David O. Russell is Coming to TV to Bring Us the Next 'Downton Abbey'
Looks like David O. Russell is pulling a Tracy Jordan: After winning a ton of awards (although not an EGOT), David O. Russell is coming to TV. Russell and Erin Brockovich writer Susannah Grant just received a 13-episode straight-to-series order from ABC for an as-yet-to-be-named show.
The series, written by Russell and Grant, is a an "upstairs-downstairs" soap-drama set at a private country club. That's pretty much all we know for now — nothing has been released about the characters, time period, or conflict. But even with such little information, the idea already brings to mind another upstairs-downstairs soap: Downton Abbey . And an American Downton Abbey is just the kind of thing audiences need.
The downstairs-upstairs narrative is no stranger to British audiences. Historically, there's been a clear delineation of classes in England. That's where the conflict in Downton Abbey lies, in the deterioration of the noble "leisure class." This is the kind of story that's done often and done well with English audiences — hell, they even have and entire show called Upstairs, Downstairs.
But in America, class is a little more murky. Historically, it's an issue that's overwhelmingly and inextricably tied up with racism, something that rings true even today — so that's the narrative that gets told. But the exploration of class through American movies and television is something that goes largely ignored. If it's portrayed in entertainment at all, it's usually just a Romeo and Juliet-esque obstacle, an outside circumstance that's keeping young lovers apart (see: Dirty Dancing and every similar movie since).
That's why America needs a narrative about class relations, now more than ever. Sure, the delineations are still as murky as they've ever been. But with the huge wealth disparity in the country, it's something that can especially resonate with audiences today. And it's important to explore how class affects not just romantic relationships, but any relationships — the inherent imbalance of power between employee and employer, between worker and customer. It's something that can frame and affect a variety of issues, like sexual harassment. And as Downton Abbey shows, it's a situation that can create the perfect backdrop for scandalous drama.
There's no question that an American upstairs-downstairs drama can make for good television. Now, one of the country club owners being an old lady who can out-sass the Dowager Countess? That would make for perfect television.