs Downstairs Season 2: cast pictured © 2011 MASTERPIECE

Get ready period drama fans – Season 2 of the new Upstairs Downstairs starts next Sunday, October 7 at 9pm on Masterpiece Classic PBS.

Last year we saw the triumphant return after thirty-four years of the award winning and much beloved series Upstairs Downstairs to Masterpiece Classic. The original series (1974-77) focused on the Bellamy family upstairs and their household staff downstairs: all living at 165 Eaton Place, a posh townhouse in London. Last year Season 1 began in 1936, six years after the close of the original series. We were treated to only three episodes: The Fledgling; The Ladybird; and The Cuckoo. Original co-creators of the series Jean Marsh and Dame Eileen Atkins were heavily involved in the new sequel. Marsh returned as housekeeper Rose Buck and Dame Eileen Atkins as the Dowager Lady Holland was one of the stellar new characters. You can read my preview of Season 1 to catch up on the new cast and the reaction when it aired in the UK 2010.

Image from Upstairs Downstairs Season 2:  Keeley Hawes and Edward Stoppard Lord & Lady Holland© 2011 MASTERPIECE

Keeley Hawes and Edward Stoppard as Lord & Lady Holland

Season 2 is much more ambitious with six new episodes, so we will have a lot of great period drama to dish about over the next few weeks. Most of Season 1’s cast is returning, but one key player has died and the other recovering from a stroke in hospital. However, there are some new characters that I found quite intriguing.

Upstairs:

Image from Upstairs Downstairs Season 2: Alex Kingston as Dr. Blanche Mottershead © 2011 MASTERPIECE

Alex Kingston as Dr. Blanche Mottershead

Downstairs:

Image from Upstairs Downstairs (2012) Season 2: Laura Haddock as Beryl Ballard © 2011 MASTERPIECE

Laura Haddock as Beryl Ballard

Image from Upstairs Downstairs Season 2: Ami Metcalf as Eunice McCabe © 2011 MASTERPIECE

Ami Metcalf as Eunice McCabe

Image from Upstairs Downstairs Season 2: Sarah Lancashire as Mrs Whisset © 2011 MASTERPIECE

Sarah Lancashire as Mrs Whisset

Here is a description of the new season with an episode guide from my friends at Masterpiece Classic PBS. Be sure to mark your calendars or set your DVR’s for Sundays, October 7 – November 11, 2012 at 9pm ET on PBS. Check your local listings for exact times. Enjoy!

In 1938, war is about to topple a way of life. But not quite yet.

The intrigues of life, love, and international politics come to a boil at 165 Eaton Place in a thrilling panorama of English society on the eve of World War II. Keeley Hawes (Wives and Daughters), Ed Stoppard (Brideshead Revisited), and Claire Foy (Little Dorrit) return in Season 2 of the Emmy®-nominated continuation of the 1970s classic. Guest stars include Alex Kingston (ER) and Emilia Fox (Rebecca and Pride and Prejudice 1995). Upstairs Downstairs Season 2 is a BBC/MASTERPIECE Co-Production, written by Heidi Thomas. The directors are Mark Jobst (parts one and two), Brendan Maher (parts four and five), and Anthony Byrne (parts three and six).

Image from Upstairs Downstairs Season 2: Adrian Scarborough as Mr. Warwick Pritchard © 2011 MASTERPIECE

Episode 1: A Far Away Country about Which We Know Nothing (October 7, 2012)

Pritchard takes the rap for Johnny in a shocking incident, which leads to a revelation that casts the butler into disgrace. On a diplomatic mission to Germany, Hallam meets Persie, who has a Nazi lover.

Image from Upstairs Downstairs Season 2: The Kennedy's come to dinner © 2011 MASTERPIECE

Episode 2: The Love that Pays the Price (October 14, 2012)

Ambassador Kennedy and his dashing son Jack come to dinner at Eaton Place. But Agnes is more entranced by another guest: millionaire Caspar Landry. Before the evening is over, Mrs. Thackeray resigns.

Image from Upstairs Downstairs Season 2: Emilia Fox & Alex Kingston © 2011 MASTERPIECE

Episode 3: A Perfect Specimen of Womanhood (October 21, 2012)

Hallam’s Aunt Blanche appears in a lesbian novel by a former lover, sparking a scandal that threatens the good name of Eaton Place. Meanwhile, Agnes’s demands on the servants bring a social worker to set her straight.

Image from Upstairs Downstairs Season 2: Nico Mirallegro as Johnny Proude © 2011 MASTERPIECE

Episode 4: All the Things You Are (October 28, 2012)

All of London sees Agnes’s shapely legs when she models stockings for Landry’s company—offending Hallam. Intent on impressing Beryl, Harry enters the servants’ boxing competition as Johnny’s manager.

Image from Upstairs Downstairs Season 2: Claire Foy as Lady Persie Towyn © 2011 MASTERPIECE

Episode 5: The Last Waltz (November 4, 2012)

With war looming, romance is in the air—illicit and otherwise. Hallam, Agnes, Landry, and Persie each pursue their heart’s desire in different ways. Harry and Beryl get engaged. And even Pritchard finds a soulmate.

