Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dishing on Downton Abbey again

Are you as hooked as I am on Downton Abbey. I'm not sure how good it is or whether I really like it, but I can't stop watching. There is something wonderfully intimate about following the life of one family. I used to love Upstairs Downstairs and this has the same feel--except that Upstairs Downstairs felt absolutely real to me. The characters were rounded and we cared about them. In Downton we have moved from a kinder, gentler era to one in which sensationalism is king. And it shows in the story lines for season two.

It's very close to soap opera in period costume. Mr. Matthew losing his manhood. Lady Mary will obviously stick by him, no matter what, and what is the betting he miraculously learns to walk again... maybe not until season three.

The evil characters are really evil. Someone should have bumped off Mrs. Bates years ago. If Bates had strangled her everyone would have cheered. And O'Brien the evil maid. How awful is she? Remember she caused Lady Grantham's miscarriage in the first season. The writer Julian Fellowes is an upper crust chap himself and frankly I think he's not quite as good at writing 'them below stairs.'

The characters that ring completely true to me are Lady Mary and her grandmother--the glorious Maggie Smith. What wouldn't I give to play a part like that? I'll just have to create one in one of my books some day, then I can walk around adopting that attitude all day.

World War One is of course a story of grand drama however the characters are involved in it. I remember vividly the WWI scenes from Upstairs Downstairs. Remember when Georgina nurses James in the field hospital in France and his wife Hazel goes to bring him home and the two women fight over him (in a most genteel way of course). That was heartbreaking drama. This series intrigues me but doesn't touch my heart in the same way. Maybe because it is played for sensationalism rather than reality.

So what do you think about it and about what will happen next?
Oh, and I had the perfect solution to the family's problem of inheritance. Matthew inherits the property and the money, but being a nice chap he says "I don't need all this. Why don't I give you most of your money back and you can live in the house for as long as you want. It does have 100 bedrooms, after all. No need for series three!


  1. I love this show and my hubby has really started to get into the story so we look forward to Sunday nights. Much better than anything on American TV at the present time.

  2. I agree that this program is not as realistic as Upstairs, Downstairs was. I remember reading that Jean Marsh and/or the other person who created it had family members who had worked as servants, so they knew how life really was. Too bad the creators of Downton Abbey didn't bother doing more research.

  3. I love Downton Abbey, but every time I watch it I think "Upstairs, Downstairs was so much better". I bought the whole series of Upstairs, Downstairs on DVD last year, and think maybe it is time for a marathon.

  4. I could tell you what happens to Matthew and Lady Mary and whether he walks but I won't spoil it! I think they're moving too fast with the story line and that's why the characters don't quite resonate. I think they might take it easier on Season 3. Heard about Shirley Maclaine playing the Countess' mother? That should be interesting and they're already talking about the sparks that will be shooting up when she meets the Dowager! Can't wait!

  5. You've put into words my feelings about Downton Abbey perfectly. I wasn't quite sure how I felt about it. Can't wait to watch it, but... And then Rhys frames it exactly. Must be that fine tuned sense of great writing! Happy watching.

  6. I haven't see Downtown Abbey- but your posts have intrigued me (this one and your more recent one). I will have to check it out!

  7. Yes, I thought that the oven/flu problem was leading to something. I guess it was a way to bring an American "buffet/picnic" idea into British society. I think Shirley's character took a while to feel natural among the others - from a viewer's perspective. Her greetings to Cora and all the girls were cold and rehearsed. For not having seen them in a long time, it didn't seem right to me. But, half way through the show, she became more relaxed and "real".

    The only big issues I had were:
    1. The wedding.... I wanted MORE!!!
    2. The inheritance money....Why can't they just use SOME of it, invest it, grow it and then give it back to the next heir that's in-line?? Oh well. Maybe they will do that in the next episode.

    All in all, it's the period, the setting and the costumes that draw me in. I could always do with more historical references that take us outside of Downton for a bit. The town was decorated beautifully, don't you think? And the reference to the Irish v Crown politics helped.

    AHHHHH - what an indulgence this show is. It's like a nice cup of cocoa - leaving me feel all warm inside. Much like your novels, Rhys!! :)