“Hunger is the best sauce,” Ma Ingalls used to say. In that same vein, being sick makes any/all tv a lot more interesting. Yesterday and today have been glorious, because I somehow stumbled on an as yet undiscovered BBC miniseries.
At this point in time, I have to dig deep to find one I haven’t seen. I don’t mean to brag (because this is in no way something to be proud of, but I am?), but I have seen a lot of the BBC. I routinely go on the BBC website, check out what’s showing across the pond, and click on their video streaming in the hope that one day they’ll let me into their special zone.
But somehow I completely missed Berkeley Square. It might actually be horrible. But in light of Downton Abbey it seemed the perfect. It’s another upstairs/downstairs story. Only this time it’s about Edwardian nannies. Nannies who become friends with each other and do crazy things like swap in their own illegitimate babies when the rich baby dies from a laudanum overdose. And it works! They get away with it!
The story line is, of course, melodramatic, but it seemed more realistic in the way that it pitted the servants against their masters. It even pits the nursery staff agains the regular staff. I have never understood why the Downton Abbey servants like the upstairs crew. Who wouldn’t hate Lady Mary? If my wildest dream came true, Anna would snap and kill Lady Mary and Isis would help bury the body in the park, and no one would be the wiser.
In Berkeley Square seduction and romance between the upstairs and downstairs is actually dangerous. And no, you don’t marry into the family, somehow becoming the confidant of Lord Grantham who stoically puts up with your socialist views. You not only lose your job, but you’re turned out without a reference if you try to protest. And you might have an illegitimate child, who also makes finding a job either impossible or tragic (you leave the baby at a “baby farm” in the country).
I guess what bothers me, and will continue to bother me is how little Downton actually humanizes the downstairs servants. They have their little quarrels and problems, but nothing gets treated with the same gravitas as the upstairs’ problems. It’s clear whose story we’re supposed to find more interesting. What I loved about Berkeley Square was the juxtaposition of the Nanny Hannah’s baby swap dilemma with socialite’s “which dress do I wear to the ball” drama. These women were working in these fine houses not because they had nothing better to do. It was a matter of survival and a chance to better one’s self. To gloss over this reality seems unfair to all the men and women who were in service. And honestly, it’s pretty shoddy storytelling, Julian Fellows.
That being said, I have the next episode of Downton all queued up. But only because I plowed through the one and only season of Berkeley Square in two days.