Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes is back with a new period drama Belgravia, which made its debut on ITV last night.
The six-parter is set among the upper classes of 19th Century London society and stars Tamsin Greig, Harriet Walter, Alice Eve and Philip Glenister.
Comparisons with Fellowes’ previous hit are inevitable.
But can the series prove as big a hit with viewers as the juggernaut that was Downton?
“From the evidence so far I doubt it has the soul or soap opera qualities that made Downton such an opium for the masses,” wrote Carol Midgley in The Times, giving it three stars out of five.
“It all looked lovely – the budget is clearly healthy…. and you certainly can’t knock the cast. However, running through my head was a question: “Are you really going to stick with another posho costume drama, even one from the Fellowes’s stable?”
The first episode introduced us to Sophia Trenchard (Emily Reid), a merchant’s daughter, who has to part with her lover, a young officer who is off to join his regiment for the Battle of Waterloo.
Her parents are James and Anne Trenchard, played by Glenister and Greig.
Fast forward 26 years, and the ramifications from the couple’s doomed relationship spell trouble.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Jan Moir wrote: “Perhaps the problem is that so far there has been very little action from the Belgravia below-stairs mob, a fetid collection of stew guzzlers who plot against their Trenchard masters.”
“In truth, I confess myself a little disappointed so far, confused by who is who under all the whiskerage but I love the spirited relationship between James and Anne Trenchard.”
The Independent’s Ed Cummings gave the drama three stars, noting that “on the evidence of the first episode, it lacks Downton’s sense of place”.
“Yet [Fellowes] has an indisputable gift for instant characterisation. The moment someone walks into shot, we know who they are, what they want and how they fit into the precise social stratification of Fellowes’ universe.”
The drama’s first episode was awarded two stars by Lucy Mangan in The Guardian.
“Once we are ensconced with the Trenchards in their townhouse, we are introduced to the servants and all pretence that this is not Downton Abbey – in, uh, Belgravia – collapses. On the upside, Harriet Walter has arrived as Lady Brockenhurst and Alice Eve is an early Victorian meany of the first water.”
But The Telegraph’s Anita Singh was more enthusiastic, giving the episode four stars.
“Belgravia does not have Downton’s warm glow, nor a sense of humour. But taken on its own terms, it’s a satisfying watch, due to Fellowes’s writing.
“It feels like a show you can slowly fall in love with.”
Metro’s Keith Watson was another fan, also giving Belgravia four stars.
“This opening episode was, in truth, mostly hors d’oeuvres with little in the way of main course as the stars regurgitated the plot points for our edification. But Fellowes has planted the seeds of a moreish confection – who doesn’t love a forbidden love story? – that is guaranteed to have me coming back for seconds.
“It’s just as well ITV is not box-setting this one: I’d have binged myself sick.”