The Gilded Age
GenreHistorical drama
Created byJulian Fellowes
Written by
  • Julian Fellowes
  • Sonja Warfield
Directed by
Starring
Composers
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes17
Production
Executive producers
Producers
  • Holly Rymon
  • Claire M. Shanley
Running time46–80 minutes
Production companies
Original release
NetworkHBO
ReleaseJanuary 24, 2022 (2022-01-24) –
present (present)
Title card

The Gilded Age is an American historical drama television series created and written by Julian Fellowes for HBO that is set in the United States during the Gilded Age, the boom years of the 1880s in New York City. Originally announced in 2018 for NBC, it was later announced in May 2019 that the show was moved to HBO.[1] The first season premiered on January 24, 2022,[2] and the second on October 29, 2023.[3] In December 2023, the series was renewed for a third season.[4] The series has received mostly positive reviews, with particular praise for the costumes, cast and performances of lead actors Carrie Coon, Morgan Spector, Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski.

The series follows a young woman entering 1882 New York City's rigid social scene who is drawn into the daily conflicts surrounding the new money Russell family and the old money van Rhijn-Brook family. The two are neighbors across 61st Street near Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side of New York. The series also shows conflicts faced by the upper and upper middle classes, the African-American upper class, and the domestic workers who tend to all of their needs.

Cast and characters

Main

Recurring

Guest

Episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
19January 24, 2022 (2022-01-24)March 21, 2022 (2022-03-21)
28October 29, 2023 (2023-10-29)December 17, 2023 (2023-12-17)

Season 1 (2022)

