BBC News

Emmys revisited: Downton Abbey follows US tradition


It seems Americans love nothing better than an English accent and a period setting, as Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes is all too aware.

Accepting his Emmy award for writing the show, Fellowes thanked the US film industry for "kick-starting" his career by awarding him a screenwriting Oscar in 2002 for Gosford Park, set in the 1930s.

But Fellowes - whose Downton Abbey was broadcast on the PBS network in the US - is not the first British programme-maker to benefit from the American love affair with costume pieces.

Here is a snapshot from the past four decades.

Upstairs Downstairs (1971-1975)

image captionCo-creator Jean Marsh (r) appeared in the ITV original and the BBC's update, pictured here

ITV's drama about a London family and their servants, created by actresses Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins, was a huge global hit and was reportedly seen by an audience of more than a billion.

It garnered a slew of Emmy nominations and won seven, including outstanding drama series in 1974, 1975, and 1977, as well as best actress for Marsh in 1975 for her performance as parlour maid Rose.

Marsh was nominated in this year's Emmys for reprising the role in a three-part 2010 BBC update.

There was also a supporting actor Emmy in 1976 for Gordon Jackson - as Scottish butler Angus Hudson - while, in 1975, the show won the Golden Globe for best TV drama.

The five series of the drama covered the period from 1903 to 1936.

image captionAnthony Andrews, right, won a Bafta and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Sebastian Flyte

This 11-part serial, based on Evelyn Waugh's novel of the same name, was a huge hit in the UK when it was broadcast on ITV between October and December 1981.

It tells the story of the friendship between middle-class Oxford undergraduate Charles Ryder, played by a young Jeremy Irons, and hedonistic aristocrat Sebastian Flyte, played by Anthony Andrews, and a cast that also featured Sir John Gielgud.

It won seven Baftas the following year, including best drama series and best actor for Andrews.

The show - repeated in the US on PBS - received 10 Emmy nominations in 1982 and a best supporting actor prize for Sir Laurence Olivier, who only appeared in two episodes as Lord Marchmain.

In 1983, it won a best mini-series prize and best actor, for Andrews at the Golden Globes.

A 2008 film adaptation starred Matthew Goode as Ryder and Ben Whishaw as Flyte.

image captionColin Firth missed out on the Bafta for Pride and Prejudice in 1996

Andrew Davies' 1995 BBC One adaptation of Jane Austen's 1813 novel starred one Colin Firth as the dashing Mr Darcy, playing opposite Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth Bennet.

It earned Firth - whose Oscar-winning performance in last year's The King's Speech prove he is at home in tales of yesteryear - a Bafta nomination in 1996.

But on that occasion, Firth was eclipsed by Ehle, who won best actress.

In the same year, it also earned three Emmy nominations and won the award for costume design, but was ignored at the Golden Globes.

Austen's tale was made into a 2005 film by Joe Wright, starring Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy and Keira Knightley as Bennet.

The BBC's five-part adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's novels had up to eight millions viewers in the UK regularly tuning in each week to witness the genteel lives of the town's female inhabitants. It later returned for a two-part Christmas special in 2009.

image captionDame Judi Dench, Lisa Dillon and Dame Eileen Atkins starred in the adaptation of Cranford

Featuring a stellar cast including Dame Judi Dench, Dame Eileen Atkins and Imelda Staunton, it earned a total of 15 Bafta nominations.

It came away with three Baftas in 2008 with a best actress win for Dame Eileen, and also best production design and sound, but failed to pick up anything for the Christmas special.

Across the pond, the series was nominated for eight Emmys in 2008 including acting nods for Dame Judi and Dame Eileen. But only the latter Dame won an award - along with Alison Elliot for outstanding hairstyling.

The Christmas special received another seven Emmy nominations in 2010 with a further nod for Dame Judi. It came away with another two awards, winning best cinematography and costumes in a mini-series, but missed the major acting prizes.

Although the drama was recognised at the Golden Globes with a total of four nominations, it was overlooked on the night.

More on this story

  • Kate Winslet and Downton Abbey win Emmy awards