From Deadline|London editor Tim Adler: You wait ages for one cozy class-bound drama to come along again, and then two come along at the same time. Bit like London buses really. The BBC this week announced it has signed a deal with PBS to remake that classic ITV drama Upstairs, Downstairs, which told the story of the aristocratic Bellamy family and their staff and stayed a huge Sunday night hit for ITV in the 1970s. PBS’ Masterpiece Theater had a good run with it in the U.S., too. This new Upstairs, Downstairs for the Beeb will be a 3-part series set just before World War II in the same London house as the original. WGBH Boston and BBC Worldwide will co-produce the show to air next year.
However, next month ITV starts filming what seems like a remarkably similar series. Downton Abbey is for all intents and purposes a weekly TV version of Robert Altman’s hit film Gosford Park. Carnival Films/NBCU has even hired Julian Fellowes, Gosford Park’s Oscar-winning screenwriter, to pen most of the 7 episodes. Downton Abbey will star Dame Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Duchess of Grantham, with Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern. There’s even a butler called Carson and a cook called Mrs Hughes similar to Upstairs, Downstairs’ butler Hudson and cook Mrs Bridges.