'Downton Abbey' Creator's Next Big Hit Is Here

The theme music is not quite the same, but from the very start it bears a startling resemblance to the opening notes of “Downton Abbey.”

Then appear the names of the cast members arranged onscreen more or less in the same manner in which they appeared at the beginning of every “Downton” episode, combining with the music to quicken the pulse and heighten the anticipation that was part of the experience of watching that legendary series.

Then comes the credit that says it all: “Written by Julian Fellowes, Adapted from his novel” and later, “Executive producers Julian Fellowes [and] Liz Trubridge” along with two more executive producers -- Gareth Neame and Nigel Marchant.

They were all producers on “Downton” -- the highly skilled and talented people who brought that very special show vividly to life.



And now, led by Fellowes -- the creator of “Downton Abbey” -- they have reconvened to produce another saga of English society in a story stretching from the time of Waterloo (1815) to the dawn of the 1840s -- “Belgravia.”

The question that most likely comes to mind as soon as anyone hears that Julian Fellowes and his team are back to try and amaze us once again is this: Is “Belgravia” as good as “Downton Abbey”?

But the question is unfair. “Downton Abbey” might just be the finest TV series that has ever been produced. And anyway, why compare the two?

“Belgravia” is a great show in its own right -- and for watching right now, when we are all homebound in a pandemic, it is the perfect piece of escapism.

Not surprisingly, “Belgravia” is a story about social classes -- how they relate to each other, and how they do not. The title refers to a district in London comprising an array of elegant townhouses where many of the leading families of English society were then living in the 1830s and ’40s.

The series establishes its 26-year time frame in the very first episode. Judging by the first two episodes, which the TV Blog previewed this week, the story will be told, at least in part, in flashbacks to 1815, the year in which Napoleon was finally defeated, and an incident took place that has been kept a secret for 26 years.

And now, in 1841, the secret appears poised to be divulged, and when it is revealed, two families will feel the aftershocks.

Like “Downton Abbey,” “Belgravia” is a sumptuous feast for the eyes and ears. Not like “Downton,” “Belgravia” will be presented on Epix, not PBS.

The good news is that Epix is being offered for free on a number of major cable systems right now, which means most people who wish to see at least the premiere episode of “Belgravia” will be able to do so on Sunday without paying for it.

It is well worth sampling. Whether you feel it is worth paying for is entirely up to you.

“Belgravia” premieres Sunday (April 12) at 9 p.m. Eastern on Epix.

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