Newest Review: ... came with many audience presumptions. It was going to be sedate, slow viewing, with period costumes to admire, good solid acting from the c... more
Downton Abbey - believe the hype
Downton Abbey - Series 1 & 2 (DVD)
Member Name: PaigeTurner
Downton Abbey - Series 1 & 2 (DVD)
Advantages: British drama at its best with excellent storylines, characters and acting
Disadvantages: Historical inaccuracies which can be forgiven
A lot has been said about Downton Abbey in the press, a lot of TV time has been devoted to the actors and its writer Juilan Fellows promoting it and the series has been picking up awards here there and everywhere with its popularity even reaching American shores. And with anything which seems to gain this almost stratospheric success overnight there are just as many people keen to knock it down and say it is not historically accurate or some of the plots beggar belief or it portrays a servant's life through rose tinted glasses.
However, what I will say here briefly before elaborating further is in this case do believe the hype as it is most certainly must-see viewing and long may it continue.
Downton Abbey set out as Sunday night viewing, and indeed it does still keep that slot, even though it did make it to the dizzy heights of the Christmas Day schedule which is something Heartbeat never did - correct me if I'm wrong. Therefore it already came with many audience presumptions. It was going to be sedate, slow viewing, with period costumes to admire, good solid acting from the country's best period drama stalwarts and a feel-good, heart-warming script but not much else. Something to sip your hot chocolate and warm your feet by the fire to.
But I think Downton Abbey is far more than that. It offers gripping plotlines with twists and turns which keep the audience on the edge of their seat. Most namely the will-they-won't they love story between Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley.
What Downton Abbey also does which a lot of period dramas fail to do is give equal screen time to the upstairs characters and the downstairs characters. As a viewer we do not share affinity purely with either the servants or the household. We have our favourites amongst both and end up feeling just as much affinity for the cook as the Earl of Grantham.
Who can ignore the stir that the character Mr Bates has caused in the world of twitter. He has become an unlikely heartthrob amongst the women of this country as we watch Downton's very own version of the common plot - did the butler do it - in regards whether he killed his own wife.
He also provides one half of one of the most touching love stories on TV - between himself and lady's maid Anna. Their love is given a true test as Mr Bates wife does all in her power to prevent Mr Bates divorcing her. And the stoic way in which Anna declares she will wait for him however long it takes and later the way in which she stands by him over his murder charge is truly touching and no less gripping because they come from the servants' quarters.
The cast of Downton boasts a stunning range of actors from the legendary Dame Maggie Smith whose one-liners are surely proof enough to any Downton cynic of what a top notch drama it is to newer talents such as Dan Stevens who plays Matthew Crawley.
The thing about Downton's characters is they are fully-rounded. There is no clear black and white about who we should take a shine to and who we should hate. Just as we feel our blood boiling over footman Thomas' actions the plot twists and we feel sympathy for him. Just as we are willing on Lady Mary to marry Matthew we find ourselves changing our minds as she shows a darker side to her character.
This is not only down to a great cast of actors of course but to the writing talents of Julian Fellows. He has chosen a very interesting time in history to set his piece - one in which a lot happens historically speaking from the sinking of the Titanic to World War One to women's lib - but one that is often over-looked in the world of period drama.
So it may have been difficult to believe how quickly Matthew recovered from breaking his back and one viewer may have spotted double yellow lines along the road in one scene but I think if a TV series is as good as Downton Abbey a viewer can forgive these glitches because what we are dealing with here is British drama at its best and we should be celebrating it. It is definitely worth watching and the benefit of watching it on DVD is you don't even have to sit through all the ad breaks.
Summary: The best period drama series on the box for many a year