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‘The Gilded Age’ overview: Julian Fellowes’ sprawling new drama shines as an American model of ‘Downton Abbey’

The backdrop right here lies now not in British aristocracy however relatively the hostility of old-money households towards what they dismissively consult with as “the brand new other folks,” those that have lately come into fortunes however lack the arrived-on-the-Mayflower claims to elite standing.

Agnes married smartly, permitting her sister, as she notes, “the natural and tranquil lifetime of a spinster.” Just like the Dowager Countess in “Downton,” Fellowes graces her with all of the very best strains, which Baranski delivers with dripping venom, her fangs slightly hid.

To her consistent inflammation, the “new” other folks to whom she items are living at once around the boulevard, within the type of railroad baron George Russell (Morgan Spector) and his spouse Bertha (Carrie Coon), who make use of a Downton-like array of servants. When now not keeping up the mansion, the downstairs people gossip in regards to the Russells’ potentialities of being approved into top society, which is Bertha’s relentless function.

“She’s constructed a palace to entertain this kind of individuals who won’t ever come right here,” sneers Bertha’s maid (Kelley Curran), whilst plotting as to how she will be able to break out such provider.

Cynthia Nixon, Christine Baranski (foreground) play sisters in 'The Gilded Age.'

This American model additionally brings race into the combination, with Marian’s commute introducing her to Peggy Scott (Denée Benton), an aspiring Black creator who takes a place in Agnes’s make use of. Marian’s need to grow to be Peggy’s good friend betrays each her naivete and the overt racism of the days, regardless that with marginal intensity, a in all probability inevitable serve as of the entirety else that is unfolding upstairs and downstairs.

Fellowes stays an absolute grasp at juggling a dizzying selection of subplots in addition to discovering intriguing wrinkles in characters with slightly small roles, corresponding to Blake Ritson as Agnes’s scheming son. There is a explicit embarrassment of riches at the actress facet, with Audra McDonald, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Donna Murphy to assist elegance up the already-classy joint.

The early episodes (5 of the 9 have been previewed) additionally impressively bite via tale, indicating that whilst the attire may glance stiff and confining, the pacing is not.

The casting is as impeccable because the duration costumes, with Jacobson as the slightly trendy newcomer stuck in the midst of those previous grudges, and Coon and Spector excelling as without equal energy couple, taking part in a protracted sport in leveraging their wealth to wreck down the obstacles erected by means of the entrenched status quo.

One of the crucial tensions comes to the query of Marian marrying for one thing rather then monetary merit, a prospect greeting with horror by means of her pragmatic aunt. “Will you concede not anything to my age and revel in?” Agnes asks her.

Despite the fact that real-life figures from the duration cross during the tale, “The Gilded Age” temporarily carves out a dense fact all its personal. And whilst a number of characters have evident “Downton” opposite numbers (together with lifestyles within the closet for gays right through this period), the Yankee taste distinguishes the collection sufficient to face with the exception of it.

It is early to pronounce this absolutely as some other “Downton”-like dependancy, with one film and some other at the manner. But Fellowes has laid out the basis for a duration cleaning soap with that lofty attainable, in what’s already an excessively attractive piece of “Abbey”-adjacent genuine property.

“The Gilded Age” premieres Jan. 24 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, which, like CNN, is a unit of WarnerMedia.


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