Just when we were catching our breath from the premiere of Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks this past weekend, we have a new (and longer) preview of what’s in store when Season 3 of Downton Abbey premieres in January.
We know that Martha Levinson (Shirley MacLaine) will be arriving from the U.S., and that Violet (Maggie Smith) will be as saucy as ever. But what’s this? O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran) scoffing at her partner-in-underhanded-shenanigans, Thomas (Rob James-Collier), and calling him vain? My how things have changed!
The new footman whom O’Brien was encouraging is Alfred Nugent (Matt Milne, War Horse). He’s O’Brien’s nephew and he replaces Thomas, who has (ahem) been promoted to valet, since Bates is still in jail. There’s also Jimmy Kent (Ed Speleers, Eragon), another new footman, and Ivy (Cara Theobold), the new scullery maid. But having these new downstairs staff members may be all for naught if the family fortune really is gone. Say it isn’t so!
What is so is that there are four more months until the premiere of Season 3 here in the U.S. So, to help tide you (and me) over until January 6, here are some other British TV programs (and one movie) that make upstairs/downstairs programs so delicious to watch.
Upstairs, Downstairs (original) — This UK series gave U.S. viewers an inside look at the lives of the fictitious Bellamy family and their servants when it began airing stateside on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre in 1973. Over the course of its five seasons, it made quite a lasting impression; more than 30 years after its premiere here, it was voted the favorite series among the roughly 30,000 viewers who responded to a 2006 Masterpiece survey. All five seasons are available for streaming at Amazon Instant Video and Netflix; Season 1 is available at Acorn TV through September 16, and Season 2 will be available from September 24-November 4. (The remaining seasons will most likely be available sometime afterward.)
Upstairs, Downstairs (update) — The story begins six years after the original series concluded, and the owners of 165 Eaton Place are no longer the Bellamys, but the Hollands — Sir Hallam (Ed Stoppard, Zen) and Lady Agnes (Keeley Hawes, MI-5). The only cast member from the original series to appear in the update is Jean Marsh, who reprises her role as Rose, the Bellamys’ housemaid who becomes the Hollands’ housekeeper. Amazon Instant Video has Season 1 for streaming and Netflix has the DVDs.
Gosford Park — Written by Downton Abbey creator, Julian Fellowes, this comedy-drama is a whodunit film set at the fictional Gosford Park country house, where the downstairs staff tries to solve the murder of an upstairs aristocrat. It features an all-star cast, including Maggie Smith (whose Dowager Countess of Grantham character in Downton is based on her Countess of Trentham character in Gosford), Stephen Fry, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Clive Owen, and Kristin Scott Thomas, among others. You can stream it at Amazon Instant Video and Netflix.
Jeeves and Wooster — Speaking of Stephen Fry, he’s the valet, Jeeves, to Hugh Laurie’s Bertie Wooster in this British comedy series. The former character is quite a talented and reliable valet, and some might say an ingenious one in light of how he handles getting Bertie, an idly rich, minor aristocrat who’s a bit of a ne’er-do-well (although he tries), out of his various scrapes. All four seasons are available for streaming at Amazon Instant Video and the DVDs are available at >Netflix.
Altogether there are 95 episodes (including the movie), and if you want to add in those from Downton‘s Seasons 1 and 2 (both streaming at Amazon Instant Video and Hulu/Hulu Plus) the total becomes 111. That’s roughly one episode per day until Season 3 of Downton begins.