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateU.S. viewers
(millions)
11"Never the New"Michael EnglerJulian FellowesJanuary 24, 2022 (2022-01-24)0.463[9]
In 1882 New York City, industrialist George Russell moves into an elaborate Stanford White-designed mansion with his wife, Bertha, and their young-adult children, Larry and Gladys. Across the street, sisters Agnes van Rhijn and Ada Brook await the arrival of their niece Marian Brook, who is leaving Doylestown, Pennsylvania following her bankrupted father's death. Peggy Scott, a graduate of the Institute for Colored Youth, offers assistance when Marian's purse and train ticket are stolen. Marian's aunts allow Peggy to stay over during inclement weather. Agnes later offers Peggy employment as her secretary. Peggy's mother, Dorothy, wants Peggy to reconcile with her estranged father. Agnes' son, Oscar, meets Larry Russell at a party hosted by socialite Mamie Fish. Both meet Marian upon returning to New York. Bertha attempts to break into high society by hosting a lavish party, which Marian secretly attends. No one notable shows up, shunning Bertha, who vows revenge.
22"Money Isn't Everything"Michael EnglerJulian FellowesJanuary 31, 2022 (2022-01-31)0.598[10]
Marian's young Doylestown lawyer, Tom Raikes, has moved to New York City for a new position. He is romantically interested in Marian. Aspiring writer Peggy has sent query letters to publishers without receiving any replies. Marian arranges for Peggy to consult with Tom regarding a legal matter. Meanwhile, Bertha offers her ballroom for Mrs. Morris and Mrs. Fane's upcoming charity bazaar. Instead, they hold it in an expensive hotel solely to snub Bertha. Offended, Bertha and George attend the bazaar where George proceeds to buy everything and has it immediately delivered to his home, effectively ending the event. George makes a deal with Alderman Patrick Morris, in which Morris and other aldermen will buy George's company stock on margin, then pass a law allowing George to build a new train station in the city, resulting in huge profits for everyone.
33"Face the Music"Salli Richardson WhitfieldJulian FellowesFebruary 7, 2022 (2022-02-07)0.542[11]
George learns the law will not pass and that the aldermen are manipulating the stock to their advantage. The legislators sell short, promising to deliver shares at a lower price expecting them to go down. In retaliation, George buys back as much company stock as possible, driving the aldermen into poverty by forcing them to buy at the now higher price. Peggy declines the Christian Advocate's offer to publish her story due to their racist conditions. Oscar van Rhijn plans to court Gladys Russell, much to his lover John Adams's chagrin. Ada's former suitor, Cornelius Eckhard, calls on her. Years earlier, Ada's father turned him away, knowing Eckhard considered Ada a "meal ticket." When Agnes informs Eckhard that Ada has no money, his pursuit ends. Tom proposes to Marian. She withholds giving a definitive answer, knowing Agnes would oppose the match. The aldermen beg George to stop inflating his company's stock price, but he is merciless. Facing financial ruin, Alderman Morris kills himself.
44"A Long Ladder"Salli Richardson WhitfieldJulian FellowesFebruary 14, 2022 (2022-02-14)0.604[12]
George offers to help the Fanes financially recover from the stocks debacle on condition that Aurora helps introduce Bertha into the old money circles. New York Globe editor T. Thomas Fortune hires Peggy to write an article about political affiliations. Bannister has an opportunity to see the Russell house and make disparaging comments about the way the house is run when he retrieves Ada's lost dog. Sylvia Chamberlain, a widow, tainted by rumors that she was her late husband's mistress, attempts to befriend Marian. Turner, Bertha's maid, is rebuffed when she attempts to seduce George. Bridget tells Mrs. Bauer that she was sexually abused as a child which her mother did not stop. While visiting her parents in Brooklyn, Peggy argues with her father. Marian arrives unannounced with used shoes, intending it as charity and which offends the Scotts. While attending a concert for the Red Cross with Bertha and the Fanes, Marian runs into Tom. She insists he must win over her aunts before she will accept his marriage proposal.
55"Charity Has Two Functions"Salli Richardson WhitfieldJulian FellowesFebruary 21, 2022 (2022-02-21)0.631[13]
