Downton Abbey

This is the first TV series I feel compelled to write about, it’s just that good. This highly acclaimed multi-award winning series from Masterpiece Classic has achieved a level of excellence that I associate only with high quality, big budget feature films, displaying top notch talent, writing and production values. And it has sustained this level of excellence throughout its entire five season run and is still going strong. I now know why this show has become such a worldwide phenomenon. 

The idea of a post-Edwardian era aristocratic family living in a large ancestral mansion with a staff of servants catering to their every need was a premise I initially felt reluctant to embrace and I felt was perhaps more suited to a niche Royals obsessed traditional English audience. I soon realized after watching only a few episodes that Downton Abbey has a far broader appeal. 

Marking the beginning of the end of British aristocracy, the show deals with the highly organized inner workings and politics between a diverse staff of service workers under a strict social hierarchy who keep the manor running as much as or even more than the aristocratic Crawley family members whom they serve.

This cinematic production feels like a lavish costume drama, with episodes of approximately one hour long each forming a continuous ongoing story; it easily lives up to and exceeds the standards of similar high budget films in the genre. The period drama follows all manner of lovable characters working and living at the Estate, from the kitchen maid to the Lord of the manor, the Earl of Grantham, and their often hilarious and intriguing interactions.

The large country estate runs like clockwork and everyone in it has their place and function. Despite individual conflicts and crisis, everyone pulls together as a family. Relationships and romances form in the unlikeliest of places by the unlikeliest of people all living under one roof. Keeping track of it all with so many characters is part of the fun. 

Downton is a complete fully realized world playing out against a backdrop of actual historical events in turbulent times at the turn of the century, deftly juggling multiple storylines simultaneously, as we’re kept engaged with the plotting scheming characters living and working within the halls of the grand Mansion known as Downton Abbey.

The accuracy and well researched wealth of historical details on display makes for an experience that’s as educational as it is delightfully entertaining. Reflecting on a truly epic era of change spanning from the sinking of the Titanic through to the Second World War, we are shown a new perspective on significant historical events that only a show of this length and caliber can achieve. This is what the British are after all so remarkably good at.

The estate itself takes on a character of its own as the home and sanctuary, passed down through the ages that everyone works to protect against an ever changing age of new technology and vanishing traditions at a time when many of these estates were falling into ruin and tolerance for such extravagant and ornate ways of life was waning.

Downton Abbey may be the first actual evidence I’ve seen, along with BBC’s Sherlock series, of that often used expression when describing the current era in television as being the new golden age of TV. This is a series that will stand the test of time with its universal stories of people from a bygone era struggling with life and issues not so far removed from our own. 

A warning to anyone embarking on their first adventure in this grand world of Downton Abbey, no matter where you pick up the story, it will grab you with its charm, wit and social commentary bringing you under its spell as it has so many others.


No comments: