Upstairs Downstairs to make a comeback?

Auntie Beeb has signed a deal with US public service broadcaster PBS to co-produce three upcoming projects, one of which includes classic British show, Upstairs Downstairs.

The revival of Upstairs Downstairs – which is due to air in the US in 2011 as part of PBS’s Masterpiece slot (which is celebrating its 40th anniversary season) – will feature some of the original stars such as Jean Marsh and Dame Eileen Atkins.

Sherlock Holmes will also make an appearance. Writers Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffat have updated Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective stories to include modern references such as having Watson chronicle Holmes’s adventures in a blog.


Sherlock stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Doctor Watson.

The three 90-minute dramas are being made by Jekyll producer Hartswood Films.

“I’m so proud of this particular group of programmes. These series say everything about what Masterpiece aims to be: iconic, rich with wonderful actors, witty, literate and timeless. I can’t wait to see them all,” said Rebecca Eaton, the executive producer of Masterpiece dramas for WGBH Boston.

However, Eaton, who concluded the deal at BBC Worldwide’s annual TV exports event BBC Showcase in Brighton yesterday, warned of tough economic times ahead for international drama co-production.

The long-serving US drama executive told that financial constraints mean that “we sense in 2011 and 2012 we will have to be frugal” and “might have to do fewer programmes so the quality remains”.

WGBH and Masterpiece have been a key supporter of many famous British dramas, such as the BBC’s Cranford and ITV1’s Lewis, Poirot and Marple – not only investing in them but also taking them to American audiences.

Eaton – attending BBC Showcase for the first time – described the relationship between the two public service broadcasters as “like a long marriage” and said she had been talking with the corporation’s drama bosses about the financial situation in the US TV market.

“They understand it. We have to manage their expectations,” she added. Sherlock producer Sue Vertue, of Hartswood Films, agreed with Eaton’s analysis.

“Budgets are getting more difficult. There is more pressure on them now.” Despite her warning about financial realities, Eaton said she would “love to do more Cranford … if it was up to me, though the stars have to be aligned” and more Marple and Poirot “even if we have to start making them up”.

About the author

I'm Mof Gimmers.

I've been writing about TV for a long time. I love it and loathe it in equal measures. I'm pretty sure the TV feels the same away about me too.
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