on 8 October 2010
Normally the BBC are the ones for drama but ITV have proved themselves more than capable!!!! Julian Fellowes has done a fantastic job portraying an aristocratic family in the early twentieth century. The plots are well balanced and intriguing, and he makes sure to include the below-stairs as well as the up-stairs supported by a brilliant cast, including the legendary, Dame Maggie Smith. In conclusion, this drama is the creme de la creme and definitely deserves a second series!
Two telegrams, both with devastating news: the loss of the Titanic; the outbreak of war. In between, over six hours of viewing that exhilarates.
Downton Abbey is the star, virtually a character in its own right. It contains two communities, each reliant on the other. Already the new century is beginning to threaten what both hold most dear.
Upstairs and down, everything rings true - a bygone age lovingly recreated. This is Julian Fellowes' brainchild, he deserving most credit, but praise goes to all who converged to create something extra special.
Dame Maggie Smith dominates but does not eclipse. Hugh Bonneville impresses as the enlightened Earl. Below stairs, Jim Carter is awesomely aloof butler Carson (with a secret that stuns), Brendan Coyle moving as the new valet with a limp and a troubled past. Lady's maid O'Brien and footman Thomas are enjoyably horrible, the one regret in the series that nice footman William did not give Thomas a far heftier thump.
Throughout there are lines to savour, especially from the Dowager Duchess. About the recently drowned heir: "He was too much like his mother and a nastier woman never drew breath." Recoiling from newly installed electric lights: "I feel I am on stage at the Gaiety." Disconcerted by a swivel chair but declining a replacement: "No, no - I am a good sailor."
Here is a production so full of fine things, one can only applaud - delight increased by news there will be a second season.
(Bonuses include two commentaries and behind the scenes features. Thank you to whoever removed those irritating pre-credits trailers. If only this could be done for all similarly afflicted television series when transferred to DVD!)
Wholeheartedly recommended, but by now you will have gathered that.
on 24 February 2016
Set a couple of years before World War 1, the inheritance uncertain lineage for the future of Downton Abbey is compromised by the loss of two heirs to the son less Lord Grantham as a result of the sinking of the Titanic. A hitherto long lost cousin from Manchester steps in. Lord Grantham accepts him but will is eldest daughter, whom the rest of the family would ideally like to see her marry the new heir.
The series presents the upstairs and downstairs lives of the residents of the Abbey. The main concerns of the his lordships family are that of securing continuity and the future of the Abbey. The servants are concerned with serving the family with some competing for position.
There series is not over sensationalised and does contain some humour that is at a level fit for the setting and the period which was a time when people knew what was expected of them and respected that.
But trouble is on the horizon, women are campaigning for the vote and World War 1 is declared. On top if this technology is advancing with the introduction of the telephone, so the subsequent series will develop the theme of the ever increasing pace of change.
It is hugely enjoyable watch and apparently the weather was always sunny back then.
I got snagged on this series by accident, when I discovered that what used to be our local PBS station sold out to Big Business, and was no longer a Public Broadcasting Service. In a panic, I went straight to the PBS Website and found to my delight that the first two episodes of this series could be viewed in full, on line. Well, after viewing episodes one and two, I was hooked. I absolutely HAD to have episode three and the rest of the series; and then I noticed that I could purchase the entire uncut UK series for a laughably low-priced "season pass" on I-Tunes. Oh the rapture as it automatically downloaded onto my computer every week in High Definition!
From the bright copper kettles in the kitchen on which one can see the marks left by the scouring pad to the Lady Mary's opalescent beaded gowns, the picture is so incredibly sharp that I can even see a tiny hole (not noticeable in regular definition) torn on the shoulder of the black chiffon sleeve on one of her elaborate velvet gowns. And the interiors of the stately home with its gilded bronze columns, satin brocaded wallpaper, classical statues, and luxurious Persian carpets, are scrumptious to behold. What a visual treat!
As for the characters and the story, "Downton Abbey" represents British Television at its best! Julian Fellowes' script is pitch perfect, both upstairs and downstairs, where snobbery competes with compassion. Unlike "Gosford Park" in which the conversation drifted in and out of earshot, every word of his scintillating dialogue can be understood and enjoyed. Maggie Smith, of course, has all the verbal zingers, and she delivers them with her customary panache. Hugh Bonneville as the benevolent Lord of the Manor and Elizabeth McGovern as the wealthy American Heiress whom he has married for her money are outstanding, as are both actors playing his cousins and heirs. The story has something for everyone, with the perpetual conniving between the footman and the mistress's lady's maid, perpetually thwarted by the respectable valet (with a chequered past) and by the daughters' good-hearted maid; the jealous sniping of the two older right honourable siblings, and the social consciousness of the youngest; the desire of one of the maids to leave the safe respectability of domestic service for the dangerous uncertainty of secretarial work; intrigue, romance, and a surfeit of candlelit suppers that would make Hyacinth Bouquet quiver with envy. Some may find the scenario predictable, but it is predictable in ever-the-nicest manner; a world as we might imagine it to have been, before everything changed (for better or worse) in 1914.
