TV Review: The Gilded Age Episode 1

Only the presence of Broadway royalty make Episode 1 of new Julian Fellowes tosh-fest The Gilded Age (barely) watchable 

“If you’re going to do a thing, you may as well do it properly”

Heavens above. Julian Fellowes continues his stranglehold over TV commissioners with his latest venture into numbingly crass serial drama. The Gilded Age is set in the upper echelons of 1880s New York City where the biggest drama is how dismissive the people with old money feel about those with new.

So in this first episode, the newly arrived Russells host a grand soirée in their freshly upholstered mansion but none of society, in particular the van Rhijns who live across the way on Fifth Avenue, deign to turn up. And it takes us over an hour to get there in amongst the heavily laden set up and the desperately poorly written dialogue.

It is honestly a travesty that Fellowes has been able to skate by with this level of writing. It may attract audiences but it is dumbing-down of the worst kind which, worst of all, hamstrings his actors. I love Carrie Coon I really do but as Bertha Russell, she is landed with some absolute clangers and directed with a real stiffness by Michael Engler, it just feels so awkward.

Christine Baranski and Cynthia Nixon fare just a little better as the van Rhijn sisters, whose padded comfort is a little ruffled by having to take in their near-destitute niece Marian from Pennsylvania, played by newcomer Louisa Jacobson who is smothered by her attempts to make anything she has say halfway credible.

It is the likes of Audra McDonald, Kelli O’Hara and Donna Murphy that made me stick with it and let’s face it, I’ll plug on til the end but The Gilded Age is already losing its lustre.

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