The Gilded Age

The Gilded Age

2022 - United States

Old money and new money clash for influence among New York’s upper-class society in this period epic penned by Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes. 

The Gilded Age review by Jennifer Ariesta

Welcome to 1880s New York City, a period of booming economy that sees the rise of a new class of the obscenely wealthy. These nouveau riche, as they’re colloquially known, are showy with their newfound status - building outrageously garish mansions and throwing the most decadent parties - inviting the derision of the old money, those who come from generational fortune and believe themselves to be superior. 

The Gilded Age tv series

At the centre of the feud is new money railroad magnate wife Bertha Russell (Carrie Coon) and old money Agnes van Rhijn (Christina Baranski) who seeks to gatekeep Bertha’s effort to enter the high society. Born from lowly background, Bertha is determined to get accepted by the upper echelon of Manhattan’s upper class. To do that, she needs the approval of the society’s grand dame, Caroline Astor (Donna Murphy). As the leader of New York’s elite, Caroline - based on real life Gilded Age socialite of the same name - determines who is and isn’t important. She famously established the Four Hundred, a list of New York’s 400 most prominent families. Think of it as that period’s version of Forbes 400.

However, despite their wealth and connection, she and husband George Russell (Morgan Spector) keep failing to impress Mrs Astor. The strong rejection by old guards like Agnes prove too strong to break. Determined to keep up, she engages in increasingly more outrageous ways to charm her way in. Will Bertha ever succeed?

The Gilded Age tv series

Gilded Age was a time in American history known for its obscene glamour. The palatial mansions strewn across the Upper East Side are still there as proof. But just like the term suggests, gild is simply a gold coating to cheaper materials. Likewise, the show portrays the superficiality of wealth being used to prop up someone’s social standing. And they embrace the decadence with gusto. Cavernous ballrooms inspired by the Versailles, majestic ball gowns adorned with jewels, lavish gastronomical creations - the show unreservedly splurges on the travails of the rich. If nothing else, your eyes shall be treated to a feast. 

The Gilded Age tv series

Just like Downton Abbey before it, Julian Fellowes revels in the details of the society he’s depicting. The Gilded Age culture is brought to life in vivid detail here. His extensive research lends the story authenticity down to the smallest details like the right lapels for the butlers or the period-appropriate silverware of the era. In an age where everything goes anachronistic, his old-school approach is refreshing.

The Gilded Age tv series

At its core, The Gilded Age is a soap opera dressed in opulent fashion. The characters gossip and scheme their way just as soap characters would. But the elevated setting and Fellowes’ elegant prose allow us a heightened experience. The show is an escape to a fancy time that we will never have in real life, proving once again that rich people's dramas are always in season.

Published on April 4th, 2023. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.

Read Next...

SAS Rogue Heroes

Six-part BBC drama series based on Ben Macintyre's book of the same name, charting the creation of the famed Special Forces unit

Also released in 2022

The Outlaws

The gang is confronted with the consequences of keeping the stolen drugs money and make a promise to pay it back - or else, one of them will pay with their life...

Also released in 2022

Lewis Collins and Michael Caine

Michael Caine, in his first acting role for British television for twenty years, goes after the famous East End murderer...

Also tagged Period Drama

Ten Percent

In a London talent agency, a scramble is on to keep star clients happy and the business afloat after the sudden death of its founder. But does this British version of the acclaimed French series 'Dix Pour Cent' have what it takes to keep its viewers happy?

Also released in 2022

The House of Elliott

Lavish drama series set in the world of haute couture in the 1920s.

Also tagged Period Drama

Cybill

Cybill may be the closest American television has come to the spirit (and success) of the British hit Absolutely Fabulous.

Also starring Christine Baranski

Dickens of London

The excellent scriptwriter Wolf Mankowitz has surpassed himself in 'Dickens of London', a miniseries recounting the life of Charles Dickens from early boyhood till his death.

Also tagged Period Drama

Inheritance

Drama starring John Thaw which revolved around the fortunes of the Oldroyds of Annotsfield, a Yorkshire mill-owning family, through five generations.

Also tagged Period Drama

Bleak House

"The word "big" doesn't really do it justice. Fifteen episodes, eight hours of television, 85 characters, 40 of them major speaking roles. No-one could accuse 'Bleak House' of being an unambitious project." - Radio Times 22nd October 2005.

Also tagged Period Drama