George persuades Bertha to invite Gladys's suitor, Archie Baldwin, to dinner. Peggy has not forgiven Marian's assumptions that her family was poor. Mrs. Armstrong visits her cruel and abusive invalid mother in a small tenement apartment. Bertha wants Ward McAllister's assistance in climbing the social ladder. Aurora, Bertha, Marian, and Tom travel to Dansville to hear Clara Barton speak at a Red Cross branch opening. Peggy accompanies them to write an article for The Globe and also watch over Marian at Agnes's request. Miss Barton notes how wealthy people use charity to enhance their social standing. Tom kisses Marian, and Peggy purposefully interrupts them. Privately, Peggy tells Marian that she once fell in love but her father disapproved. Marian apologizes for assuming Peggy's family needed charity. Oscar recruits Turner as a spy in his quest to marry Gladys. George gives Archie an ultimatum: accept a lucrative job that George has arranged with J. & W. Seligman & Co. and stop pursuing Gladys, or refuse and never work in finance again. Archie, shaken, abruptly leaves. Richard Clay informs George that a company train derailed outside Millbourne, Pennsylvania and casualties are still uncertain. George and Bertha prepare to address the crisis.
66"Heads Have Rolled for Less"Salli Richardson WhitfieldJulian FellowesFebruary 28, 2022 (2022-02-28)0.682[14]
With five people confirmed dead, George sets out to discover the train derailment's cause, eventually learning that someone inside his company passed off substandard axles as new. Bertha is voted onto the Red Cross board, enraging Anne Morris. Peggy's interview with Clara Barton increases the Globe's subscriptions. Gladys and Carrie Astor bond at a party hosted by Mamie Fish, with Carrie making suggestions for Gladys' debutante ball. Marian juggles keeping secret Larry's wanting to become an architect and eliciting a Red Cross donation from Mrs. Chamberlain, who confirms the rumors regarding her and her husband. Bertha hires van Rhijn butler Bannister to serve an English-style luncheon for Ward McAllister, greatly offending Church, the Russell's butler. When Agnes receives an anonymous note exposing Bannister, she interrupts the luncheon, then leaves. Armstrong witnesses Oscar meeting with Turner outside the Russell house and reports back to Agnes. Bertha learns a railroad employee is claiming George instructed him to use the substandard axles.
77"Irresistible Change"Michael EnglerJulian FellowesMarch 7, 2022 (2022-03-07)0.750[15]
George unveils plans for a new electric-powered train station. George refuses Larry's request to study architecture but later reconsiders. Bertha sets a date for Gladys's debutante ball. George may face manslaughter charges for the train crash. Agnes sends Marian to inform Bertha that Turner may be having an affair, but withholds Oscar's name. Bertha catches Turner flirting with Larry and dismisses her. Agnes remains unconvinced that Tom would be suitable husband. The city readies for Thomas Edison's electric power distribution ceremony, during which he will activate his Pearl Street generating station. Marian stays home when Bertha instead completes her electric event party with Tom and Cissie Bingham (rumored illegitimate daughter of Henry Flagler). Peggy attends the event with Fortune. Edison turns on his electric lights to everyone's amazement.
88"Tucked Up in Newport"Michael EnglerJulian FellowesMarch 14, 2022 (2022-03-14)0.701[16]
George prepares for trial while Bertha plans Gladys's debutante ball. Oscar travels to Newport with the Russell family to court Gladys, but John Adams thwarts him. Aurora distrusts Tom, but Marian accepts his marriage proposal and they plan to elope. Watson, George's valet, has been watching Mrs. Flora McNeil's home. When she asks him why, he introduces himself as "Collyer," causing her to quickly leave. Miss Armstrong intercepts Tom's letter to Peggy, forcing Peggy to reveal to the van Rhijn-Brook family that she bore a stillborn son and her father forcibly annulled her marriage. Agnes will not fire Armstrong, so Peggy resigns. Bridget finds Jack at his mother's grave. He reveals all his family members are dead or estranged. Through Marian, George Russell discovers his stenographer, Miss Ainsley, and George Dixon framed him for negligence and the charges are dismissed. McCallister takes Bertha to see Mrs. Astor's grand Newport home while she is out. When Mrs. Astor returns early, Bertha makes a hasty exit out the back.
99"Let the Tournament Begin"Michael EnglerJulian FellowesMarch 21, 2022 (2022-03-21)0.813[17]
Bertha is turned away when calling upon Mrs. Astor. Insulted, she rescinds Carrie Astor's invitation to Gladys's debutante ball unless Mrs. Astor also attends. Carrie is upset over being disinvited. Marian prepares to elope with Tom, assisted by Peggy and Sylvia. Monsieur Baudin confesses that he is a French-trained chef from Wichita, Kansas, named Josh Borden. Despite George's protests, Bertha fires him. Tom jilts Marion to instead marry into money. Peggy learns her father lied and that her infant son did not die and was adopted. She and her mother leave for Philadelphia to search for him. George and Bertha employ every tactic to entice the old-money crowd to attend their ball. Mrs. Astor makes amends by agreeing to come and persuade friends to also attend, including the van Rhijn-Brooks. The ball is nearly derailed when Borden's replacement chef gets drunk, but Borden returns to help. The ball is a success and George rehires Borden. Ada comforts broken-hearted Marian, assuring her better days are ahead.

