Review Inside UpDown - The Story of
Upstairs, Downstairs (3rd edition)
by Richard Marson
Back in 2000, on seeing the 1st edition of Richard Marson's book, I wrote: "It's rare that a 'Making of' book comes along which is so gloriously detailed as Inside UpDown – The Story of Upstairs, Downstairs. Most are superficially glossy but often seem to be more of a case of 'all chocolate and no nuts' and, although they provide a couple of hours amusing reading, are simply not something you can come back to again and again."
But why the swipe at books which are "superficially glossy"? To be honest, it was a apologetical remark designed to cover the fact that the first edition was, in truth, a long way from being something which anyone would describe as glossy (i.e. "So don't even expect that – let's concentrate on the text.") In fact, looking back at that edition now, it looks more like one of those blue-bound PhD theses that anybody who has done a degree will be familiar with. The text is all there, sure, but as Richard now admits, the fledgling Kaleidoscope Publishing couldn't really do the work justice in presentational terms. On seeing the draft version, I had made a small attempt to desperately bolster the illustrational content myself, by knocking up a few graphical chapter headings for Richard, designed to vaguely mimic the titles on the series.
Now wind on 12 or so years and finally an edition of the book appears (tagged "The Ultimate Edition") which really does manage the lavish look Richard was after in the first place.
But back to basics... The book, running to a hefty 604 pages, is divided into the following chapters:
Chapter One – The Pearl in the
Oyster – Genesis and birth of the series.
Given in the book are all the details you'd expect to find, such as full cast lists, transmission dates (UK & US) and filming and recording dates. The text for each episode is very thorough and the sites of all the locations used for the programme's occasional excursions outside the studio are noted and there are extensive quotes from newspaper reviews of the time.
Also included are comments and interviews with just about everybody who has ever been involved with the show (including some who sadly died during the writing of the first edition of the book, such as David "Richard" Langton), and there is a great amount of insight into how the actors approached and tackled their roles.
Text-wise, this new edition is fully revised and brought right up to date. This time around, Richard also managed to bag contributions from a few UpDown survivors who were missed last time, including George Innes (Alfred) and, most importantly, Rex Firkin, the show's Executive Producer. Picture-wise, there are now nearly 400 photographs, many in colour!
I said of the first edition, "I can honestly say that, without exception, this is the most detailed single book ever published on the making of a TV show." That's still true.
I also said, "... even though I run a website about the show and regard myself as reasonably clued up about Upstairs, Downstairs, I found my knowledge of the programme had increased three-fold since starting to read this work." Well, that comment is now completely out of date... With this new edition, my knowledge has now increased four- or five-fold!
Steve Phillips, January 2012.
Some comments from those who made the series:
"It's incredibly impressive. Amazing. I'm actually quite in awe." – Meg Wynn Owen, Hazel
"A book that really gets under the skin of Upstairs, Downstairs – the mood, the detail and the good times.” – Simon Williams, James
"What a terrific achievement... extensive and meticulous research so carefully put together. It is an invaluable chronicle of the series." – Jacqueline Tong, Daisy
"It brought back all the good memories. I'm glad others look back at that time with the same warmth that I do." – Evin Crowley, Emily
"I think it is very good and very fair. Well done, it can't have been easy." – John Hawkesworth, producer
"Excellent... very true, accurate, well researched and interesting." – Alfred Shaughnessy, script editor
Inside UpDown – The Story of Upstairs, Downstairs
The new edition (and how to get it)
In addition to a much-boosted photographic content (see example pages, left – click for a bigger version) and a much glossier approach, the new edition also features:
Richard talks more about this new edition in the revised interview with him.
The book is available, direct from the publishers,
for international order at the link below, ready for immediate shipping:
It is also available from the UK version of Amazon
but reports differ as to where they will ship – a reader from the US
says they won't to his country, but someone from Sweden reports success:
Blackwell's will also special order the book for you:
Another choice which people have found successful is the BBC shop:
Please let me know success/failures with the above methods, and any other tips you have for ordering the book, so I can pass them on here! Email link is on the front Contents page.
Appendix 4, Modern Times, dealing with the new series, couldn't be fitted into the finished book due to page-count and pricing considerations. You can instead download it from this site by clicking here (right-click, save... BIG DOWNLOAD – 26MB).