Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why You Should Watch Downton Abbey

It seems surreal to admit that a stuffy British mini-series has somehow risen the ranks and become one of the best television shows currently on the air, but it's true. This juicy Edwardian drama has a way of investing you in the characters the same way that Friday Night Lights did - where their dreams, successes and failures somehow feel like your own.

Taking place in Edwardian England, the stand-out Dame Maggie Smith portrays super snobby, quick-witted and sharp-tongued Countess of Grantham, who spews some of the best one-liners on television today. In a Pride and Prejudice-style dilemma, the Grantham family's home and inheritance can only be passed down through male heirs, but alas, the Earl of Grantham and his wife have only had girls. Typical, right? The girls always get the short end of the stick. This period piece really is no where near as stuffy as it seems, and since it hasn't been adapted from a novel, we have no idea how it will end. And what Downton Abbey does that makes it a success, is delve deeply into not only the lives of the Earl and his family, but also the large and complex staff that serves them, who don't just remain on the periphery and are just as, if not more, intriguing.

Season 1 introduces us to the upstairs and downstairs residents of Downton. The matriarch Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith), her son Robert the Earl of Grantham, his American wife Cora, and their three daughters, the eldest Mary, then Edith and the youngest Sybil. When the series begins, the eldest daughter is engaged to marry Earl of Grantham's heir Patrick, but when Patrick and his father go down with the Titanic, Robert's next heir is something like a second cousin, once-removed - Matthew Crawley, who then moves to town with his mother Isobel.

Downstairs, we get to see how a house of this size and status would have actually run in those times. With butlers, housekeepers, countless lady's maids to personally take care of each lady, valets (pronounced with a hard 't' apparently!), cooks and waiters. Things appear smooth on the surface, but in Downton Abbey, these 'downstairs' characters have their own hopes, aspirations, and complicated love stories that more often than not, cause as much emotional turmoil and heartache as to their employers.

No comments:

Post a Comment