Set in England in the years leading up to the First World War, Downton Abbey tells the story of a complicated community. The house has been home to the Crawley family for many generations, but it is also where their servants live, and plan, and dream, and they are as fiercely jealous of their rank as anyone. Some of them are loyal to the family and committed to Downton as a way of life, others are moving through, on the look out for betterment or love or just adventure. The difference is that they know so many of the secrets of the family, while the family know so few of theirs. But for all the passions that rage beneath the surface, this is a secure world, serene and ordered, and, at first glance, it seems it will last forever. Little do they know, family or staff, that the clouds of the conflict that will change everything are already gathering over their heads.
So, I haven’t owned a TV for many years. Instead, I’ve relied on DVDs, iTunes, and friends. Coupled with my peripatetic existence, I managed to miss Downton Abbey entirely. When I was in Los Angeles in September 2011, though, the show cleaned up at seemingly every awards show. Despite being somewhat intrigued, it took me until now to actually get around to watching it. And, I must say, I really enjoyed it. I had no idea really what to expect – I have never been particularly smitten with British period dramas (while still watching plenty), and expected More Of The Same. Instead, I got one of the best acted, best-written TV shows I’ve seen in a good long while.
I’m not really sure the series needs a full review, but I just wanted to give it a little shout-out on the blog. This is really good. And Maggie Smith really is That. Awesome throughout. So many hilarious, inappropriate lines from the grand dame of the family. All of the actors in the show were superb, from the Crawley family members on down to the new scullery maid. Even the peripheral and bit-parts are written and acted superbly.
Despite all of this, I still can’t tell quite why it’s taken the United States by storm – or, at least, as much as it has. It is very British. Which is probably why I love it, and I’m sure a fair few Americans love it for the same reason, but the universal acclaim seems unusual. If it keeps the show going, however, I am all for it. I will have to order the next two seasons, to be ready for season four…