The Gilded Age Sets Up a War Between New and Old Money in 1880s New York
The Gilded Age of New York is one period I have always been fascinated by as a New Yorker. Old New York seems further away than Ancient Greece at times, with so many pieces of it no longer here. Through literature, and especially the work of Edith Wharton, it has always seemed like a period to rival the Regency Era of England, and it seems Julian Fellowes agreed.
The Downton Abbey creator has created The Gilded Age, a new period drama that takes place in 1880s New York City as old white money comes up against a changing influx of new money.
What we know so far from the HBO official site:
“The American Gilded Age was a period of immense economic change, of great conflict between the old ways and brand new systems, and of huge fortunes made and lost. Against the backdrop of this transformation, HBO’s The Gilded Age begins in 1882 with young Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson) moving from rural Pennsylvania to New York City after the death of her father to live with her thoroughly old money aunts Agnes van Rhijn (Christine Baranski) and Ada Brook (Cynthia Nixon).
Accompanied by Peggy Scott (Denée Benton), an aspiring writer seeking a fresh start, Marian inadvertently becomes enmeshed in a social war between one of her aunts, a scion of the old money set, and her stupendously rich neighbors, a ruthless railroad tycoon and his ambitious wife, George (Morgan Spector) and Bertha Russell (Carrie Coon). Exposed to a world on the brink of the modern age, will Marian follow the established rules of society, or forge her own path?”
Instantly, one aspect that stands out for me is that, unlike Downton, there is no way to avoid diversity in New York. Broadway star Denée Benton and legend Audra McDonald are going to be in the series. Benton is playing a young woman returning to New York to finish her education. With New York and the wave of “New Immigrants” that emerges during this time, along with the issues considering women’s and worker’s rights that were taking place, if you are gonna have a robber baron character, you are going to have to engage in that.
As someone who has always seen Downton as comfort food, I am interested in how Fellowes will handle the many different politics within this time period. Because of the aristocratic and isolated elements of Downton, it didn’t always have to be political, and when it did, they could throw the softest of softballs. That won’t be the case here.
Still, the cast looks good and I’m a sucker for a period drama.
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