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January 9, 2012 / mandalaymai

If I can’t be a leader, I will be a follower…

I am hardly the first person to rave about the PBS Masterpiece Classic, Downton Abbey.  I am sure your Facebook newsfeeds have, like mine, been peppered with mentions of this English pre-World War I period drama.  I never paid it much attention, except when they kept winning stuff at the Emmy’s last year.  But even then I kept thinking, “Don’t they mean Downtown Abbey?  Is this some, like British affectation thing?”  

I mean, on the surface, it totally has all the makings of a successful British miniseries.  Maggie Smith as aristocratic and acerbic? Check!  Highclere Castle with its rolling lawns and splendour? Check!  Every single “Hey!  That British guy from that other thing?” Check!  But, I was a little weary.  I mean, they weren’t adapting something reliable or anything.  Nothing written by Jane Austen or a Bronte.  This was NEW.   But, then again, it was by the same writer who penned Gosford Park and I love that movie. Gosford Park had everything.  Maggie Smith as aristocratic and acerbic? Check!  Splendid English country home?  You see where I am going with this…

So, I finally caved in and watched Series One on Netflix.  And now I am totally addicted.  I can’t even tell you what’s so compelling about this series.  We have all seen the repressed British upper class and the servants’ struggles before.  Upstairs Downstairs indeed.  At the end of the day it’s just a bunch of rich people and their servants.  It’s not especially action-filled or salacious.  The interactions between the characters is mostly all very proper.  But, it’s the undercurrent, or what is happening beneath the surface that is important.  That’s where the story really lies.  It’s what you as the viewer sees that the characters do not that makes the unfolding narrative so compelling.

Set against the backdrop off the build-up to World War I, we understand that society is changing in very real ways for the inhabitants of Downton Abbey, both upstairs and downstairs residents.  It’s where the traditions of the past come up against the changing tide of the times.  Series Two puts the characters into the action of World War I.  It began airing last night on PBS.  Check it out and share your thoughts with me.  Is it as addictive for you?  Why do you think it’s such a sensation on both sides of the pond?

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