Sunday, February 6, 2011

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey

It's Sunday night 9 PM and I'm experiencing Downton Abbey withdrawl! Anyone else with me? What did you think? Who is your favorite character? Mine is of course Lady Violet, the Dowager Countess. I also love Lady Sybil. I have a soft spot for the Earl and Bates as well.

If you haven't already seen this fabulous British drama, lucky for you it's still playing on PBS

What in the world is Downton Abbey you ask? 

It's a British import drama set just before World War I. It's the story of the aristocratic Crawley family: Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, his wife Cora, their three daughters, his mother and of course the downstairs family: the servants. As the first episode opens, the news of Titanic's sinking makes its way to Downton Abbey and the Earl learns of the deaths of his cousin and cousin's son, the heir to Downton Abbey. Lady Mary, the eldest daughter was unofficially engaged to marry Patrick but as she tells her sisters, only until someone better came along. She mourns only the fact that she can't mourn him more, while her middle sister Edith truly loved Patrick and is jealous of her sister for getting everything Edith wants. The one thing Mary can't have though is Downton Abbey. It's entailed to be legally passed down to the next male on the family tree.

Lady Violet, The Dowager Countess, played by the always delightful Maggie Smith, wants her son to get a good lawyer who will help him break the entail, but he accepts the way things are.
Lady Violet

The family learns that the next heir is Matthew Crawley, a lawyer from Manchester who neither knows nor cares anything about the estate. Matthew is summoned to Downton to take his rightful place and learn to be the next Earl. Matthew arrives with his intelligent, strong-willed mother who clashes with the The Dowager Countess,  Matthew's mother also decides to take up nursing at the village hospital, much to the dismay of her son's new family.

The Earl is happy to show Matthew how much he loves the estate and how to be caretaker in hopes that Matthew will learn to love it as well and want to carry on caring for it. Matthew has a very middle-class outlook on life and is determined not to change.

Violet schemes with Lady Grantham to find out how to break the entail and leave everything to Mary. After all, it's Cora's American money that kept the estate from being sold in the 1880s. Cora wants to do all she can to help her children, but she's also supportive of her husband's decision and makes it a point to try to find an eligible husband for Mary, preferably Matthew. 

Stubborn Mary wants nothing to do with her mother's plans or with Matthew, at first. She prefers to find her own husband. Lady Edith simmers with jealously and tries to throw herself at Matthew instead. Lady Sybil is not yet "out" and cares nothing for marriage yet. She represents the New Woman of the new century: intelligent, capable and interested in women's suffrage. 

Meanwhile, the servants downstairs have their own little family, presided over by the kind, yet proper Mr. Carson. When the Earl's new valet arrives, the servants worry he won't be able to do his job because he walks with a limp and the problem of Mr. Bates divides the servants. First Footman Thomas and Lady's Maid Miss O'Brien, jealous of the upstairs folks, scheme and plan for their own ends. Housemaid Gwen, a farmer's daughter, dreams of bettering herself and becoming a secretary. Little Daisy, the kitchen maid experiences the wrath of the cook and the trauma of falling for the bad boy. Kind Anna, Gwen's roommate, does all she can to help Gwen's dreams come true and make her own dreams come true as well.

I'm not going to add more plot details because you have to see it for yourself. It is rather soap opera-ish and I felt many scenes were cliched and overdramatic (really, Lady Mary? Really?!?! OMG! and OUCH Lady Edith and Lady Mary) is all I have to say about that) but I was totally hooked by the end of episode one. 

The acting is very strong, there's not a weak link among this distinguished cast. Each one makes their character fully three-dimensional, even the ones you love to hate. By far the best actors are Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton, the two grande dames who take pot shots at each other and snap out the best zingers. Maggie Smith alone is worth the price of the DVD. The costumes are to-die-for gorgeous! 

The scenery is splendid because the series is filmed at a real estate and historic village.

I highly recommend catching this series while you can or getting the DVD ASAP! You won't regret it! I can't wait for series 2!


  1. So sorry I just read this entry. I DVR'd all four episodes and I use that for a daily fix until I can order the DVD. I can't say enough good things about this series!

  2. Thanks for commenting! I can't wait for series 2 next winter. We don't have DVR but I am sure the library will have the DVD soon and I can watch it all over again to tide me over until next year.


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