And, joy of joy, there is a season 2! (I pray that the uncut UK version be available again in HD on I-Tunes). Best $15 I ever spent!
on 27 January 2011
There's an enigma about this series. The premise is hackneyed, the plot predictable, many of the characters unlikeable (or should be), the historical details sometimes ludicrously wrong - but it's not only very enjoyable, it sucks you right in and I can't wait for series 2.
It hasn't shown on TV in Oz yet but I got it on dvd and have watched it twice. Both viewings left me wanting more. What's its charm?
Personally, any scene with beautiful Matthew in it was worth watching, while the delicious Mr Pammuk was also easy on the eye and provided an 'exotic' interlude. The frocks are gorgeous and carefully nuanced. Lots of the acting is pretty good, and Dame Maggie plays her usual role of crusty dowager with her usual delight. Highclere House is a great backdrop. There's plenty going on in the individual stories, interwoven with a modicum of humour and pathos. All in all, a cracking evening's viewing.
What does it get wrong?
In the first place, the entire premise about the entail and 'trying to break it' is simply ridiculous. What is an entail? It's a very common (then) method of leaving property, usually to the eldest son, in the family. The property is tied up for future generations according to this legal device, ie it must always pass to the designated person, usually eldest male heir. The idea of this was to ensure that the property was not broken up. They didn't use them as much in Europe, often leading to the situation of today where large castles stand on tiny estates, the once huge estates having been divided up in earlier generations to leave something to each of several sons (never mind the girls).
Similarly, the title usually passes to the eldest male heir. Again, in Europe the system was different, leading to large numbers of Princes, Counts, Dukes etc. compared to England.
So, in the case of Downton Abbey, since Lord Grantham has no son, both the title and the estate will pass to his nearest male relative. Every single person in any way connected to that class in society would have understood this virtually from birth and the estates of their friends would probably have been similarly tied up. The sort of arguments that fill up the early episodes are therefore just plain silly. Matthew must get the property. There is no way Lady Mary or any of the girls could inherit, and as the main sub-plot (which never makes much sense, in view of the above) in which she contemplates marrying Matthew, is the only way she can ever get 'possession' of the Abbey. Similarly, the girls cannot inherit the title. They have inherited titles of their own - 'Lady Mary' etc.
What about 'fighting for Cora's money' to stop it being 'given away' with the Abbey? Again, ludicrous. According to the law before the Married Women's Property Act (1882 & 1893), her property automatically became her husband's on marriage. This is set after that time, so she could have kept her money. But she didn't, because it was passed to Lord Grantham on their marriage via a settlement (marriage contract) which I can only regard as incredibly ill-advised on her part. Presumably her father arranged it,and in the course of some wheeler-dealing traded her fortune for the title that Grantham offered. Once the contract was signed and they were married, the money belonged to him and that's all there is to it, something everyone concerned, including the redoubtable dowager, would have known very well. So the agonising about it twenty-odd years later is just plain silly.
Then there's the completely unrealistic relationship between the gentry and the staff, in which Lady so-and-so sits on her bed with her arm around a troubled servant and the gentry confide in the servants rather than each other, not to mention the continual impertinence. Unreal.
All the same, a highly enjoyable series and I can't wait for series 2.
Well, nasty Thomas will get his come-uppance. He thinks he's dodged both work and the war by joining a medical unit but I have a feeling he's going to be a stretcher-bearer at the Somme and he won't like it at all. Sweet William, on the other hand, like Matthew, will enlist and do something heroic, and they'll come back in the end to be master and butler of Downton. Lady Mary may get lovely Matthew in the end, after being made a better and a wiser woman by the exigencies of war, but I rather fancy that Matthew will actually marry... Lady Sybil! who will have had an interesting war and perhaps have met some politically minded officers or refugees - much more suitable companions than the chauffeur (who, incidentally, the gentry would have called the 'driver'). Lady Mary, I feel, is destined for patient Evelyn Napier. I do hope rather wet Edith does find someone to get her away from her bitch of a sister, even though Lord Strallan was so easily put off. And of course dear old Carson and the housekeeper will help the master and mistress keep the home fires burning when Downton is turned into a military hospital/refugee centre.
Can't wait! and then series 3: after the war...