January 7, 2012
I first heard of this series at the Emmys. Its name kept coming up as it won six awards including best miniseries. I just thought it was another stuffy British period piece. No thanks.
After passing on watching it after all the accolades, it came up again in an odd place. It was on Leslie Knope's word cloud in an episode of “Parks and Rec.” The cloud contained words she had put in her emails and apparently she had been emailing about “Downton Abbey.” That got me thinking, if Leslie Knope likes it, I might too.
I saw that PBS was rerunning season one during the holiday break so I gave it a shot. I'm so glad I did. It is great. And not stuffy at all.
“Downton Abbey” follows the Earl of Grantham's family who live in a huge mansion/castle (Downton Abbey) with servants in the early 1900s. The home must go to a male heir but Robert and Cora Crawley only have girls. Three headstrong girls that cause Robert nothing but trouble. There's Lady Mary, who should get the home but wants to marry for love not status, Lady Edith, the often overlooked one who makes up for being overlooked in sneaky ways, and Lady Sybil, who thinks women should have the right to vote and wear pants.
The servants are just as much fun to watch as the family. While they appear prim and proper upstairs, there's a lot going on downstairs. Carson is the head butler who really cares for the family and wants to make sure the house runs smoothly. Watching him figuring out how to answer the newfangled gadget that is the telephone is pretty funny. The head housekeeper is Mrs. Hughes who passes up marrying a nice guy because she loves her job more. There is the scheming duo of Thomas and O'Brien. They take glee in stirring up all kinds of trouble for the other servants and mostly for Bates, an old friend of Robert who manages to thwart all of Thomas' tricks to get him fired just by being honorable and a stand up guy even with his bum leg.
And lastly there is the Dowager Countess of Grantham played by Professor McGonagall, errr, Maggie Smith. She is fantastic. She is Robert's mom and grandmother of the girls. She has all the best lines and Smith's Emmy for the character is well-deserved.
The second season starts Sunday on PBS and jumps a couple of years to 1916 in the middle of World War I. I highly recommend giving this show a shot. It is on Netflix instant viewing and season one is only seven episodes so it wouldn't take too long to get caught up. You won't be disappointed.
I'll be back on here and let you know what I thought of the start of season 2 in the comments section late Sunday night and would love to know what you guys think.