Yes, I am a Downton addict.
I came very late to the party, I must admit. I hadn’t seen a single episode until Christmas Eve, 2012. I was up late, wrapping Christmas presents and PBS was having a Downton Abbey marathon. It continued until about 3 in the morning—just as I was wrapping the last present. After that I was hooked.
The Downton Abbey phenomenon is far-reaching in America. I suppose we have always been fascinated with the aristocratic culture we left behind in 1776. We thrill to a title, bow to a baronet, vie for a viscount, moon over a marquess, and dream of a duke. And we absolutely adore the Earl of Grantham and his family.
Downton Abbey gives its viewers the rare Triple Crown of theatre: excellent writing, superb acting, and exquisite production values. From the fabulous period costumes, to the luscious set—Highclere Castle, the home of the eighth Earl and Countess Carnavon—to Dame Maggie Smith as Dowager Duchess Violet Crawley, a role she was born to play, to the poignant storylines, this period drama gives us not only a glimpse of a little explored time period (early 1920s) but shows us the elegance of aristocratic living just as circumstances were beginning to alter. One of the plots this season on Downton shows us that the old ways of life are beginning to change, to be superseded by modern conveniences and notions. At one point Mrs. Huges says, “Perhaps parents don’t want their children going into service.” Unheard of a generation before, when being a servant in a noble household was the best employment many working class parents could have dreamed of for their sons and daughters.
In this respect, I think Downton Abbey allows us to see a parallel in the changes we are experiencing in our times as well. We are on the leading edge of the technological age. Many of the parents and grandparents who watch the program can relate to the changing society evidenced in this English household. We remember a time before the internet, computers, cell phones, when children obeyed a little better and life was a little slower, a little sweeter. We can see these same changes in the world of Downton—children marrying the ‘wrong” people, people defying the proprieties in their search for happiness, others begrudging progress when it presents itself as the logical thing to do.
Are you a Downton devotee? What do you enjoy most about the show?