It was, of course, hampered by the fact that the first series was only comprised of three episodes, and seemed to come to a close just as things finally started getting good. The title of the series’ first episode pulls off referring to so many things within this premiere rather cleverly – of course, we’re talking about the series itself and its first tentative steps on-air again after a hiatus spanning several decades, as well as several characters who are either establishing themselves for the first time or reinventing their lives, and even an actual bird that pops up in this episode.With the six-episode second series set to premiere on starting October 7, now seems as good a time as any to revisit all the drama from Series 1, and give ourselves a little reminder about everything that happened the first time 'round. This episode is plagued by a lot of set-up problems, which are largely native to any series that’s this sprawling and forced to introduce a lot of characters and set-ups. It’s a title that implies baby steps in a grand beginning – that the fledgling that is this new series will eventually spread its wings and fly.
I like what they’re going for here – the connection they’re hammering in with the original – but we’ve officially reached overkill now. Whilst Rose is hosting interviews for maid positions, Sir Hallam’s mother, Lady Maud, suddenly arrives with an urn containing her husband’s ashes, her secretary Mr. (Fair warning; Dame Eileen Atkins is far and away my favorite part of this series, so if I get a bit gushy, that’s why.) Lady Agnes has never met her mother-in-law before and Hallam hasn’t seen her in what appears to be at least a decade, so everything is immediately incredibly awkward.
I mean, they’re five seconds from a giant flashing reminder that HEY GUYS, JEAN MARSH WAS ON THIS SHOW THE FIRST TIME, DID YOU KNOW. Lady Maud invites herself to stay with her son and his wife, sets up shop in several spare rooms, and declares her intention to write her memoires. She is, obviously, this series’ version of Dowager Countess, but that’s okay, because, well, I can’t really get enough of that sort of character, and I expect I’m not alone in that. I realize that the point of a first episode of anything is set-up, plot exposition and getting all the key players identified, together and ready to go.
To deal with his disappointment, Johnny’s gone off to the pub round the corner to meet some of the other servants and somehow Ivy knows this because she gets all dolled up with fire engine red lipstick to go sit at the bar and star at him/try to make him jealous. It’s like suddenly they realized they hadn’t met some sort of serious drama quotient in this episode and crammed it all into these five minutes.) It turns out that Johnny’s got some anger issues, is on probation and apparently turns into the Incredible Hulk when he’s drunk. Which, duh, of course she says yes, and the final shot of the episode is Rose joyfully hanging up her own personally inscribed Housekeeper Key, just like you always knew she would. Ninth Doctor enthusiast and all around Whovian evangelist.
This situation escalates and ends with Johnny getting in a barfight with someone and stabbing them in the throat with broken glass.
But the first thirty or thirty-five minutes of this episode just unendurably because – Lady Maud aside – setting up all of these pieces is boring.
Agnes and Hallam are meant to be the first characters we care about, yet they are incredibly dull.
I said that the Great Doctor Who Rewatch was next up – and it IS coming, I *promise* – but I would also like to write about Upstairs Downstairs Series 2 once that’s under way next weekend, and to be honest I feel like I’ve forgotten a lot about Series 1.
So, you know, best of both worlds, I guess never seemed to quite catch on the way that the ITV drama did.
It’s not that they are unsympathetic characters – though Agnes is snottier than is really necessary a lot of the time, and Hallam is so bland he is practically see through.