TV pick of the week: Upstairs Downstairs

It's lost a comma over the years - the 1970s original was called Upstairs, Downstairs - and the remake arrives just as the BBC has announced the revival is over after two seasons, citing insufficient UK ratings, especially when compared to a certain other hit period drama and despite its many Emmy nominations.

Prime is playing the first season of three one-hour episodes from 2010 and the more recent second series of six episodes as one nine-part season.

Other than returning to its original location of 165 Eaton Place, where, in 1936 Sir Hallam (Ed Stoppard) and Lady Agnes Holland (Keeley Hawes) are the new owners, the update has some other strong connections with the original ITV show which ran for 68 episodes from its 1971 debut.


Original parlourmaid Rose Buck (Jean Marsh) has been persuaded by Lady Agnes to go back into service after running her own employment agency for those seeking servants.

Marsh and fellow actor Eileen Atkins came up with the idea for the soap about Edwardian aristocrats and their help.

Because of other acting commitments Atkins wasn't in the original - Pauline Collins took her role - although she is stars in the first three episodes of the new one as grand dame Lady Maud. She and Rose have a poignant exchange in an early scene.

"She doubtless thought you were ready to be put out to grass," says Lady Maud, referring to her haughty daughter-in-law.

"I daresay she thinks the same of me.

"But we have experience you and I. We are what that house requires."

Lady Maud takes up the role of meddling mother, taking up residence in her son's new home after 30 years in the colonies. She comes accompanied by an Indian manservant and a pet monkey.

The series starts six years after the end of the original Upstairs, Downstairs and into the same period of movie The King's Speech.

Wallis Simpson makes an appearance at Eaton Place early on, starting a historic guest list which includes then Foreign Secretary and later Prime Minister Anthony Eden, Hitler's foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and celebrated photographer Cecil Beaton.

The revival was initially penned by Call the Midwife screenwriter Heidi Thomas with the focus on the build-up to World War II.

Meanwhile, at home a new staff is assembled under head housemaid Rose, who finds herself back in familiar surroundings, but in uncertain times.

When: Tonight, 8.30pm
Where: Prime
What: Picking up the threads in troubled times.

Drama pick: Breakout Kings

From the writers and producers of Prison Break comes the new series Breakout Kings. Employing prisoners to track down other escaped inmates might seem like a notion fraught with potential disasters, but for US marshals Charlie Duchamp (Laz Alonso) and Ray Zancanelli (Domenick Lombardozzi) the possible rewards outweigh the risks. The series centres on two marshals and four convicts who are pulled out of jail to help track down escaped fugitives in exchange for lesser sentences. Employing convicts with specific skills to track them down can give the marshals an edge - and a few weaknesses. As the team slowly bond over their tracking, and the often life-threatening situations they face, their own relationships become more complicated and tense.

When: Wednesday, 9.30pm
What: Get-out-of-jail-free card.

Travel pick: Intrepid Journeys
Intrepid Journeys is back for another round, taking well-known New Zealanders to exotic locations in a show that combines the pleasures of travel with insight into just how intrepid these Kiwis are. Tuesday night sees a reflective Rachel Hunter head to Sumatra in the northwestern islands of the Indonesian archipelago, where she battles leeches and a volcano, has a tense moment with an orangutan, hears emotional stories of the Boxing Day tsunami and spends the night on a homestay floor along with an extended family of 35. Later in the series, we see Steve Price heading to Nepal, Annie Crummer travelling through Peru and Bolivia, Oscar Kightley in Myanmar, Pamela Stephenson Connolly heading to Papua New Guinea, and Buck Shelford in Cuba.

When: Tuesday, 8.30pm
Where: TV One
What: Beyond the comfort zone.

Soap pick: Shortland Street

In case you haven't heard, it's Shortland Street's 20th birthday this week and, though the actual birthday falls on May 25, they're kicking off celebrations with an epic feature-length 90-minute episode on Monday night, aiming to top some of the impressive set pieces of Shorty's past. All those mysterious references to an "upgraded helipad" (who knew the hospital had a helipad?) come into play on Monday when a chopper crashes into the hospital carpark, leaving lives hanging in the balance. Strained relationships, reunions, lies and drug addiction feature in the lead-up to this fiery episode.

Heroes emerge and a new doctor earns his stripes on a chaotic first day. Plus, the Jeffries family returns to some troubling news.

When: Monday, 7pm
Where: TV2
What: An explosive celebration.

Dramedy Pick: Necessary Roughness

Loosely based on the life of psychologist Dr Donna Dannenfelser, who worked for the New York Jets NFL team, Necessary Roughness follows therapist Dani Santino (Callie Thorne of The Wire and ER) as she undergoes a big change in life and career. Having thrown out her cheating husband and facing a messy custody battle, she also finds herself as an in-demand psychologist to the stars. That's after using her tough-love approach on New York Hawks star player Terrence King (Mechad Brooks), whose lifestyle seems to be getting in the way of his highly paid job of catching the ball. Her future patients include a race car driver, a pro skateboarder and a TV news anchor. The show which started in the US last year has been renewed for a second season.

When: Tuesday, 9.30pm
Where: TV2
What: Tough-love therapy.