Season 2 (2023)

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateU.S. viewers
(millions) [18]
101"You Don't Even Like Opera"Michael EnglerJulian FellowesOctober 29, 2023 (2023-10-29)0.452
In 1883, juxtaposed Easter Sunday services are held: the Scotts at a Black congregation in Philadelphia, and the other for affluent residents (including the Astors, the Russells, and the van Rhijns) on Upper East Side Manhattan. Reverend Luke Forte is the new rector. Widower Dashiell Montgomery, Agnes's nephew by marriage, is moving to New York with young daughter, Frances. Marian learns that Tom Raikes will be married. Snubbed by Mrs. Astor's opera community, Bertha supports the new Metropolitan Opera over the senior Academy of Music. She wants the nouveau riche to buy opera boxes and later attract the old-money crowd. George and other robber barons face labor issues. Oscar arrives at Agnes's house bloodied after a homosexual encounter. Oscar, wanting a rich wife and to propagate the van Rhijn line, proposes to Gladys, promising independence (while secretly maintaining his gay life). At her dinner for key opera patrons, Bertha surprises guests with a famous opera singer, which prominently displays Bertha's growing influence. Peggy meets the Philadelphia family that adopted her son.
112"Some Sort of Trick"Deborah KampmeierJulian FellowesNovember 5, 2023 (2023-11-05)0.355
Gladys refuses to go to Newport until Oscar's marriage proposal is settled. George, knowing Oscar's true intent, convinces Gladys to marry for love rather than to escape her domineering mother. Marian refuses to quit teaching watercolor classes after Agnes disapproves. Agnes warns Armstrong to treat Peggy respectfully when she resumes her secretarial job. In Newport, wealthy widow Susan Blane hires Larry to renovate her home. Their relationship becomes romantic, to Bertha's disapproval. Aurora Fane attempts to match Marian with Edward Morgan, a drunken, dandified bore. When Chicago iron and steel workers strike for better pay and working conditions, George intends to avoid similar problems at his Pittsburgh mills by bribing the union representative. The Russells are shocked that the wealthy Mr. Winterton's new wife, Enid, is Bertha's former maid, Turner. Ada is smitten with the unmarried Rev. Forte.
123"Head to Head"Michael EnglerJulian Fellowes & Sonja WarfieldNovember 12, 2023 (2023-11-12)0.513
The Opera War between Bertha and Mrs. Astor intensifies. Bertha eagerly anticipates the Duke of Buckingham's impending New York visit. Dashiell courts Marian. Bertha maneuvers to force New York's elite to choose between supporting the Academy of Music or The Met. Mrs. Astor recruits Agnes to help generate support for the Academy of Music. Pittsburgh union leader Mr. Henderson, rejects George's attempt to bribe him and bust the union. Bertha angrily confronts George after Mrs. Winterton (Turner) mentions their previous encounter. Bertha believes George that nothing happened but is furious he withheld this. Peggy is assigned to cover the dormitory opening at a Black school in Tuskegee, Alabama, but the Scotts worry she is naive about racism. Playwright Oscar Wilde, in New York for his play, is attracted to John Adams, Oscar van Rhijn's former lover. Watson's wealthy son-in-law, Mr. McNeil, offers him financial support if he permanently moves away. Watson insists that his daughter Flora make the request. Ada discreetly spends time with Reverend Forte.
134"His Grace the Duke"Deborah KampmeierJulian FellowesNovember 19, 2023 (2023-11-19)0.482
Aurora Fane, Mrs. Winterton, and others tour the unfinished Metropolitan Opera House with Bertha. Bertha hopes they and others will purchase boxes. Mr. Gilbert informs Bertha that financial issues have halted construction, though the matter is resolved soon after. At Bertha's insistence, Mrs. Blane ends her relationship with Larry. Meanwhile, Ada accepts Forte's marriage proposal, and Oscar sets his matrimonial sights on the wealthy Maude Beaton, rumored to be Jay Gould's illegitimate daughter. After Mrs. Astor asks Mr. Winterton to surrender his Academy of Music opera box because his wife (Turner) is considered unsuitable, he vows to support The Met. At a dinner party, Bertha swaps dining table name cards to place herself next to the Duke of Buckingham, bumping Mrs. Winterton. The Duke accepts Bertha's invitation to stay at their Newport house, infuriating Mrs. Winterton who had invited him. In Tuskegee, Peggy and Fortune stay with Booker T. Washington and his wife. George and other business owners conspire to subvert impending labor strikes.
145"Close Enough to Touch"Michael EnglerJulian Fellowes & Sonja WarfieldNovember 26, 2023 (2023-11-26)0.510
Two devious servants attempt to sabotage the Russells' lavish dinner party for the Duke of Buckingham, but Watson's and Church's quick actions avert a disaster. The dinner's success vexes Mrs. Winterton, who orchestrated the scheme to ruin it. Marian and Oscar are happy when Ada becomes engaged to Rev. Forte, but Agnes opposes it. When Agnes admits she fears being alone, Forte assures her that he and Ada will never leave New York. Oscar meets businessman, Mr. Crowther, whose group is buying out the Chicago-Atlantic Railroad, which Miss Beaton is invested in. Oscar decides to invest. At a Tuskegee restaurant, two White men threaten Black diners. After Fortune pushes back, he and Peggy flee. While hiding, they share a romantic kiss. George sends Larry to a trustees' meeting regarding the Brooklyn Bridge's unveiling. Larry discovers that Washington Roebling's wife, Emily has been heading the project for her ill husband. Agnes relents and attends Forte and Ada's wedding.
156"Warning Shots"Crystle RobersonJulian FellowesDecember 3, 2023 (2023-12-03)0.593
Mrs. Winterton demands Bertha's center opera box in exchange for supporting The Met. Bannister writes the Russells after observing an inebriated Church; he retrieves the unopened letter and ends their feud after learning Church was despondent on the 30th anniversary of his wife's death. Mr. Bannister and other staff, as well as Marion and Mrs. van Rhijn, donate money for Jack's alarm clock patent application. However, the patent is initially declined because Jack does not belong to a clockmaker society. After a quick profit, Oscar invests more money into Mr. Crowther's railroad company. Peggy asks Fortune to investigate the New York Education Board closing the Black schools. George, who secretly financed the Met's completion, secretly forces Mr. Gilbert to give Bertha the center box, usurping Mrs. Winterton. Bertha hopes to score a social coup by hosting the Duke in her box at the Met opening. Dashiell stuns Marian into accepting his surprise public marriage proposal. Shortly after his and Ada's honeymoon, Forte is diagnosed with cancer. George is prepared to use violence against striking steelworkers to install scabs. He relents after seeing workers' miserable conditions.
167"Wonders Never Cease"Michael EnglerJulian Fellowes & Sonja WarfieldDecember 10, 2023 (2023-12-10)0.584
After giving labor concessions, George schemes to break the steelworkers' union. Mrs. Astor offers Bertha a Music Academy opera box. George, suspecting Astor wants to undermine Bertha's growing influence, encourages his wife to stay with the Met. To keep the Black schools open, the administrators consider partnering with Irish teachers to attract poor white students. At the reception for the Brooklyn Bridge opening, Larry praises Mrs. Roebling's leadership. Agnes plans Marian's wedding just as Luke's health worsens. Oscar intends to propose to Miss Beaton, only to discover that she, Mr. Crowther, and his investment have disappeared. Watson's daughter, Flora, says she never wanted him to leave New York. He will receive a pension and be part of her family. Bannister helps Jack obtain entry into a watchmakers' guild, allowing his patent application to be accepted. Agnes thanks Luke for making Ada happy. He dies soon after. Oscar tells Agnes he has lost nearly all the van Rhijn money.
178"In Terms of Winning and Losing"Michael EnglerJulian FellowesDecember 17, 2023 (2023-12-17)0.686
In October of 1883, as the two opera houses' simultaneous opening nights approach, patrons must choose which to support. When Mrs. Astor poaches the Duke as her guest at the Music Academy, Bertha schemes to win him back. Following Oscar's financial disaster, Ada, Agnes, and Marian prepare to sell their house. Marian ends her and Dashiell's engagement, citing their wide differences. The New York Educational Board secretly attempts to close all Black schools, but the administrators thwart them, saving two of three. When Jack's clock patent is approved, Larry suggests they form a partnership. Marian attends the Met as the Russells' guest, annoying Agnes. Watson is leaving the Russell household and Peggy quits her job at The Globe. Mrs. Winterton learns she has lost the center opera box. The Duke arrives at the Met as Bertha's guest, though it is unknown how she enticed him. Most patrons choose the Met, leaving the Academy sparsely attended and cementing Bertha's triumph. Mrs. Bruce and chef Borden also attend the Met, thanks to Bertha's generosity. Ada discovers Forte was secretly wealthy, allowing the family to keep the house, and changing Ada and Agnes' relationship. Larry and Marian share a romantic kiss.

