Before the new version of Upstairs Downstairs arrives on Sunday, take a look at Uptown Downstairs Abbey, a delicious parody of the genre and a direct descendent of the recent Downton Abbey.
The short was created for Red Nose Day, a telethon on the BBC that raises money for Comic Relief, and it is loaded with stars more likely to be found in genuine British miniseries. Jennifer Saunders of AbFab (in photo above) plays a dotty, snooty version of Maggie Smith’s Downton dowager, with Kim Cattrall in the Elizabeth McGovern role as her American daughter-in-law. Michael Gambon narrates. There are the required references to the Titanic: "The heir to Uptown Downstairs, Leonardo DiCaprio, was on that ship!" And in the best turn of all, Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral) plays self-satisfied Juliaan Fellowes, real-life writer of Gosford Park and Downton Abbey.
The parody is great fun if, like me, you adore the genre. (And in that case, the new DVD of the original Upstairs Downstairs is a must.) But Edwardian master-servant period pieces are not – and this may be the only time in history when it’s appropriate to use this cliche – everyone’s cup of tea. So whether you love or hate the originals, Uptown Downstairs gives you something to laugh at.