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What Makes a Masterpiece?

Q: Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs both focus on an upper-class family and its servants. What makes these stories so appealing? A: Like a good saga, both stories set up a tension between two groups of people, in this case, the upstairs and the downstairs. They’re all in the same “family,” and all their fates are interwoven. It’s a limited cast of characters, and you have all the great themes of love, betrayal, redemption, life, death, money. They’re stories that always work, no matter what the period is. Continued on back page

©MASTERPIECE

Q: Looking back over your 26 years with Masterpiece, what are you most proud of? A: I think I’m most proud of the fact that not only is it still here, but

the programs are as good as they’ve ever been. You could probably count on one hand the number of series that have had as long and as successful a run as we’ve had.

Arts & Drama Club

Masterpiece Classic’s January season premiere, Downton Abbey, drew rave reviews and huge audiences. In April, we’ll bring back one of the most popular and beloved series of all time, Upstairs Downstairs, in an exciting new continuation, this time set in 1936. ©MASTERPIECE We recently caught up with executive producer WGBH’s Rebecca Eaton to chat about Upstairs Downstairs and about Masterpiece’s success.


Arts & Drama Club SPRING 2011 • 617.300.3505 • wgbhclubs@wgbh.org Continued from front page Q: What’s it like for you as an executive producer when a series turns out to be a huge hit? A: I hope they’ll all be huge, and it’s always a gamble. First, there’s the feeling of relief, and then the excitement starts to build, because you can see that this is going to have broad appeal. It’s like reading a really, really good long book. Q: How did the decision to revive Upstairs Downstairs come about? A: Well, there’s a great story! It actually happened on a plane when Eileen Atkins, who created Upstairs Downstairs with Jean Marsh, was flying from LA to London with Heidi Thomas, the writer of Cranford. They sat together for 12 hours, and at the end of the flight, the new Upstairs Downstairs had been hatched, with Heidi as the writer. ©MASTERPIECE

Q: What’s on the horizon for Masterpiece? A: For Mystery! this summer, we have a new detective joining the family. The program is called Zen, and Italian detective Aurelio Zen is played by Rufus Sewell, who is as beautiful as the setting for the series: Rome! In the fall, Masterpiece Contemporary welcomes back Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman in a lovely piece called The Song of Lunch, which is about the reunion of two ex-lovers. And, there will be a sequel to Downton Abbey, airing in 2012. Tune in Upstairs Downstairs, premiering Sunday, April 10 at 9pm on WGBH 2.

Arts & Drama Club Spring 2011  

Arts & Drama Club Spring 2011

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