1 9 7 5 (USA)
1 x 120 minute episode
13 x 60 minute episodes
Blending drama, virtuoso acting, social commentary and soap opera, the British series Upstairs Downstairs drew crowds of viewers to the American PBS channel. This short-lived but lavish period drama series from CBS was ostensibly an adaptation of the superb UK series but placed in an American setting.
The various storylines revolved around the lives of the wealthy Lassiter family in 1920s Boston and the members of their household staff of Irish immigrants – most prominently Brian Mallory (Paul Rudd), a brash lad who was determined to rise in the world in a hurry – led by head butler Mr Hacker (George Rose).
Ben Lassiter (Stephen Elliott) was a powerful industrialist and political boss who lived with his worry-prone wife, a suicidally depressed son, three daughters of widely differing personalities and various grandchildren.
The cast was huge (and recruited mostly from the Broadway stage), the sets, costumes and production values were the best, and a special two-hour advanced premiere on 2 August 1975 received top ratings.
But despite being a show of the highest quality, the audience shrank steadily, and the series (which aired on Tuesdays at 10:00 pm) was largely unsuccessful. CBS cancelled the programme after only 13 episodes.