In Review

The Gilded Age review: Downton gets an American makeover

As comfort television ‘Brownstone Abbey’ generally hits the spot

“Boost your vaccinations, don whatever PPE you have to hand,” said Lucy Mangan in The Guardian: “the new variant Julian Fellowes has breached our shores”. This time, we’re not at a stately home in England but in late 19th century New York; this is “Brownstone Abbey”. We know the deal. There are poshos – “old families who have been in New York since it was a glint in a Dutchman’s eye” – and new-money types trying to crack smart society. Then there are servants, who live under the posh people and “bitch about them” at every opportunity. In short, the show is surely just what was ordered from a man now “churning this stuff out in his sleep”. 

The Gilded Age is “perfectly watchable”, said Ed Cumming in The Independent, but “what sustained Downton for so long” was that it offset its pomp with humour and a “razorsharp” grasp of British class differences. The Gilded Age lacks that sharpness. Still, there are great performances, including by “zinger specialists” Christine Baranski and Cynthia Nixon, who play two old-money spinster sisters. Of the servants, “the only one who leaves an impression” is the scheming Turner (an excellent Kelley Curran). “Gilded the age may be, but solid gold this is not.” 

“Will it be beloved, like Downton?” No, said Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph. Expensive as it looks, the show isn’t warm enough for that, and there aren’t enough likeable characters. Yet “I found myself quite absorbed” by it. As “comfort television”, it generally hits the spot.

Available to watch on Sky Atlantic and Now

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