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Downstairs, Downstairs


Last year we ditched our satellite dish in favor of a Roku.  We were tired of paying a huge monthly bill for a package full of channels we couldn’t watch with the kids, and most of our favorite shows were on Hulu or Netflix anyway.  One of my favorite aspects of Netfilx has been finding complete collections of old TV shows, and my latest guilty pleasure has been watching ‘Downton Abbey’ from end to end without waiting a week to see what happened.

I really love historic fiction, and I love the efforts the director and producers took with costumes and production when breathing life into their story of servants and their turn-of-the-last-century noble employers.  But, as the Big Guy reminded me, there was a predecessor to this series, and, as luck would have it, Netflix had it and I added it to my queue.

Upstairs, Downstairs first aired in the 1970s, and, while the costumes and sets were not nearly as painstakingly detailed and elaborate as its successors, but its simplicity sharpened the focus of this look at lives and livelihoods so completely determined by social class, and for some reason I couldn’t place right away I found myself hooked.  But, with the first few episodes playing out in the background as I was loading the last of the season harvest into the dehydrator, I began to suspect that one reason for the attraction was that our life is very much Downstairs, Downstairs with one significant difference.

The majority of the first show takes place downstairs, introducing us to the staff of an Edwardian house and to their newest member.  Each of the servants has their own degree of acceptance of the then current caste system, but what I found interesting was that whether or not a servant was portrayed as accepting of their status, without exception, they did except that their employers’ class was superior in every way.  That acceptance could be an expression of jealousy, resignation or ambition, but it was never questioned.

Now, I have come to accept that, absent a winning lottery ticket, our life will most likely be Downstairs, Downstairs for the duration.  Neither of us earns enough to find our way Upstairs.  But, even if we did hit the lottery, I’ve also come to realize that our material wants are pedestrian enough to ensure that  we will always be more comfortable having a wardrobe that consists of work jeans and good jeans for going out.  We will always be more comfortable in our unconventional house with its Early-American Garage Sale un-chic and its hodge-podge garden.  And we will always be more comfortable Downstairs.