Friday, October 26, 2012

Media Monday...on Friday - Downton Abbey

Up until the Emmy Awards, I thought this show was called "DowntoWn Abbey"
I honestly just thought all the actors, writers, producers were saying it those silly accents of theirs.
I mean, what do they know, right?

Anyhoo, I've been meaning to watch the show for the last couple of years because I knew it sounded like something I'd like...British family, family manor, 3 daughters, tradition, loyalty, Elizabeth McGovern, the plight of woman in a pre-women's rights world, British lord whose family loses its fortune and marries an American heiress for her money, etc.
Has my name written all over it.

One of my favorite Edith Wharton novels is the unfinished The Buccanneers, and I LOVED the BBC mini-series made from the novel.

The premise of Downton Abbey sounded very familiar to The Buccaneers...except in Wharton's novel, the wealthy American wives were forgotten and many times mistreated once the British family fortunes were restored.  In "Downton Abbey," somehow, someway, the husband does actually, albeit accidentally, fall in love with the wife...after they're married.

What I Like

Elizabeth McGovern - I'm going to be honest here.  Besides the whole Buccaneers connection, she's probably the hook that pulled me into this particular series.  We are close in age, and I've followed her career since our younger days.  I admire her ability to keep her private life private and raise her family in relative peace.  I was first introduced to her in Once Upon a Time in America.

And then, one of my all time favorites "She's Having a Baby"

Another pull for me is the fabulous Maggie Smith.
Um, please?
Professor McGonnagall...the professor we'd all like to really and truly be??

Now, she's not Professor McGonnagall in "Downton Abbey"...far from it exactly...but how can you not love this iconic actor who embraces life and her career...her craft...even at her age...when you and I both know she doesn't need the money.

The sisters - ah, the inevitable sibling rivalry...I'm always relieved to hear other people tell their own personal family tales of sister/brother relationships.  While there are some inevitable pitfalls and the sibling relationship evolves over time (hopefully one day ending up in friendship), those growing up years, different personalities, dreams and goals can sometimes prove rocky at best.  Heaven help the young women maneuvering through the growing up years trying to find themselves as compared to their sisters and their family expectations in today's society...but whoa!...I can't even imagine the pressure, the dance, the drama of being in this same situation in history when a woman's worth was wrapped up in who she married.

At Downton, the stakes are higher than even the "nomal" situation of marrying your daughters off to make a lucrative match.
Cora and Robert beget Mary, Edith and Sybil...Mary must marry someone who qualifies as heir to her mother's estate since the money is/was Cora's but became her husband's in marriage, but there is no male heir to the fortune.  It is on Mary's shoulders to not only provide for her own future but to save the family's estate, which until she marries and secures the family's birthright, could very easily be usurped by even a distant male relative with ties to the Earldom (with her mother's money forever now tied up within that title).
Essentially the family loses everything if Mary doesn't marry the right person...and soon.

The glimpse into the life of the of the support staff (I have a hard time calling them servants...even though that's what they are).  Led by Carson the Butler and Mrs. Hughs the head housekeeper, for those of us who don't have much knowledge of the way an estate (at least a British estate) is run, this series really explains a lot.  Probably the most interesting tidbit to me is the pride that many of them take in their roles...a service position in an aristocratic family was (and may still be) an honorable position and was even passed down through generations.

What I Don't Like

Mrs. O'Brien and Thomas - two characters who are about as mean, sneaky, irritating, conniving, unpleasant, whiny, and hateful as two characters can be.  The fact that Mrs. O'Brien holds one of the highest positions in the household (Cora's ladies' maid) is confusing to the heck did she get there with her attitude?  And, how the heck does Cora not see how Mrs. O'Brien really feels??
Thomas just needs a slap on the head...and I'm just the gal to give it to him if Carson doesn't set him straight soon.

That whole little ridiculousness with Mr. Pamuk and Mary...really?  I don't see Mary as a doofus, but she sure acted like one in that episode.

Edith - Dear Edith, quit being a little whiny snot.  Love, Peppermint.

Overall Recommendation 

If you're interested in gender and class issues, the goings on of a British aristocratic household, historical fiction beginning with the sinking of the Titanic, and family drama, go ahead and rent, Netflix or buy this series :)
On to Season (or series) 2 :)


  1. I just started watching Downton Abbey!!!

  2. I've not caught this yet. I think I read too much. heh

    1. One night a week, I catch up on shows I've missed via Netflix or Xfinity...that's usually Friday nights...if I can stay up late enough :/ It takes me several weekends to catch up on one season so that's why I'm so behind everyone else :p

  3. LOVE THIS SHOW!!! And hormones are something -- Mary fell prey! I love love love Matthew. And Maggie Smith is a goddess.

    1. I know, I know...I just want to smack young women over their heads when they walk right into situations like that :/