An NBC project that’s been in the works for years is finally moving again: The Gilded Age, with the Downton Abbey team attached. So basically it’s America’s Vanderpump Rules to Britain’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Variety said that NBC has ordered ten episodes of the show to premiere 2019. Downton creator Julian Fellowes and Downton executive producer Gareth Neame will executive produce, with Neame writing as well. The description:
The Gilded Age in 1880s New York City was a period of immense social upheaval, of huge fortunes made and lost, and of palaces that spanned the length of Fifth Avenue. In the series, Marian Brook is the wide-eyed young scion of a conservative family who will embark on infiltrating the wealthy neighboring family dominated by ruthless railroad tycoon George Russell, his rakish and available son Larry, and his ambitious wife Bertha, whose “new money” is a barrier to acceptance by the Astor and Vanderbilt set.
Frankly there could be no better time for a serious dramatic reassessment of the Gilded Age and its place in American history! Though the folks who brought you Downton maybe don’t seem like the type to—let’s just say—go deep into the events of the Homestead Strike from the perspective of the strikers. (For that, we’d at least need the people who made North and South.) In an live chat at the Guardian, Fellowes was asked whether he could share anything about the show and whether it was influenced by Edith Wharton. He said:
What she explores is a period of the crossing of two waters in New York - you had the old landed gentry - the younger sons mainly - and from them came George Washington, Thomas Jefferson. They were the dominant social class. They lived in largish, simple houses in Washington Square. And into that culture came this torrent of money after the civil war. These people decided to come and spend their fortunes in New York and they started to build palaces up Fifth Avenue. Park Avenue became a great boulevard of New York. If you go up to the 80s, 90s addresses you can still see these palaces. And there was this great battle of these two social groups. And there was this woman, Caroline Astor, who came from old, original 17th-century settlers and she felt this gave her the right to be the determiner of who was in and who was out. She recognised that New York society had to expand - that there couldn’t be two rival societies side by side. She was very powerful. That’s the background of what The Gilded Age series will look at...
Whether Americans currently want to watch the superrich of yore loll around in utter luxury depends on how thoroughly, cathartically dysfunctional they are. The department store sets are going to look magnificent though.