Downton Abbey

It was very strange watching Downton Abbey on Sunday night. I kept experiencing this feeling of deja vu, convinced that I’d actually been in some of the rooms at the fictional Downton Abbey.  And then I remembered that Burghley House was used for some of the filming and of course I’d been there and that explained that – one wonders if turtle skulls will be making a below stairs appearance. Anyways, stranger still was the feeling of expectation, the waiting for something marvelous to happen. And waiting. And waiting. You and I both know that I live for this type of television fare and even I was a trifle bored. The UK papers had touted DA as “the surprise drama hit of 2010.” Articles were written and opinions given that DA was hands down better than Upstairs Downstairs. Having seen both, I strongly disagree. So far, DA is pretty much a yawn.

Some critics slammed DA writer Julian Fellowes for his script, acusing him of having lifted tried and true plot lines straight from the works of well known authors, a charge Fellowes vehemently denies. Stolen or not, the plots were hardly worth the effort. Other detractors say that DA is nothing more than a pale imitation of the original U/D. The question is – Why was DA such a runaway hit? Frankly, The Telegraph’s report boggles the mind, saying that DA “attracted a large audience of 8 million viewers and, in a development almost unheard of for a serial drama series, it actually gained viewers through its run. Its final episode, at the end of November, attracted an audience of 10.8million – putting it in the top 10 highest-rated TV shows of the entire year.”  Huh?

Of course I’ll tune again this Sunday night, mainly because I’m ready to give my support to anything period and also because there’s not much else on on a Sunday. I certainly won’t have been compelled to tune in again.

What did you think?

Victoria here, adding my two cents. I was disappointed in DA, probably because I was so hoping it would be terrific. I wonder if they cut too much  from the English version of 6 episodes to make only four in the U.S. It seemed the characters were cliched and the plot threads trite.  OF COURSE the remaining heir didn’t even try to see what his new role would be in a sympathetic way.  OF COURSE the slimy young duke had an affair with the footman and then treated him like a dog.  OF COURSE the eldest daughter didn’t want to wear black, whined about her almost-fiance’s death and allowed the slimy duke to mislead her. And I could go on.

But like Kristine and probably most of you, I’ll be watching again this week, hoping for an improvement.  There must be an American heiress in there someplace, right?

And look at all the things they could have included — car chases, explosions, bloody spurts from gunshots, and aliens from outer space.  Screenwriter Julian Fellowes did at least one of those things (a pretend gunshot wound for Albert that never really happened) for Young Victoria.  I loved his Gosford Park, however, and more of the same would be delightful.

For me, a much better drama was The King’s Speech, which I loved.

Please give us your opinions of Downton Abbey —

6 thoughts on “Downton Abbey”

  1. I actually enjoyed Downton Abbey on Sunday. Yes, Fellowes uses plot devices that we have seen before, but I thought the show was interesting particularly the belowstairs characters, and the fact that Lady Grantham was an American heiress, one of the 'Dollar Princesses.' According to Rebecca Eaton, they only cut 37 minutes from the original running time to fit the 1 1/2 running time per episode.

  2. The overwhelming reason people watched it, according to those I spoke with when I saw 3 of these episodes last fall in the UK, was to laugh. They thought it hilariously bad.

    Am afraid I must agree. Cliche piled upon cliche upon cliche.

    Having said that, I quite enjoyed some of the characters (the lame valet, the oh-so-kind housemaid) and it was nice to see the lovely Elizabeth McGovern again. Interestingly, EMcG moved to the UK and married an Englishman the same time my daughter did! Does anyone else remember this actress? She was so breathtakingly beautiful as a young girl.

    PS The cliches will continue to pile up, alas, but the settings, furniture, and costumes are enough of a reason for us Anglophiles to watch 🙂

  3. Downton Abbey is an Edwardian soap opera, plain and simple. I love the show despite its faults, because the actors are so good, the sets are divine, and Fellowes knows how to write an addictive drama. Considering that DA is untethered to a book or a known historical character–unlike 99% of period dramas–it has done a very fine job of maintaining interest of millions of people.

  4. I am not alone! What a snorefest and what a fabulous waste of talent. btw, did you catch the TV aerial on one of the cottages in episode 1? Another minor point was that the women all looked too skinny for the fashions which seem to demand a more voluptuous figure.

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