The Gilded Age finally has a release date, with the show debuting in early 2022. A no-longer-a-direct Downton Abbey spinoff set in 1880s New York City, the nine-episode series is written by Julian Fellowes and produced by the same team behind PBS' wildly popular World War I-era drama. Fellowes' new show will debut on HBO in mid-January and run through to mid-March, with the season finale arriving the same weekend as the Downton Abbey feature film sequel. But the new series trailer suggests it has more in common with shows like Succession and Game of Thrones than the show that inspired it.
Set in the middle of New York City's shifting class and wealth landscape in the late-1800s as capitalism and monopoly commerce make new millionaires to live beside the wealthy from previous generations, the series focuses on the Russells, a family of entrepreneurs versus the van Rhijns, who come from the doggedly traditional upper classes. It's very much a "your lot buys it, our lot inherits it" type story. However, unlike Downton Abbey, where those who inherit (like Mary) are the virtuous and those who earn (like Sir Richard Carlisle) are the villains, there doesn't seem to be a clear delineation of protagonist and antagonist, at least from the first look.
However, with Christine Baranski as the bonmot spewing Agnes van Rhijn, who seems a bit like a less-than-kind version of Maggie Smith's Dowager duchess, and Cynthia Nixon as her dependant spinster sister, the assumption is that Julian Fellowes will bend towards sympathizing with old money. That seems especially true when compared to Carrie Coon's Bertha Russell's uptight rage and the joy her husband George (Morgan Spector) appears to take in being a bastard.
Here's the series synopsis:
The story begins in 1882 – introducing young Marian Brook, the orphaned daughter of a Southern general, who moves into the home of her rigidly conventional aunts in New York City. Accompanied by the mysterious Peggy Scott, an African-American woman masquerading as her maid, Marian gets caught up in the dazzling lives of her stupendously rich neighbors, led by a ruthless railroad tycoon and his ambitious wife struggling for acceptance by the Astor and Vanderbilt set. Will Marian follow the established rules of society or forge her own path in this exciting new world that is on the brink of transformation into the modern age?
Like many Fellowes series, this is an ensemble piece with a sprawling cast. Along with Baranski and Nixon, newcomer Louisa Jacobson (daughter of Meryl Streep) plays Marian Brook, whose younger generation will cross these unspoken class lines and spoken race ones. Her BFF, Peggy Scott (Denée Benton), will open up an avenue to explore the latter, while her relationship with Larry Russell (Harry Richardson) will challenge the former. As for the rest of the cast, it includes a good half dozen names, including Audra McDonald (The Good Fight), John Douglas Thompson (Michael Clayton), Blake Ritson (Mansfield Park), Simon Jones (Downton Abbey), Thomas Cocquerel (The 100), and Jack Gilpin (Succession).
The Gilded Age will debut as part of HBO's Monday night lineup and air on a weekly schedule, with the show's premiere booked for Jan. 24, 2022, at 9 p.m. ET. Episodes will stream directly following on HBO Max.