Production

Development

In September 2012, The Daily Telegraph reported Julian Fellowes as saying that he was working on a spin-off prequel of Downton Abbey. Initially conceived as a book, it was then planned for pick-up by ITV. At the time, Fellowes planned to focus the show around Lord Grantham and Cora's romance and eventual marriage as the Earl and Countess of Grantham.[19]

Production and writing for The Gilded Age was updated in January 2016. Asked whether he'd written the script yet, Fellowes said, 'No I haven't, no. I'm doing that this year', before adding: 'And then hopefully shooting at the end of the year.'"[20]

On June 4, 2016, Fellowes was asked by the Los Angeles Times, "Where does The Gilded Age stand?" Fellowes replied, "It stands really with me up to my neck in research, and I'm clearing the decks, so that when I start Gilded Age, I'm only doing Gilded Age. These people were extraordinary. You can see why they frightened the old guard, because they saw no boundaries. They wanted to build a palace, they built a palace. They wanted to buy a yacht, they bought a yacht. And the old guard in New York weren't like that at all, and suddenly this whirlwind of couture descended on their heads. They redesigned being rich. They created a rich culture that we still have—people who are rich are rich in a way that was established in America in the 1880s, '90s, 1900s. It was different from Europe. Something like Newport would never have happened in any other country, where you have huge palaces, and then about 20 yards away, another huge palace, and 20 yards beyond that another huge palace. In England right up to the 1930s, when people made good money, they would buy an estate of 5,000 acres and they'd have to look after Nanny. The Americans of the 1880s and '90s didn't want too much of that."[21]

