September 23, 2011
Admittedly, The Bretts' appeal is for a niche audience: Anglophiles, theater buffs, fanatics of historical fiction, fans of family drama and aficionados of Upstairs, Downstairs.
No surprise about the latter as Bretts co-creator, Rosemary Anne Sisson, wrote for that popular BBC series.
Like the chronicles of the Bellamy family, the Bretts, a famous thespian dynasty, live upstairs and their servants live below.
Instead of two kids, the Bretts have five adult progeny who make various appearances spanning the nineteen episodes. And the theatrical grandparents move in.
The downstairs has no Jean Marsh, but the servants, nonetheless, inject their share of divertissement and demi-drama to the period piece.
Taking place in the late 20's and early '30s, the theater setting actually broadens the horizons of Upstairs, Downstairs. While it still covers the hauteur of the elite, the humility of the help and the historic events of the era, it also encompasses the more liberated and rebellious lifestyles of the theater world - both stage and early screen.
With excess consumption, conspicuous sexuality, voracious romancing, accidental offspring, experimental stimulants, backstage backstabbing, and the affliction of faltering finances, the Bretts embellish the Brit's otherwise pompous, prudish period society.
The DVD's technicalities are sometimes flawed due to the '80s production values transcribed to 21st century technology. It can't be helped.
The series does not feature the consistency of casting or the impeccable performances of its predecessor. And because of the intrinsic theatrics and inherent melodrama of the setting, it's much more difficult to feel at home as one did in the parlor or the kitchen of its antecedent.
However, for filling the hiatus until the 2012 second season of PBS's Downton Abbey, (a rich return to the ups and downs of Edwardian England, and the 2011 four-time Emmy Award winner), and the 2013 airing of the second season of the Upstairs, Downstairs sequel, The Bretts: the Complete Collection, provides over 16 hours of television.
Curtains closed. Sorry, there are no encores in the Extras. Just subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing or the British accent impaired.
Studio: ITV Studios and Acorn Media
Cast: Barbara Murray, Norman Rodway, Belinda Lang, David Yelland, George Winter, Janet Maw, Billy Boyle, Victoria Burton, Charles Collingwood, Tim Wylton, Rhoda Lewis, Rebecca Lacey, Frank Middlemass,
Helena McCarthy, James Laurenson, Clive Francis
Length: 19 episodes, 16 1/4 hours, 6 discs
Rated: Not rated
Aspect ratio: 4:3