Image from Upstairs Downstairs Season 2: Edward Stoppard as Sir Holland in Nazi Germany © 2011 MASTERPIECE

Episode 6: Somewhere Over the Rainbow (November 11, 2012)

A chance remark at the Foreign Office alerts Hallam that one of his associates is a German spy—with tragic consequences. As war is declared, life upstairs and downstairs is transformed at Eaton Place.

Excited period drama lovers? I am

Images courtesy © 2011 MASTERPIECE

17 thoughts on “Preview of Upstairs Downstairs Season 2: Masterpiece Classic PBS

  1. I had the opportunity of watching an episode of season two on Sunday evening here in Australia. It was set as 3rd September 1939 in this episode,

    I was far from impressed.

    The writers, producers directors whoever have no idea of what it was really like, I suppose from the simple fact that they probably were not born and have only read glamourized versions of the events of that time.

    The mistakes are glaringly obvious to me, still I suppose for those that the program is aimed it; it will appear authentic and that’s all they really care about which is sad really.

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  2. It seems that I’m not alone apparently Dame Eileen Atkins, one of the creators of the original Upstairs Downstairs and who appeared in series one of the 2011 production as Lady Maud Holland declined to take part in series two as she was reportedly unhappy with the direction the scripts were taking.

    Dame Edith and I are of the same age so possibly we see the show in the same light, unfortunately a Gypsy did not come a knocking on our door when I was aged three :o

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  3. I am anxiously looking forward to Season 2. I rewatched the episodes they had on our local PBS station last Sunday in preparation. I loved all the politics and prewar history (I for one do not think it that farfetched) and this season appears to continue in that vein. I have been fascinated by the Mitford sisters for years, and I feel the writers of this new ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ have at least some knowledge of those flamboyant young women who came out in prewar England. They are quite colorful with their wildly divergent political views. I read everything that comes out on them. I actually met Jessica years ago when I lived in the Oakland and my politics are much more in tune with hers than the Hitler loving Mitford girls. The Mosley connection in Season 1 and now in this series Persie with her Nazi lover echo Diana and Unity. There is even a P & P connection with the Mitfords since the 2005 movie was filmed at Chatsworth and the youngest sister is Deborah the dowager Duchess of Devonshire–and of course there is Nancy with her own version of comedy of manners not as great as our Jane but definitely worth a read.

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  4. I thoroughly enjoyed series one of this re-boot as a wildly entertaining, soapy period piece, so I’m looking forward to season two!

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  5. So disappointing to loose Eileen Atkins; she was the glue of “Upstairs Downstairs” during the first season. Her values and rigor, thought flawed, were important to a show that depicts people from disparate backgrounds coming to grips with prejudice and intolerance, each one in equally singular and flawed ways. Why would anyone at BBC do to anything to let Atkins walk?

    As the sorry unfolded in the first episode of season 2 in annoyingly random ways, I kept hoping…longing…for Lady Holland to reappear and inject the common sense of a bohemian yet practical and tough dowager. Mr Amanjit expressing outrage and contempt at at Quaker’s refusal to fight in World War I? Sir Hallam kissing his Nazi-loving sister-inlaw in Berlin? The coarse Alex Kingston as Lady Holland’s heretofore unmentioned sister Blanche? Eileen Atkins/Lady Holland would have not allowed any of this, as each transgression moves the program closer to jumping the shark.

    The microculture of any story is terribly fragile – why don’t producers and writers get that? “Tales of the City” is just one example of a a series unraveling after loosing key actors.

    Characters and actors aren’t interchangeable: writers and producers should never fiddle with magic – let alone allow it to slip away. Shame on BBC.

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  6. I recall the first “Upstairs Downstairs” as rather stiff and slow-moving, which can be said of several older productions. We are use to faster-moving drama now. This one appeals to me much more because the servants seem far more independent and even if observing rules, do not appear to worship their employers as often seemed the case in the first edition. I loved it when the cook just stormed off over her marzipan cookies and the war with stuffed-shirt Pritchard!

    It was odd to see Alex Kingston as Blanche, now older, and frumpy, after her lovely role as Holly Forsyte in the 2002 version of “The Forsyte Saga”. She was one of the few characters in that version that felt true to the novel, unlike Damien Lewis and Gina McKee.

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    • I love the Blanche character — I think she is my favourite! Am enjoying this series of “Upstairs Downstairs much more than the first one (not the original, that was marvelous,) I still want to know who the choir was that sang “I vow to thee my country” when the children were arriving on the train– does anyone know?

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    • I watched a few episodes of the first series of Upstairs Downstairs on video and found it too slow and unappealing. I’m used to the modern classics Andrew Davies style. I saw the first two episodes of Series 2 Season 1and liked it a lot. I had no idea what was going on when I first saw it, but after reading more about 1930s Britain, I watched again and understood more. I have been watching season 2. I liked the first two episodes, but now the show seems to have veered off into soap opera country. I hated the random Kennedy appearance. I’m the only person in New England who finds the Kennedy obsession overblown and obnoxious. I adore Lady Blanche and her “New Woman” attitudes. I feel bad for Lady Agnes right now. We’ll see what happens in the last two episodes.

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  7. Will there be another season of the “new” Upstairs, Downstairs? I have been a fan since the original series. Cannot get enough of it.

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