The final confirmation the show would be produced was announced by NBC in January 2018.[22] NBC originally announced that the show would consist of ten episodes and premiere in 2019.[22][23] About the show, Fellowes stated: "To write The Gilded Age is the fulfillment of a personal dream, I have been fascinated by this period of American history for many years and now NBC has given me the chance to bring it to a modern audience. I could not be more excited and thrilled. The truth is, America is a wonderful country with a rich and varied history, and nothing could give me more pleasure than be the person to bring that compelling history to the screen."[24]

In May 2019, the series moved from NBC to HBO, with a straight to series order.[25] The series premiered on January 24, 2022, and consists of nine episodes.[2]

On February 14, 2022, HBO renewed the series for a second season.[3]

On December 21, 2023, HBO renewed the series for a third season.[4]

Casting

In September 2019, the production announced an initial cast consisting of Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, Amanda Peet, and Morgan Spector.[26]

In November 2019, it was announced that Denée Benton, Louisa Jacobson, Taissa Farmiga, Blake Ritson, and Simon Jones would be joining the show.[27] In January 2020, Harry Richardson, Thomas Cocquerel, and Jack Gilpin were cast as series regulars, with Jeanne Tripplehorn cast in a recurring role.[28][29]

In April, Carrie Coon was cast as Bertha Russell to replace Peet because of delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.[30] This caused the costuming team to change their approach, using the way Coon presents herself as inspiration for more metallic-colored dresses intended to evoke the burgeoning machine age.[31]

In January 2021, Nathan Lane joined the cast in a recurring role.[32]

In April 2022, it was announced several members of the recurring cast had been upgraded to series regular status for the second season while Cocquerel will exit the series.[33]

Filming

Backlot at Bethpage, Long Island

Following the move to HBO, the series was expected to begin filming in March 2020,[34][35] before the COVID-19 pandemic delayed production.

Filming of the series began in Newport, Rhode Island in February 2021, at the mansions Chateau-sur-Mer, The Elms, and The Breakers.[36] A casting call for Rhode Islanders to work as extras on the series was made in December 2020 prior to the production setting up in the city.[37]

In April 2021, filming continued at the Lyndhurst mansion in Tarrytown, New York and the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, New York. In May 2021, filming continued in Troy, New York in its Central Troy Historic District, where multiple city blocks were transformed to resemble a Victorian era street.[38]

During filming, a horse died on set and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked for an investigation.[39] HBO subsequently issued a statement confirming the death in late June, saying, "a horse collapsed and died, likely of natural causes, according to a veterinarian’s preliminary findings."[40]

Filming for season two began in August 2022 at various locations around White Plains, New York, including Manhattanville College's Reid Hall,[41] which was used for various locations, including offices, a home parlor and an art gallery/museum. Reid Hall was designed by Stanford White and built in 1892 for the family of newspaper publisher and diplomat, Whitelaw Reid.

Other New York locations included Albany, Cohoes, Troy and on Long Island, and the series also filmed in Philadelphia. Scenes set at Susan Blade's home were filmed at Kingscote in Newport.[42][43] The street backlot is near to Old Bethpage, New York in Long Island.[44]

The third season is set to begin filming in June or July 2024.[45]

Controversy

On May 21, 2021, the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) filed a charge for unfair labor practices against HBO and its Gilded Age production. The union claimed musicians were fired after asking they be represented by AFM.[46] Two days later HBO agreed to cover the members "on an AFM basis".[47]

Real-life events

Although The Gilded Age is a work of fiction, Julian Fellowes worked to accurately represent certain realities of the time period.[48]

Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, also known as "The" Mrs. Astor, ruled New York society in the late nineteenth century. Descending from Dutch settlers, the "knickerbocker" married relatively new money William Backhouse Astor Jr. At the time the series takes place, Astor (Donna Murphy) and her husband are largely estranged. Dismayed by the chaos caused by the end of the Civil War and the rise of new money, and armed with her own distinguished lineage and her husband's fortune, she became the gatekeeper to high society.[49] She and her associate Ward McAllister (Nathan Lane) decreed that members of respectable society must be separated by at least three generations from the origin of the family fortune, as she herself was. McAllister, Mrs. Astor's right-hand man, spent years across the Atlantic absorbing culture, details of European courts, and society news. Although some recognized his devotion to preserving elegance and tradition, others[who?] saw him as an unapologetic snob.[citation needed]

