Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on August 10, 1975 · Page 120
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August 10, 1975

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 120

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Charleston, West Virginia
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Sunday, August 10, 1975
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Page 120
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Page 120 article text (OCR)

by Lloyd Shearer O n Tuesday, Aug. 26th, two weeks before the 1975-76 television season gets underway, CBS-TV will begin its Beacon Hill series with a two-hour pilot Beacon Hill is the Americanized version of Upstairs, Downstairs, the highly successful British series which has been telecast several times in this country via the Public Broadcasting Service. Depicting life in London between 1910 and 1914, Upstairs, Downstairs became the rage of British TV in 1971 and subsequently .won several Emmys in Hollywood. Alistair Cooke provided the informative introductions and the entertaining epilogues. To reflect the end of the Edwardian era in £ngland, the Bellamy family of Upstairs, Downstairs lived in an elegant house in London's Belgravia; they personified the typical upper-class English Characters from the popular British TV series, "Upstairs, Downstairs"; center arelie Bellamys, father and son, and around them their staff of domestics.-The series is being adapted for American television, as were "All in the Family" and "Sanford and Son." family of the early 1900's. Their downstairs domestics typified the British servant class whose members shared in the family's soap-opera-type trials and prejudices and adventures. ·In Beacon Hill, instead of the Bellamy family of Eaton Place, we have the Lassiter family of Boston and Newport Beacon Hill is set in the early 1920's, and one of its opening episodes deals with those last alcoholic hours just before Prohibition became operative. Naturally, the downstairs staff at the Lassiters gets "smashed." Boston householder The head-of-the-house in Beacon Hill is Benjamin Lassiter, a first-generation rich Bostonian of Irish descent who is interested in politics. His wife, Mary Lassiter, is a sensitive woman of some refinement and background whose husband tries to shelter her from the more serious problems of the day. The Lassiters have four daughters and one son, Robert, who lost an arm fighting in World War I. Fawn Lassiter, one of the daughters described by her father as the family's "free soul," lives alone, has an Italian lover who gives her singing lessons, and is very much the spirited, untamed, rebellious child. In many ways she resembles the Bellamy daughter, Elizabeth, in Upstairs, Downstairs. Just as Robert Lassiter is not unlike Captain James in the British original. . Where Beacon -Hill differs rqost from Upstairs, Downstairs is in the cast of characters who portray servants. The Lassiters, like the Bellamys, have an English butler, Hacker instead of Hudson, only Hacker has an Irish wife, Emmeline, who raises canaries and at various times has brought 11 of her relatives over from Ireland to work in the Lassiter household as maids or handymen/ Mrs. Bridges replaced The Lassiters also have a black cook named William Piper whereas the Bel- lamys boasted of their kindly, competent Mrs. Bridges. Beryl Vertue, the beautiful, blue- eyed blonde who produced Beacon Hill for the Robert Stigwood Co., which in turn leased it to CBS for $200,000 an episode (including the right to one rerun) explains: "There are marked differences between the British Bellamys and the American Lassiters. In creating our characters, Sidney Carroll, the -writer, and I made sure that they were very, very American, not carbon copies of the British characters in Upstairs, Downstairs. "We also set the Lassiters into one of the most exciting and colorful periods in American history--the post-World War I era, the jazz age, the gangster age, the Harding scandal. It gives the writers a lot of authentic background to work with. "What is most important in any successful TV series," Mrs. Vertue goes on (she has been married to Clem Vertue of the HEP Travel Agency in London for 23 years) "is the universality of the theme. I originated All in the Family and Sanford and Son in England, and they both were adapted for the American market by Norman Lear, and they were successful, because people everywhere could identify with theirthemes." Class shows The fundamental theme in both Beacon Hill and Upstairs, Downstairs, according to Beryl Vertue, is the difference between the rich and the poor, class-consciousness. As-portrayed in Upstairs, Downstairs, the wealthy in , England were a different breed from their counterparts in America, at least during the Edwardian era. They were traditional, conservative, immoral, stupid, lazy, infantile, limited, Unimaginative, frivolous, patriotic, honorable, and brave with a truly commendable sense of duty in time of danger or war. In that same period the British servant class was secure, industrious, respectful, loyal, fearful, especially of Beryl Vertue, "Beacon Hill's" British producer, says its basic theme is the difference between the rich and poor.

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