India, 1932. As the story begins, the British colonial administrators, along with their families and staff, are beginning their annual trek to the mountain station of Simla to escape the torrid Indian summer. We are introduced to Ralph, secretary to the Viceroy (a powerful position in an era when the Viceroy was usually an English aristocrat who knew little about the country); Ralph’s sister, Alice, just back from England with a toddler son in tow; and Ralph’s new Indian clerk, Afrin. Each of them has Secrets. And, because it’s that kind of program, Alice and Afrin fall in love. Uh-oh.
It seems as though someone decided to manufacture a successful program by combining the best features of Downton Abbey and The Jewel in the Crown. Unfortunately, they picked the wrong features. The setting are beautiful, and the period costumes carefully done. But without good writing, and sympathetic characters, all you’ve got is a bunch of silly twits who seem to do little but drink, party, and gossip, all the while lording it over their Indian servants who do all the work. The end of the Raj can’t come soon enough.
This show isn’t bad, exactly. Some of the minor characters and storylines are actually pretty good, although you never get enough of them. But the series commits the cardinal sin for programs of this type — most of the time, it’s just boring.