‘TV’s Top 5’: Julian Fellowes on His ‘Downton Abbey’ Follow-Up ‘The Gilded Age’

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Welcome to the 152nd episode of TV’s Top 5, The Hollywood Reporter’s TV podcast.

Every week, hosts Lesley Goldberg (West Coast TV editor) and Daniel Fienberg (chief TV critic) break down the latest TV news with context from the business and critical sides, welcome showrunners, executives and other guests, and provide a critical guide of what to watch (or skip, as the case may be).

More from The Hollywood Reporter

In this week’s episode, we are joined by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes to discuss his decade-long road to HBO’s The Gilded Age. Plus, we run through the week’s big headlines, look at changes at YouTube and dive deep into the latest Peak TV numbers.

Here’s how episode 152 plays out:

1. Headlines.
Amazon’s Lord of the Rings gets a formal title that feels as if it came from a test audience in Vegas…. Apple dives into the Monsterverse.… Star Trek’s future solidified at Paramount+…. The White Lotus updates.… CBS finally calls it on Bull and more of our thoughts on the week’s top news.

2. YouTube calls it quits on originals.
This segment explores the future for Google-backed YouTube after head of originals Susanne Daniels opted to exit the streamer. After the platform bailed on scripted originals, we look at what this week’s big changes mean for YouTube going forward.

3. Peak TV update.
Holy crap, there were 559 live-action, English-language scripted originals in 2021. If that feels like a lot, it’s because it was a new record, according to FX’s research department. After the pandemic paused production and forced total volume to its first downturn in more than a decade, scripted originals jumped 13 percent. And that’s not even counting fare like Squid Game, American Idol or kids programming.

4. Showrunner Spotlight.
Julian Fellowes
joins us for an interview about the decade-long path to HBO’s The Gilded Age. The Downton Abbey creator discusses how former NBC boss Robert Greenblatt championed the period drama and ultimately took the series with him when he signed on for a top role at WarnerMedia. Fellowes says he was unable to begin work on Gilded Age until after he wrapped Downton Abbey, with the production also stalled by the global pandemic in 2020. While the show has had a long road to the screen, Fellowes says the nature of what he wanted to do never changed when it was at NBC to what will debut Monday on HBO. “It was the same idea,” he says. “[NBC] chose to announce it years before I was free to actually write it.” As for the move, Fellowes — who also discusses the differences in developing a series for a U.S. distributor and the notes process that comes with it — says he’s happy that it ultimately landed at HBO. It was “unreasonable” to ask a broadcast network to devote a sizable budget to cover period sets and costumes and, “if I’m honest, it seemed a very natural fit when we arrived at HBO,” he says.” The 40-minute interview also addresses the sprawling cast, the painstaking research Fellowes did to explore New York in the 1880s, and if there’s a world in which The Gilded Age and Downton Abbey could ever connect. “I never saw the series as connected because The Gilded Age starts 30 years before Downton Abbey,” he explains. “I’m not saying I would never have a character from Downton Abbey at some point, but these are two completely separate shows.”

5. Critic’s Corner.
As usual, every episode ends with Dan offering his reviews of what to watch in the week ahead. In this episode, he reviews Ozark’s final season, Amazon’s Jason Katims dramedy As We See It, The Gilded Age and more.

Hear it all now on TV’s Top 5. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to never miss an episode. (Reviews welcome!) You can also email us with any topics or Mailbag questions you’d like addressed in future episodes at TVsTop5@THR.com.

Coming next week:Somebody Somewhere star and exec producer Bridget Everett joins us to discuss her new HBO comedy.

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