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Dennis King: Watch the precursor to 'Downton Abbey'
Fans of “Upstairs, Downstairs,” “Downton Abbey” and other high-toned British costume productions of that ilk, have one widely acknowledged 1967 BBC series to thank for paving the way and setting the standard for all multicharacter, serial melodramas to follow.
That would be “The Forsyte Saga,” a landmark, black-and-white TV series starring Eric Porter and Sir Kenneth More that was a smash hit in England and virtually invented the “Masterpiece Theater” template when it came to America on public television in 1970.
So when the series was resurrected in lush color in 2002 with a vigorous new cast of British thespians (including the hot “Homeland” star Damien Lewis), many “Masterpiece” fans were a bit nonplused.
Far more visually lavish than the original adaptation of John Galsworthy's celebrated novels, this new series was handsomely mounted and respectfully decorous but somehow less surprising and compelling than the 1967 production.
Nevertheless, “The Forsyte Saga Collection,” a two-volume, five-disc, 10-episode compilation of Granada Television's polished remake is out in a posh DVD package, complete with a series sequel, “The Forsyte Saga: To Let” from 2003.
The newest version stays true to Galsworthy's vision of comfy, stuffy upper middle class life in Victorian and later Edwardian England.