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Beacon Hill


EricMontreal22

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Quite a few soap names in that list.

Upstairs Downstairs had a niche appeal in the states.A US copy wouldn't interest PBS fans and mainstream audiences probably found it too cerebral.

Look at the situation today with Playboy Club and Pan Am trying to grab the Mad Men flavor,but not pleasing Mad Men fans or network TV viewers.

Beacon Hill premiered Mon August 25th with a 23.1/42 share up against a repeat TV movie on ABC 'Legend of Lizzie Borden 18.2/33 and baseball on NBC 9.1/16.The show then moved to Tues 10-11,up against Marcus Weby and Joe Forrestor.The ratings went down week by week.

The creator Sidney Carroll blamed Jackie Babbin,producer,saying that after his involvement in the pilot,Ms Babbin began to make changes to his outlines and characters and he walked away.Babbin said that Carrolls outlines were not strong enough to carry an entire episode and CBS wanted stronger material.

Babbin and Alan Wagner of CBS admitted that there were too many characters introduced too quickly and that CBS over hyped the show. Babbin said that the show didn't connect with viewers as it was too different to what they were used to seeing.

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It's hard to believe how quickly this show went off the air. I guess the expense didn't make it worth retooling.

I have a few articles on this. The show got a little more attention from the soap press because of Maeve Maguire, although it sounds like Maeve had a relatively small role.

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The comparison to the Mad Men/Pan Am, etc, situation is a good one I think. It's true Upstairs Downstairs was a cult phenomenon in the US and did very well for PBS--but as you say Paul, that was PBS. A network remake would presumably have to appeal to a broader audience, while trying to capture that existing audience (part of who probably watched Upstairs/Downstairs, at least initially, due to the very fact they liked the British aspect anyway). I guess it must have been very expensive, because with falling, but by no means awful ratings, it did always strike me as odd that they never bothered to retool it (though it probably would have been a useless task).

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One controversy about the show was that the network ignored Catholic presence whatsoever, even though the show was set in Boston.

David Rounds, who co-wrote the wonderful soap resource guide which was printed under several names (my favorite was From Mary Noble to Mary Hartman), played a servant.

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drunk and making open passes at her brother-in-law, Trevor. She then proceeds to take off her dress and dance wildly around her guests, clad only in a flimsy, flesh-colored slip. With scenes such as this it is easy to see why Fawn's character is said to be fashioned after that of Isadora Duncan, a free-style dancer who often performed in the nude around the turn of the century.

Residents of the real Beacon Hill, a fashionable district in central Boston, have voiced loud complaints about their neighborhood's revised counterpart. Although the series takes place in the past (during the Prohibition Era of the 1920's), the people who live in Beacon Hill today claim that the show does not portray the vicinity - or its history - accurately. They insist that the show is vulgar - that such unchecked, immoral happenings never occurred in the area at all.

The producers of the series, on the other hand, maintain that they have gone to great lengths to make everything about the show as authentic as possible. The twenties, they tell us, were very immoral times - even in straight-laced Boston! Wild parties and sexual indiscretions ran rampant, especially among the upper classes (to which the Lassiters definitely belong). One has only to recall The Great Gatsby and other such novels of the period to know that this is true.

The sets, the costumes, the speaking accents and even the food served on the show offer further proof of the producer's preoccupation with authenticity. Part of the $200,000 spent to film each episode went to pay the one-time butler for the duPont family to teach Mr. Hacker (the Lassiter's butler) the arts of decanting wine, announcing visitors and distributing mail. Two diction coaches were hired to school the actors in the various Irish, English and Bostonian accents which were prevalent during the period. Before a single costume was made, the clothing designer spent months studying silent movies, old photo albums, and 1920's issues of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.

The amount of work that went into the designing and decorating of the set is almost mind-boggling. The Lassiter's TV studio "home" was patterned after a real Beacon Hill house on Mount Vernon Street, and completely furnished with authentic antiques or good copies. Every detail has been attended to. The accessories - dishes, lamps, cooking utensils, tablecloths, bedspreads and the like - are all remnants from the twenties. The ancient kitchen stove has been repaired and fitted with burners so that food can actually be cooked. Nothing has been overlooked, and each piece is important. In fact, a guard has even been hired to watch over the Lassiter's "possessions" at night and on weekends when the studio is deserted.

As many of the scenes in the series take place during parties, banquets, or mealtimes, great attention is also paid to the food. The Lassiters and their guests are served the kind of meals dictated by diaries, magazine articles and cookbooks of the twenties. They feast on things like caviar in aspic, salmon mousse, oyster bisque, lobster thermidor and mimosa salad. Fresh flowers always appear on the table, and another man has been hired to buy and arrange only the kind of flowers that were available in Boston in 1920.

The same kind of care was taken in choosing the actors for the series. Beryl Vertue, the executive producer of Beacon Hill, was determined to find new faces for the show - faces which would not be recognized from other TV shows or movies. That way, she felt, the actors could truly grow into their roles and the audiences would associate them more easily with the characters they portray. "I wanted faces not associated with any television series," she says, "so when the audience gets involved, they're not getting involved from Bonanza."

for this reason, she decided to tape her series in New York. "There's a certain breed of people in New York," she says, "- theater people - who, even if they're not working much, like it here and wouldn't live in California. I knew there was this marvelous pool of talent, so I decided to plunder the theater and do it here."

Among those actors "plundered" from the theater (and, we might add, from some of the New York-based daytime soap operas) are Stephen Elliott (Benjamin Lassiter), George Rose (Mr. Hacker), Beatrice Straight (Mrs. Hacker), Paul Rudd (Brian Mallory), Richard Ward (William Piper), Ed Herrmann (Richard Palmer), Roy Cooper (Trevor Bullock) and David Dukes (Robert Lassiter). The four Lassiter daughters are played by Maeve McGuire (Maude), DeAnn Mears (Emily), Kathryn Walker (Fawn) and Kitty Winn (Rosamond).

Chances are you're not too familiar with any of the actors' names for the reasons mentioned above. However, if the Beacon Hill ratings continue to be as high as they have been, you should come to know them well before long.

- AMANDA MURRAH MATETSKY

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That's a terrific read. "X Rated series"? LOL really? Talk about hyperbole--even for network tv back then, though things like the black brothel etc do sound scandalous (more so than I remember Upstairs/Downstairs being, although ti did have some minor things people at the time didn't like being on PBS...) It does seem weird to not have some Catholic element and yet focus on Boston, particularly in that era.

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Reading the first mentions again it does sound a little shocking for the time, although the stuff with Fawn isn't shocking at all, more like stupid or desperate.

It also gives the impression that there are too many characters and too many complicated relationships. This is the type of thing that only worked on Hill Street Blues (and to a lesser degree St. Elsewhere), and sadly even that was clamped down on very quickly.

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One of the TV Radio Mirrors put out before the ratings collapsed talked about how each network wanted their own Beacon Hill. I wonder how that would have turned out. It may have produced some great soap talent, at least (even if these types of shows would never ever refer to themselves as soaps).

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