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CBS spent (and lost) a lot of money on this "Upstairs, Downstairs" ripoff detailing the relationships, battles and dramatic incidents involving members of the well-to-do Lassiter family in 1920s Boston and their Irish servants.Written by
Marty McKee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
American audiences hailed the UK import 'Upstairs Downstairs' as great art... because it took place in the past, dealt with the British class system, and had lots of English accents. In Britain, 'Upstairs Downstairs' was never an especially impressive TV serial because it was widely recognised as (I'm being gentle here) a 'tribute' to Noel Coward's play 'Cavalcade', which followed the progress of two sets of Londoners (an upper-class family, and the lower-class family who serve them) from the Boer War to modern times. Several specific incidents in 'Upstairs Downstairs' were direct copies from incidents in Noel Coward's 'Cavalcade' ... such as one of the upper-class family's ladies dying aboard the 'Titanic'.
In spite of all this, a boardroomful of greedy Yank TV executives - totally ignorant of Noel Coward, and utterly oblivious to everything else except the high ratings for 'Upstairs Downstairs' on America's PBS network - decided to create an American version. Thus was spawned 'Beacon Hill', which took place in the snobbish environs of that Boston neighbourhood in the 1920s. Boston, remember, is where the beans come from ... and we all know what comes from beans. The wealthy family in 'Upstairs Downstairs' were named Bellamy. The nobs in 'Beacon Hill' were named Lassiter. See a resemblance?
At least 'Upstairs Downstairs' got the details right. 'Beacon Hill' was laughably wrong. Brian Mallory is the Irish chauffeur in the Lassiter household. (How many American households ever engaged an Irish chauffeur?) We can tell he's Irish because - I am NOT making this up - he actually greets people with the words "Top o' the mornin' t' you!" In Britain, we have the useful word 'Oirish' to describe this sort of stage-Irishman. People like this don't exist in real life; at least not since the days of the Potato Famine.
Even more ludicrous was the household's butler Arthur Hacker, who was meant to be the direct equivalent of "Upstairs, Downstairs"'s own Angus Hudson (again, spot the resemblance?). The opening episode of 'Beacon Hill' features an absolutely ludicrous scene belowstairs, in which the butler suppresses a smirk while he informs the other servants that he controls every decision made by the wealthy Lassiter family, and none of them know it, and 'not even the hand of God' can change this. Oh, yes indeed, Hacker. Carry on taking your medication.
The producers of this series hoped that audiences would develop an interest in Fawn Lassiter, the wealthy family's sluttish daughter. In one episode, she caroused half-naked at a party where booze flowed freely (and illegally; this series took place during Prohibition). When word of her escapades reached the Boston newspapers, Fawn expected her wealthy father to use his money and influence to suppress the story. Fortunately for Fawn, this entire series got suppressed very quickly.
Pass the scrod, pass the cod; I'll pahk my caah in Haavahd Yahd.
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