ITV’s Belgravia began in the UK last night, receiving mixed reviews.
Set in London in the 1840s, the six-part mini-series boasts an amazing cast of British actors, including Tamsin Greig (Episodes), Philip Glenister (Life on Mars), Harriet Walter (Downton Abbey) and Tom Wilkinson (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel).
The official synopsis reads: “Belgravia is a story of secrets and scandals amongst the upper echelons of London society in the 19th Century.
“When the Trenchards accept an invitation to the now legendary ball hosted by the Duchess of Richmond on the fateful eve of the Battle of Waterloo, it sets in motion a series of events that will have consequences for decades to come as secrets unravel behind the porticoed doors of London’s grandest neighbourhood.”
We’ve rounded up a selection of reviews for the first episode to help you decide if you’d like to watch it:
“At its worst, Belgravia is an awkward assemblage of petticoats, plot and shoehorned historical anecdotes, but without the lurid yet wildly entertaining twists that made Downton such a sensation … That isn’t to say the show is without its charms. As you’d expect from a Fellowes creation, the historical scene-setting is impeccable and immersive … When Belgravia looks beyond the gilding and into the story’s heart it does very well indeed. ” ★★★ – The List
“Downton follow-up is fun, frothy and fabulous on the eye.” ★★★★ – The Telegraph
“Belgravia is positively hoaching with duchesses, and terrific actresses. Greig and Harriet Walter, playing Lady Brockenhurst, are at the centre of the tale, two very different women united by a life-changing event. Slyly humorous and nicely melodramatic, Belgravia is not quite Downton standard yet – Downton took a while to be Downton standard – but the signs are good.” ★★★★ – The Herald Scotland
“This six-part snobathon toils in the shadow of Downton Abbey … Julian Fellowes has an indisputable gift for instant characterisation, but his new period drama lacks Downton’s sense of place.” ★★★ – The Independent
“To its credit, Belgravia wisely places the female characters centre-stage, offering a delayed and much-needed perspective of that period in British history. But it’s still a period-drama that is bearable at best and tedious at worst; a televisual sedative to melt the mind before Monday rears its ugly head again.” ★★★ – Culture Whisper
“This is where Fellowes’ brilliance lies, in the exact taxonomy of social class: who can say what where and to whom … [Tamsin] Greig, best known as a comic actress, invests Anne with both shrewdness and sensitivity … Fellowes captures the sense that the battle of Waterloo was one of those lines in the historical sand after which nothing felt the same ever again.” ★★★★★ – Financial Times
“For my money, Belgravia does the job, but not wildly well: there are absolutely zero standout performances, there is no zip to the scripted tete-a-tetes … But, you know, if you have a Downton-shaped hole in your life, Belgravia is here to fill it.” – The Guardian
“It may not be Downton but Julian Fellowes’s latest period drama is ideal Sunday night TV.” ★★★★ – The Telegraph
“The problem with Belgravia is that it is not Downton Abbey South, which is what everyone wants it to be, even though we are pretending we don’t … The other problem with Belgravia is that so many of the characters in the first episode seem such frightful rotters…” – Daily Mail
“Belgravia follows a similar cultural blueprint to Downton: convince the normies watching it on a Sunday night that if they lived in 1840 they would be Lord or Lady so-and-so, rather than the toothless Irish chimney sweep with malignant growths in his lungs … Fellowes is by no means a bad storyteller. The success of Downton is proof of that, as are his Oscar and Bafta nominations for Gosford Park … Fellowes can do good drama – it’s just that Belgravia isn’t it.” – GQ
Belgravia premieres in the US next month on EPIX.
Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia novel is available on Amazon.