Now that the Star Wars prequels have proven that it’s always a good idea to see beloved characters return to the screen as the teenage versions of themselves, NBC has decided to make a similar move. And, showing the kind of wisdom that has seen the network shed millions of viewers over the past few years, they’ve decided there’s no one more fun to see as children than witty older aristocrats, before they developed any sense of humor or charisma. The Daily Mail reports that NBC is finally moving forward with The Gilded Age, a show from Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes set in the same universe, but that takes place in America, decades before the events of the show winding down its final season on PBS.
Way back in the idyllic year of 2012, we first reported that Fellowes had a fancy idea for a prequel to Downton Abbey when that show was but a feisty go-getter in the bloom of adulthood, a.k.a. in its third season. Shortly thereafter, we also learned that Fellowes had been hired by NBC to come make a buzzy period drama for them as well. The latter project was The Gilded Age, described at the time as an “epic tale of the princes of the American Renaissance, and the vast fortunes they made—and spent—in late 19th-century New York.” Several years later, it now appears that Fellowes, displaying the kind of ingenuity usually reserved for college kids who get assigned similar papers for their American Politics and American History classes, will kill two period-piece birds with one NBC-financed stone.
While the focus of the new series seems to be the robber barons and industrialists of fin-de-siècle New York, the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers will supposedly also be joined by the young versions of Downton Abbey characters, such as Robert, the Earl of Grantham, who would be in his teens, and his American-born wife Cora. Maggie Smith’s Violet could also possibly make an appearance, Fellowes said, leaving the unspoken “That’s what you want, huh, more of the same? Yeah, you like Fellowes’ stuff, don’t you?” just hanging in the air. NBC President Roger Greenblatt has said he hopes the show will be developed quickly enough to debut sometime next season—possibly so that the network can start creating plans for a prequel to that, until soon the NBC primetime schedule is composed entirely of Homo habilis, confusedly banging rocks together.