Monday, April 16, 2012
I was more than a little hesitant to get into it as I'm a big sci-fi and fantasy nerd. A period drama about 1912 English nobility and their servants didn't sound like something that would interest me much .
I'm happy to report I was wrong.
I was hooked from the very first episode. Yeah, it's a soap opera, but it's a damn good one. I highly recommend it.
The series is set in the fictional English mansion known as Downton Abbey (as you probably guessed) and follows the lives of the Crawley family who live in the upper floors, and their servants who spend most of their time downstairs.
It features a top-notch cast, as you'd expect in a British drama. The majority of the actors are probably unknown to American audiences, with the exception of Maggie Smith, who's a real hoot as the Dowager Countess.
The real life location shooting (it's filmed at Highclere Castle, an actual massive British mansion) lends an air of authenticity and grandeur that could never be achieved on a film set.
I particularly like the way the show weaves actual historical events into the storyline. It gives the series a sense of realism as the character's lives are affected and disrupted by world events.
There are at least twenty main characters in Downton Abbey and it'll probably take you an episode or two to sort everyone out and learn who's who, but it's worth the effort. The characters are all easily recognizable and you'll learn their names in no time. I think the secret to this is that the characters are constantly calling one another by name. It's a simple idea, but one that doesn't happen a lot anymore. I'm amazed at how many recent movies never state the main character's name until the end credits.
I don't know how the hell they did it, but every single one of the twenty or so characters gets their own little story arc, from Lady Mary's indiscretion with the Turkish ambassador all the way down to the cook Mrs. Patmore's impending blindness. It's an impressive feat.
My only complaint: like most British TV shows (and a lot of recent American ones, for that matter) the "seasons" consist of only seven episodes and there's an interminable year-long wait until the next one. It drives me crazy, but it seems to be par for the course these days.
I just finished Seasons 1 and 2. Bring on Season 3!!!
And by the way, it's not Downtown Abbey. It's DownTON. Stop saying Downtown!