Downton Abbey. I can hear the theme song in my head – and see the servants bell ringing in the opening…can you?
This series has taken the world by storm. Seems like every other Tweet and FB feed were about the latest observations of the show on Sunday nights these past few months.- Whether furious cries of verble rotten tomatoes or swells of rapturous praise, the casual replays peppered our lives come Monday morning.
So now that the show is on hiatus, I thought I’d take us all back to turn-of-the-century England and try to solve the riddle of just why this show seems to have captured the rapt attention of the western hemisphere. Don’t hate me by the end – just leave your own opinion. I’d love to hear it!
Ok. So I first heard about the show from some friends (several actually) who knew my tastes and thought I’d like it. Well they were right about the BBC part, and my love of period English pieces – at first I was smitten. But when the first season was riddled with two love affairs and a scandalous death right off the bat – my enchantment was snuffed out quite abruptly.
Now let me stop and talk about my taste in entertainment a little more here: I am probably in the minority (as I am in most of life), but when I sit down to watch something, I want to get up from it feeling better than I did before I watched it. I want inspiration, sweetness, kindness, love. I like mysteries, fantasies, and adventures. I don’t want to watch injustice, degradation, slanderous offenses, affairs, or tragedies. Yes, life is hard, and reality can be dark, but I just don’t like depressing movies/shows. There is enough of that around me in everyday life thankyouverymuch. When I want to be entertained, I want to escape that. I’m also a terrible snob for good acting, good music, and a well-written script.
Do you hate me yet?
Ok, so back to Downton. There is much I love about the show: I love the setting – the beautiful estate in old-world England. The clothes (well, except for a few of Lady Mary’s hideous frocks), the decor, the overall feel of the set…it’s everything rich, and lush, and delicious!
I love Anna and Bates, I love Lady Sybil for breaking free of the social mold to become who she was created to be. I love cousin Isobel for challenging everyone out of their comfort zone. I love Carson – we all need a Carson in our lives. But most of all, I love the Dowager Countess for delighting us with her abundant one liners every week. Maggie Smith is truly the gem of the show!
Now let’s take a turn around the corner and examine the flip side, shall we?
As far as moral taste goes, my biggest qualm is with the way people treat each other at Downton. Ranging from petty cattishness to evil underhanded attempts to ruin each others lives, hopes, and dreams. The everyday interaction between the three sisters is so nauseating to me – mostly in Season 1. Perhaps because I too have two sisters, I don’t know. But it just eats me up inside to watch. – Not to mention the insufferable O’Brien and Thomas. They make my teeth hurt just seeing them onscreen. How can two people be so conniving and never be found out, and for heaven’s sake, why didn’t they just LEAVE if they were so unhappy instead of being out to get everyone in their world? Granted: O’Brien does seem to have a bit of a change of heart in the second season, but only a bit – and I think it was entirely guilt driven… – I’ll stop there with my two biggest beefs…
Ok. Moving onto the actual writing of the show: some of the story lines were brilliant and moving – I love how Lady Mary seems to genuinely treat Lavinia in a very difficult love-triangle (I love him, but he loves her). I love how Lady Edith blossoms in Season 2. I love how the Dowager Countess is so old fashioned, yet more open minded to new ideas than much of the cast. I love how they portray the helpless feeling of Lord Grantham during the war – and I can see there being much truth in the way that he felt.
BUT, oh dear goodness, BUT: There are story lines that seem so dreadfully out of place, and so dreadfully underdeveloped they don’t have a place on a show the apparent caliber of DA at all. For example: All second season we know that Daisy regrets marrying poor William. And that story lines goes NOWHERE until the very last episode. Every week we see her wringing her hands, and Mrs. Padmore encouraging her that she did the right thing. Beating a dead horse through six installments until they figure out what-in-the-world to do with her. – Another example is Thomas: who in my opinion, they could’ve kicked off the show with no great loss, but instead they keep him around all season and during 85% of the show all we ever see him doing is sitting (or standing) around smoking. We never once see what his big job as “manager” of the house is. Seems like all he does is laze about and make my teeth hurt. Why keep a character around that you won’t give a story line to? Then there’s Ethel – the wayward servant: she’s another they just drug along so we could see a glimpse of her in her little shack with the baby, being brought food by Mrs. Hughes every episode, but her story never develops – until the very end. – What about the elusive Patrick? He waltzes into the story, stirs us all up, and then leaves before the credits roll. We never hear another word about him again. – Strange. Or in the first season, the maid that Lady Sibyl helps get a secretarial job…that seems like such a disjointed storyline – we never hear from her again after investing much time in rooting for her success. – Although I love the Anna/Bates love story, am I the only one who is rolling my eyes at how dreadfully long it’s taking to come to any kind of conclusive settlement? That dear former Mrs. Bates who nobody can seem to take care of. Too much drama in one story line – they should’ve dispersed it among some of the others to make them more fascinating! – Then there’s Cora. Who in the world is Cora? We never really know, because they don’t seem to care to tell us.
Alright – that’s enough jabber from me. I know this is a long post, but if I know your fascination with Downton, you’ll have read all the way to the very end! And now I want your opinions:
Do you agree with me on any point? What are your likes/dislikes about the show? What would you change if you could? Why is it so darn addictive? What are its redeeming qualities? The floor is yours!