Today I bought a TV episode on iTunes for like, the fourth time ever. I don’t remember what the first two were, but the third was the Doctor Who Christmas special. And this one is the Downton Abbey Christmas special. Yeah. That’s right. I watch Downton Abbey. Why? Several reasons.
The writing is phenomenal. I would place it among some of the best television in the past decade. Julian Fellowes has masterfully created an incredibly vivid world, full of characters who are detailed and dynamic. Even Thomas, the most distasteful of characters, has his moments of pain and sorrow and humanity. As much as the viewer hates what this wretchedly distasteful character is choosing to do, it’s understandable… it’s part of a reasonable character arc that makes sense. While passage of time happens swiftly – 8 years spread through 16 episodes – it also flows in a perfect pace. A pace that each episode of the show manages to carry individually just as well as the whole show carries as a unit.
Because we know writing fantastic characters would be nothing if they were poorly acted. Some of the most incredibly talented actors in British television are on this show, evicting a wide range of emotion from the audience. The portrayal of the characters is so convincing, one almost feels they are at Downton. The mystery of Bates, the patience benevolence of Lord Grantham, the dualistic Ms. O’Brien – portrayed by such balance by Siobhan Finneran.
Period pieces can sometimes be difficult to pull off. Often there’s this detail or that detail missing. Something plays out as corny or cheesy or just plain not right. Yet Downton perfectly fits into a world on the verge of change. As The Great War is getting to a start, a telephone is installed in the castle – yes, it is a castle, I know they call it a house. But every man’s house is his castle. And Lord Grantham is certainly a man of a castle, with his humble pomp and kind, but firm, authority. Further, on the whole “it-is-a-real-castle” front, the show is filmed at Highclere Castle Yes, certain things aren’t addressed – “where’s the loo?” being one of many questions I have. But I think I could ask that question about Home Improvement or Star Trek: The Next Generation just as easily.
Anyone who knows me knows how classical I can be. How much I yearn for the days of proper attire. Of a set social rule pattern and a system of events. And such a significant part of this is the fashion. Boy, do the residents of Downton Abbey know how to pull off fashion. From the stunning suits of the men –which change over time (one episode has Bates, Lord Grantham’s valet, commenting to Lord Grantham “this is all the rage in America) to the beautiful and intricate dresses of the women.
So there you have it. I think Downton Abbey is a fantastic show, and certainly much better than the majority of the drivel we get here in America.
Tonight, after class, I shall watch the last new episode of Downton Abbey until September-ish while eating dinner and doing homework, and I shall be enveloped by it. Because once you start watching Downton, you feel like you’ve been transported there.