random thoughts about downton abbey

we do not own a tv so i happened upon downton abbey a year ago,  quite by accident, while browsing the masterpiece theater website.  being an avid fan of period flicks from any time period i eagerly devoured all four episodes.  i wouldn’t call myself a huge fan as there are some things i really don’t care for as you will see in the following list,  but i do enjoy watching and plan to add the series to my library.

i recently saw a piece on the news speculating as to why we americans are so taken with a british series and what it is that makes us want to watch:  supposedly the riveting drama and romance of the time period. from my perspective,  i couldn’t disagree more; but then i watch for very different reasons.

~ i have to check in with my favorite character.

it is not lady mary.

it is not cora, or anna, or even mr. bates.

it is the house.

the opening credits with the dog on the lawn and the maids opening the raised panel shutters give me goosebumps.  i lose a lot of important dialogue because i am busy looking at the interiors: linen fold panels in the library, the open shelves and copper pans in the kitchen.

~ i love the lifestyle that goes along with the house.  ring a bell for a tea tray to be brought to your room first thing in the morning.  a walk in the garden, change for lunch. change for tea in the afternoon, change again for a formal dinner in the evening.  while the director’s slant (in my opinion) is to make such a life seem dull and meaningless, don’t tell me you haven’t watched and for just one second thought how lovely it would be to have a day whose primary duties were nothing more than growing roses and pouring tea from a pot worth millions.

that being said:

~ the life of a domestic looks very gratifiying to me as well.  yes, it was hard work, no, they weren’t well paid but everyone (thomas excluded) seemed to be somewhat contented  in their position and there is something appealing about the role and skill  of the housekeeper  meticulously running the household like a very well oiled machine.  i also think it would be great fun to wear a uniform.  a black dress with a lace apron is much more pretty for housework  than yoga pants and a hoodie.

i do not care for:

~ isobel.  ::ducks to avoid flying objects::  i’m sorry.  i think she is a goody two shoes.  i think she has far too lofty an opinion of herself and her ideas and since they are (in her opinion) right, it gives her license to traipse all over other people’s boundaries like  clumsy goat in a rose bed.   i guess i have known far too many people like her.  i *do* however, love the work of penelope wilton, and i think it cool that she took the role of isobel  to fulfill a  long time dream of working with maggie smith.

~ i don’t like all the cliches and cheesy catch phrases.  by the end of season 2 episode 1 i was ready to propose a drinking game.  bottoms up every time one hears the words “the times are changing…”

~the writer and director have in my opinion taken too many liberties and the piece has lost a certain amount of authenticity.  i’m too much of a stickler for realism.  try as i might, i just can’t visualize a lady’s maid and her mistress confiding in each other about their respective romantic issues, or for that matter,  a lady ducking into the butler’s personal quarters for a bit of a friendly chat.

~it has become very predictable.  we all know what will happen.  anna and mr. bates will find a way, and the butler will pass on.   the earl of grantham will pitch a fit when sybil marries the chauffer (until he remembers  that “the times are changing “), edith will be hurt enough times to soften her nastiness, and mary and matthew crawley will get together in the end possibly producing an heir so we can have a season 4 (season 3 is being filmed as we speak…).

what do you want to bet?


5 Comments to “random thoughts about downton abbey”

  1. I agree on Isobel (I had to look her up, I didn’t remember her name). I think she’s annoying, but sometimes she can be surprisingly pleasant. As to writer/director liberties – I was just thinking about that the other day. How in other period movies, you really almost never notice the help. So I do like that aspect of this series, and predictability aside, it is refreshing in that sense. I also wonder how much they really would have confided, but when you spend much of your life with such a person, *maybe* it happened more often than we think?

    • maybe you are right elizabeth. but i guess it is more believable to me that anna would be a listening ear and confidant. i can’t really see lady mary wanting her input (trying to recall if she has ever really asked for advice….) and i can’t see lady mary really being all that concerned for anna and her heart. this was an era that was not too far removed from that of the “professional beauties” who had earned a place in society based on their looks alone. i would think that lady mary would be more concerned about what she wore, than the welfare of the one laying out her clothes. plus, she loses anna to mr. bates, she loses her maid. however, on the other hand, we see o’brian *constantly* advising and manipulating lady grantham so i don’t know.

  2. I fear I’ll always behind the times… case in point, I’ve not watched a single episode of this series. In fact, I’ve only learned of it this week, when its name was mentioned in the comment section of a blog I’ve long read. But once mentioned, it rippled through the comments, one after another. in shorthand. Just DA. And now, I’m running into DA again.

    I’m convinced I MUST watch this program. So, in short order, I’m ordering both seasons. Why dabble when a plunge is called for? I love what you said about the program and the way you said it. You, my new friend, have a great writing gift — for it’s conversational, with overtones that are both confessional and comforting — why it’s just perfect for the afternoon tea you’ve described above. And today, with no tea or fancy teapot required, you’ve inspired me to action.


    • i hope you enjoy it janell! let me know what you think. in spite of all the reasons why i don’t care for it – i am always anticipating the next installment and watch it almost as soon as it is available on the website. cheesy cliches aside, it is a well done and very entertaining piece.

  3. Jenny, did you see the article in Time about the real Downton Abbey estate? I think you’d enjoy it. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2103757,00.html Unfortunately you have to be a subscriber to read it. . . if you’re not, maybe I can scan and e-mail it.

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