Seriously, I hope they have better luck than the last time American TV producers tried to riff off the success of the original Upstairs, Downstairs – it was called Beacon Hill, as I recall and a routine googlectomy confirms. It started with great fanfare and interest, and promptly fizzled out, probably confirming expectations that American TV just cannot do family saga/period drama in anything other than as a TV miniseries with a limited run. It’s certainly a wise choice to go back to the rip-roaring decades of what Mark Twain called the Gilded Age. Twain did not mean it as a compliment, though – he meant something vulgarly over-ornamented, cheap pot-metal covered with a microscopic layer of gold. All flash and glitter, trashy glamor to fool the tasteless and/or newly-rich, of which there were a lot in post Civil War America, which was going industrial in a way and in a degree that made the genteel old-money established families, with fortunes based on land, trade, banking and the occasional eccentric invention look on in horror.
“In due time we rattled up to a stage-station, and sat down to breakfast with a half-savage, half-civilized company of armed and bearded mountaineers, ranchmen and station employees. The most gentlemanly- appearing, quiet and affable officer we had yet found along the road in the Overland Company’s service was the person who sat at the head of the table, at my elbow. Never youth stared and shivered as I did when I heard them call him SLADE! … Here, right by my side, was the actual ogre who, in fights and brawls and various ways, had taken the lives of twenty-six human beings, or all men lied about him! … He was so friendly and so gentle-spoken that I warmed to him in spite of his awful history. It was hardly possible to realize that this pleasant person was the pitiless scourge of the outlaws, the raw-head-and-bloody- bones the nursing mothers of the mountains terrified their children with.” That was what Mark Twain wrote, years afterwards in an account of a stagecoach journey to California, in 1861, upon encountering Joseph ‘Jack’ Alfred Slade, a divisional superintendent for the Central Overland, and a man who combined a horrific reputation with a perfectly soft-spoken and gentlemanly demeanor … and who in the space of four years, went from being a hard-working, responsible and respected corporate man (as these things were counted in the 19th century wild west) to being hanged by the Virginia City, Montana, Committee of Vigilance.