Maggie/Eileen: Dame-on-Dame Action

I have to confess that I enjoyed the first episode of “Upstairs Downstairs” last night on PBS less than I did the initial outing with “Downton Abbey.” In the Maggie Smith role, Eileen Atkins provided the astringency, though with a more traveled air than Dame Maggie’s line readings as the weekend-averse dowager on “Downton.” Don’t get more wrong: “UD” was enjoyable, and in one respect superior to “DA.” On the latter, I appreciate the grandeur of the estate house but always can feel the drafts blowing frostily through the high-ceilinged corridors. “UD” is a house in which one could happilly, cozily live. To Eileen’s study alone I could retire, draw the curtains, and never be seriously unhappy. As long as a servant brought food and stoked the fire, of course.

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