The Gilded Age: The Complete First Season on DVD – review

By Alexandra Heilbron on July 26, 2022 | 2 Comments

The Gilded Age on DVDJulian Fellowes, the creator of the hit series Downton Abbey and its subsequent movies, offers a look at the elite of New York City in the late 19th century in the new series The Gilded Age, out now on DVD.

When a family with “new money” moves across the street, the “old money” residents are indignant and determined not to acknowledge their existence.

In the middle of all of this is Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson), whose father just died in Pennsylvania. She arrives in Manhattan to live with her father’s sisters, widowed Agnes Van Rhijn (Christine Baranski) and spinster Ada Brook (Cynthia Nixon).

Agnes is extremely agitated when the wealthy Russells move in across the street. Mrs. Bertha Russell (Carrie Coon) is an unabashed social climber whose savvy businessman husband is a self-made multi-millionaire who made his money through the Transcontinental railroad. Agnes wants nothing to do with them, and orders Marian and Ada to stay away as well. Marian, an open-minded young woman, wants to get along with her aunts, who are her only living relatives, but she has ideas very different from that of Agnes as to which people make suitable companions.

At times, The Gilded Age may remind you a bit of Downton Abbey – we get to know the servants, although they’re not as front and center as those of the British series, and the homes are luxurious beyond imagination. But this is definitely America, and Americans had a different attitude towards the wealthy and entitled than the Brits did during the 19th century. When one servant is asked by another if he would have liked to have attended a fancy ball, he answers, “Maybe we will one day. After all, this is America.”

The Russells — especially Mrs. Russell — can see no reason why they shouldn’t fit in with the other families in their neighborhood. In America, the wealthy don’t have titles, so Bertha doesn’t see a difference between her family and the rest of high society.

The first season is about her struggle to earn her family a place amongst the elite of New York society, and Marian’s struggle to stay independent, while still relying financially on her aunt.

There’s also a wonderful character named Peggy Scott, played by Denée Benton, and her parents Dorothy (played by Broadway legend Audra McDonald) and Arthur (John Douglas Thompson), who come from a middle-class Black family with servants.

This series has it all – drama, intrigue, sorrow, joy and mystery – and it’s clear Julian Fellowes didn’t leave anything out when he researched high society in New York City in the late 1800s. It was a fascinating time when the Vanderbilts and the Astors ruled the city — and being able to watch it played out on the screen is a treat, not to mention a feast for the eyes.

Also included in the DVD set are a wide range of special features on each disc, including an inside look at every single episode and featurettes on each of the lead actors. See below for the list of all the bonuses that come with the three DVDs that contain all nine episodes of the first season. ~Alexandra Heilbron

  1. All That Glitters: Creating The Gilded Age
  2. Old Money vs. New: The Heart of the Matter
  3. Invitation to Set
  4. The Russell set tour featuring Carrie Coon – The actress compares the Russells to the Vanderbilts and shows the features of the exquisite mansion.
  5. The Gilded Age: The Black Elite of New York – Julian Fellowes talks about the history of the Black middle class, who thrived in their own community in Brooklyn, starting their own businesses and becoming lawyers, scientists, newspaper publishers and politicians.
  6. Who’s Who – a featurette for each actor.
  7. Inside the Episodes – a look inside each of the nine episodes.
  8. Presented in 16×9 widescreen format
  9. Running time: Approximately 540 mins
  10. Enhanced Content: Approximately 135 minutes
  11. Audio: English (5.1)
  12. Subtitles: ESDH

The Gilded Age: The Complete First Season is available today (July 26, 2022) on DVD.

Comments & Discussion

  1. Pat Hart • July 26, 2022 @ 3:34 PM

    How do you get the series? Is it at the theatres?

  2. Alexandra Heilbron • July 27, 2022 @ 10:50 AM

    Hi Pat, no, it’s on HBO Max and it’s now on DVD if you don’t get HBO Max.

  3. Pat Hart • July 28, 2022 @ 2:10 AM

    How do you get the series? Is it at the theatres?

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