Two characters, Bertha and George Russell (Carrie Coon and Morgan Spector), appear to be at least partly based on the formidable Alva and William K. Vanderbilt. Alva Erskine Vanderbilt (later Alva Belmont) came from a wealthy Mobile, Alabama, family that lost its money after the Civil War. Determined to regain her social status, she married a scion of the immensely wealthy Vanderbilt family in 1875, but the Vanderbilts were considered too "new money" by Caroline Astor and were largely ignored. In order to ascend to the upper echelons of society, Alva Vanderbilt set out to impress Caroline Astor. Among her strategies, she hired society architect Richard Morris Hunt to build a luxurious mansion on Fifth Avenue, then hosted an enormous, extravagant ball for 1,000 as a "house-warming." The details of the festivities were leaked in advance to the press, and young society waited breathlessly for the upcoming ball — including Caroline Astor's daughter, Carrie. Caroline Astor was forced to call on Alva Vanderbilt to ensure her daughter received an invitation. The ball a success, the family was officially welcomed into New York high society.[50]

Other historical figures who appear in the series include Clara Barton (Linda Emond), founder of the American Red Cross, and T. Thomas Fortune (Sullivan Jones), a man born into slavery who would become one of the leading Black journalists of his day. In his editorials, he wrote passionately about civil rights and denounced racial segregation and discrimination. He also helped found a predecessor to the NAACP, the Afro-American League.[51]

Release

The series premiered on January 24, 2022, on HBO and HBO Max. In Australia, Paramount+ acquired the series as a "Paramount+ Exclusive", premiering on January 26, 2022. This also marks the first time a recent HBO series has skipped Foxtel in Australia, premiering on a non-Foxtel service as Foxtel has an output deal for HBO shows.[52]

Home media

The first season was released on DVD, on July 26, 2022.[53]

Reception

Critical response

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On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the first season holds a 79% approval rating based on 76 reviews, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Julian Fellowes' brand of upstairs, downstairs intrigue makes a seamless transatlantic transition in The Gilded Age, with an outstanding cast making the travails of the rich a compelling watch."[54] At Metacritic, the season has a score of 68 out of 100, based on 38 reviews.[55]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the second season holds a 94% approval rating based on 31 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "More topical than before while also owning its frivolous appeal with unapologetic splendor, Julian Fellowes' operatic soap enters its own halcyon age."[56] On Metacritic, the season has a score of 73 out of 100, based on 21 reviews.[57]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2022
Hollywood Critics Association TV Awards Best Cable Network Series, Drama The Gilded Age Nominated [58]
Best Writing in a Broadcast Network or Cable Series, Drama Julian Fellowes (for "Face the Music") Nominated
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More) Bob Shaw, Larry Brown, Laura Ballinger Gardner,
and Regina Graves (for "Never the New")
Won [59]
Set Decorators Society of America Awards Best Achievement in Décor/Design of a One Hour Period Series Regina Graves and Bob Shaw Nominated [60]
2023
Satellite Awards Best Actress in a Drama / Genre Series Carrie Coon Nominated [61]
Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Cynthia Nixon Nominated
Art Directors Guild Awards Excellence in Production Design for a One-Hour Period Single-Camera Series Bob Shaw (for "Never the New") Nominated [62]
Costume Designers Guild Awards Excellence in Period Television Kasia Walicka-Maimone (for "Let the Tournament Begin") Nominated [63]
2024
Art Directors Guild Awards Excellence in Production Design for a One-Hour Period Single-Camera Series Bob Shaw (for "His Grace the Duke", "Close Enough to Touch", "Warning Shots") Nominated [64]
Costume Designers Guild Awards Excellence in Period Television Kasia Walicka Maimone and Patrick Wiley (for "You Don't Even Like Opera") Nominated [65]
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Various[a] Nominated [66]
Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Best Period and/or Character Hair Styling Sean Flanigan, Christine Fennell-Harlan, Jonathan Sharpless, Aaron Kinchen Nominated [67]

Notes

References

  1. ^ Keene, Allison (January 31, 2018). "'Downton Abbey' Creator Julian Fellowes' New Drama 'The Gilded Age' Heads to NBC". Collider. Archived from the original on February 1, 2018. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
  2. ^ a b White, Peter (November 18, 2021). "'The Gilded Age': HBO Unveils First-Look & Sets Premiere For Julian Fellowes Period Drama". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on November 21, 2021. Retrieved November 18, 2021.
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