In this crazy world where most of television is absolute garbage, it is so refreshing to come across a series that is of high quality and has excellent storytelling. Downton Abbey is that series.
Written by Julian Fellowes, who wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning film, Gosford Park (a wonderful movie,) Downtown Abbey is similar in its "upstairs/downstairs" storytelling. It tells the story of the upper-class Crawley family, led by their kind and honorable father, Robert. He and his American wife are parents of 3 daughters: the icy and beautiful Mary who is searching for a husband to secure her place in society; Edith, who suffers from the classic "middle-child" syndrome; and Sybil, who embraces all that is progressive in society, from bloomers to suffrage. The fabulous Maggie Smith plays the dowager countess in a role not unlike the one she played in Gosford Park.
The staff at Downton is just as colorful, headed by Carson the butler and Mrs. Hughes, the housekeeper. Constant scheming, alliances, secrets, and love affairs create a never-ending bounty of intrigue. It is a wonder they have the time to perform their household duties!
So many period pieces dealing with this kind of "estate dynamics" are set farther back in history, but Downton Abbey takes place right as WWI is beginning and the way of life of the house's inhabitants is becoming more and more obsolete. This is not a Jane Austen story, but perhaps the kind of story she would have written had she lived 100 years later.
Season 2 just began tonight and it has been too long a wait. I first discovered it on Netflix streaming and was hooked. There are only 7 episodes in Season 1 and it isn't difficult to get roped in right away as the first episode begins on the day after the Titanic's sinking, one of the victims of which was Mary's fiancee', and the heir of the estate. With his death, and a trust that does not allow female heirs, the Crawleys' lives have been turned asunder as the future of their home, their way of life, and the lives of their servants are cast into peril.
Who said being wealthy was without its challenges?
This is a fantastic series that has already won numerous awards. I cannot wait to see which twists and turns await us!