Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Addicted to Downton Abbey

The mother's been trying to get me to watch Downton Abbey for the past two years. About two or three weeks ago, having exhausted every other TV series I had, I finally played the first episode.

I'm hooked.

Downton Abbey is a country estate in Yorkshire that belongs to the Earl and Countess of Grantham. The British series follows the lives of the Earl's family and servants, and is set during the reign of King George V. The primary plot line of the series is the question of inheritance, since Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) has no sons. Who will the heir to the estate be? Will he be well-bred? In walks Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), a practicing lawyer with no respect or understanding of the aristocratic ways of the Crawleys.

What I love about Downton Abbey is the journey through Britain's most interesting days, how writer Julian Fellowes has weaved in historic events and their effect on mindsets and lifestyles into the story line. The Spanish flu epidemic for one, bare shoulders and reducing hemlines for another—the sinking of the Titanic, World War I, the installment of electricity and subsequently the telephone in the house, flashy new automobiles, the suffrage movement, the Irish struggle for self-government, the imprisonment (and later execution) of Czar Nicholas II and his family, even a mention of Charles Ponzy! In the course of 8 years (1912-20), everything changes for the Crawleys, and so much of it is because of World War I. I suppose the war did some good too—women wanted more from their lives; they wanted to employ their time and mental faculties in meaningful and useful pursuits—but it was all at such a high price.

I have experienced a wide array of emotions while watching series 1-3. Delight at the Dowager Countess's (Maggie Smith) delicious dialogues, delivered with tongue firmly in cheek. Respect for the head of the household, and his American wife for adjusting so well to an English society. Disgust at the Earl's 'moment of weakness'. Intense dislike and perhaps even awe for the lady's maid O'Brien and the first footman Thomas for the ramifications of their connivance and intelligent manipulation. Sheepish grins whenever Matthew Crawley walked into a room. Head-splitting grief at the death of one of the most beloved characters on the show. Heartbreak at the third season finale (unfortunately, the mother is a walking spoiler divulger, and I knew about the horrific finale before I even started watching the show).

Not to mention longing and admiration for the beautiful vistas, and the grandeur and resplendence of the house that is Downton Abbey. Every time the scene took shape of one like the picture below, I'd pause the episode and click a snapshot of it on VLC Media Player, which evoked the remark, "you're such a Japanese tourist!" from the sister.

It sure is a sight for sore eyes.

The show also reminds one of how cruelly unforgiving the world was and still is, with regard to Lady Mary Crawley and the housemaid Ethel's pasts. The price they, especially Ethel has to pay, for one mistake is much too great.

It's funny how modern they believe they are. Today we're narcissistic enough to believe we're modern and open-minded, but I wonder how backward we will seem to the generations to come?

One of the funniest (and thought-provoking) dialogues is uttered in the scene where Matthew Crawley and Lord Grantham dress in black tie for a very la-di-da dinner. Black tie appears to be a form of undress, as the occasion demands nothing less than coattails and white tie. Their informal appearance invokes horrified looks from Lord Grantham's family, and his American mother-in-law (Shirley McLaine) comments: "You two look like you're dressed for a BBQ."
A black tie for a barbecue! Imagine that!

The series is rife with brilliance in terms of dialogue. A gem from the Dowager Countess, Lady Grantham:

Lady Grantham: "You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal."
Mrs. Crawley: "I take that as a compliment."
Lady Grantham: "I must've said it wrong."

I've finished watching the series and am so bummed that season four will begin in September. It's no wonder the show has received rave reviews and broken so many ratings records. It's brilliant, well-written, well-directed and informative. Nobody's perfect (except perhaps Matthew Crawley, honestly he seems too good to be true) and some of the characters have many layers to them. Each trial and hardship they must endure peels off a layer and reveals something about them.

September is just too far off.

8 comments:

  1. I love this show! And your review is so spot-on it felt like I was thinking outloud as I read your post.

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    1. Thanks! It's my favourite ongoing show :)

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  2. Love, love this summary of one of my favorite shows! I illegally downloaded season 3 just to be ahead! Thanks for a great post.

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    1. Glad you liked it! Lol the mother had them all ready for me ;) Thanks for stopping by :)

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  3. Excellent review of the show. I, too, have become a Downton addict. You explained it perfectly.

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    1. Thank you for the kind comment and the follow Julie! :)

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  4. After reading this post I went and bought all seasons and I look forward to watching them. I am not sure whether these shows would appeal to you as well but do give them a try: Smash, Bunheads, and Once Upon a Time

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    1. :D You MUST tell me if you like the show. I watch Once Upon a Time and love how the stories of all the fairy tale and Disney characters are inter-weaved. Haven't seen the other two, will check them out.

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