The Big House, episode 1

This show was broadcast on Irish television back in 2013 and is very similar to The Edwardian Country House (aka Manor house)  (UK 2002) but with the extra added level of these houses being of course owned by the English in Ireland and thus seen by many as symbols of colonialism and/or oppression.
A sensitive subject.

The show was filmed at Strokestown House in County Roscommon and takes place in… well I’m not quite sure.
No actual year is mentioned, so we’re left to guess.

Sadly the show begins without showing us how it was prepared, how the building was brought back in time, costumes and props found, etc.

But a wonderful extra detail is that many of the participants have historical connections to the story, the servants are all directly related to people who worked as servants in such houses, some even in Strokestown house itself!

Great to see children and youngsters, not only is it important to show modern viewers how common it was for young people to do hard work and have massive responsibilities back then, they also are often the least used to hard manual work and doing as they are told.
Not to mention that sadly, amongst young people the knowledge of history is severely lacking.

The show starts with a tour of the building and lots of information, which is handy but sometimes it is more fun to throw participants in at the deep end.
There is a lot of attention for history, which is rather interesting although perhaps a bit too distracting.
Yes wonderful to see other big houses but we want to know what is happening at Strokestown house with our participants!

The parts are being handed out.
It being Ireland, there is of course also the issue between giving protestants and catholics different jobs.

I’m a bit worried about all the modern things in sight, the Butler uses modern iron, modern plastic coat hanger and there is an electric heater in his electrically lit room.
But well, technically I guess the project hasn’t started yet.

I find it fascinating how modern people feel about the idea of servitude but also that servants were meant to be invisible, that the family of the home did not want to see them.
Many find this problematic but fail to see that a large estate is not just a family with some people hired to help them, it is a company, a big one at that.
And can they not make the links to the modern world?
How many large department stores, restaurants, hotels and factories have separate entrances for staff?
Everywhere you look, if you want to see it that is, you can still see companies where some of the cleaners are not allowed to come work during day time, need to use separate elevators, have their own stairs, etc, etc.
Nobody wants to see the person who cleans up, takes out the garbage or have staff walk in and out through the main door while you’re trying to eat.
But because it happened in a ‘home’ and with this added level of having a family be your boss in stead of… a boss, we have issues with it.
People want peace, quiet and privacy.
Even if you’re rich and own a big house, you do not want to bump into the 50 or so servants.
It all makes sense to me, but apparently it is shocking and terrible to most modern people.
Servants are not friends, do not see the Big House as a family with a cleaner like we have them today.
Servants are employees, the family are employers, the big house is a big company.
How much time do you spend with your boss?

The hairstyles have been severely neglected in this show and I fear that the same has happened with the costumes.
Not a lot of effort and/or budget has been spend on them.
A footman has a messy mullet and the uniforms are too loose, or too small, either way, not made to fit.
As they would have been back then.
The Butler looks a fright, not even wearing a vest, the jacket not even closed and when he goes outside he has a modern coat and umbrella.
The women clearly are not wearing corsets, their hair has had not much work done to it and the clothes, well they are all not very historically authentic.
Very sad, such and important detail.
These look like regular costume shop outfits.
Not to mention one of my pet peeves… modern glasses.The relationship between upstairs and downstairs is a complicated one, differing per house of course.
Often life was unfair, staff being ordered around, treated in a nasty way, even abused.
But in some houses the downstairs staff would have been very close to the upstairs family.
It is difficult to show both those sides in a balanced way.
The show and the project is yet to begin, but episode 1 ends here.I fear that this show will not be one of the greats and will pale in comparison to The Edwardian Country House (aka Manor house).
So far, what I’ve seen of it, we will have to deal with atrocious costumes and modern bits and bops all over the place.Never the less, onwards to episode 2.18

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One thought on “The Big House, episode 1

  1. Pingback: List of all known Historical Reality tv shows | Historical Reality Television

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