Author Topic: Downton Abbey ******  (Read 592 times)

Offline gitano1

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Downton Abbey ******
« on: March 20, 2013, 02:18:35 PM »
This does not really belong in this section, but since NetFlix only has the first season available, and the series is on DVD, I will post this review here:

I was given the set of the three seasons of Downton Abbey as a birthday present. I had seen that the first season was available on Netflix, but didn’t give it any further thought until I got the set of DVDs. I decided I owed it to my older brother who had sent me the set to watch it, so I put the first disk in the player, sat back and watched the first episode.
One of the joys of great fiction is that it allows you to get to know people and places that are completely foreign to your life experience. Downton Abbey is exactly that type of story. The Abbey is the ancestral home of the Earl of Grantham. The current Earl, Robert Crawley, is the master of the estate. He lives with his American wife Cora, and his three unmarried daughters, Mary, Edith, and Sybil. His mother, the dowager, Lady Violet Crawley, Countess of Grantham, lives nearby. They are served by a staff of approximately twenty household servants, including the butler, Mr. Carson, two footmen,  the head housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, a cook, Mrs. Patmore, and a host of maids and assistants. Enough people live in the house to make up a small town. Mr. Carson is in charge of it all.
In the first episode which takes place in 1912. The family has learned that the heir to the title who is also Lady Mary’s fiance´ has died during the sinking of the Titanic. The family is in turmoil. The next in line to inherit the house and title is Matthew Crawley, an attorney.
This is very disconcerting as members of the upper classes do not work or have a trade. Doing such is considered the height of gauche. It simply isn’t done. Even the servants, for whom Mr. Carson speaks, are scandalized by the prospect. However, Matthew is the heir, so there is nothing to do but keep a stiff upper lip and bear up.
Simultaneously, a man who served in the military with Robert Crawley, Mr. Bates, arrives to take on the job of valet to the Earl. Bates was injured in the Boer war and has a pronounced limp which raises all sorts of concerns among the other servants who are, as a rule more staunchly conservative than their employers.
When Matthew and his mother, Isabel, arrive the problems seem to grow geometrically. Matthew does not possess a single snobbish bone in his body. He finds the estate beautiful but excessive. Lady Mary is notably snobbish towards him. Add to this, his mother has been a nurse and has a very strong desire to involved beyond the norms of the aristocracy.
There is a wonderful host of problems which will to be worked through in the first season. What makes them most fascinating is that there are rules which govern the manner in which these conflicts can be approached. In our day there are very few such limitations, but at that time, at the close of the Victorian era, those people would never dream of violating the rules or acting in manner that was inappropriate.
All of the characters are played by wonderfully skilled and talented actors. Every character possesses three dimensionality. Robert is a marvelous, kind and generous man. He also possesses his own unique character flaws, as do most members of the family. There are sibling rivalries and conflicts between the older women, Violet, masterfully played by Maggie Smith, and Cora and Isabel. These are all very strong women who vie for power and position in the family. Yet each has her magnificence and  particular beauty, and though you might be angry at a character briefly, she rapidly regains your love and admiration, none more than Violet. She is incredible.
In the three seasons so far available we move through the pre-World War I years in the first season, the war and its consequences in the second season, and the post-war recovery in the third. There are births and deaths, tragedies and joys. It is a window into a world long gone, and sadly so.
These people might have seemed excessive and useless, but, I think, they set a standard for the rest of us to follow. Without them we have become like children without structure or morality. We have had the Clintons in the White House. Now we have the Obamas with their gauche, nouveau riche excesses, George Soros, and Donald Trump. None of these people have clue about how you act when you have wealth.
I have tried to analyze my own reaction to the series. I loved watching it, will wait impatiently for the fourth season to be released, found myself enjoying all of the characters, upstairs and down (the downstairs being manner in which you referred to the household staff). Even the servants maintained a sense of decorum since their behavior reflects on the home they lived in.
To some extent I think it has to do with the fact that it is almost impossible to shock anyone any more. There was a time when certain words, epithets, would evoke serious reaction. Now, even the F-bomb fails to raise eyebrows. There are no values any longer, and we are much poorer for their loss. At least during the time we watch an episode of this show we can pretend that we are back in world with values and beliefs. A time when things mattered that do not seem to matter anymore, and seem to diminish more with each passing day.
We love our drama, but there can be no drama when there is nothing to value, when words, promises, contracts mean nothing. When a president can lie serially, and no one seems shocked. When the media ignores the most blatant dishonesty or adds to it, how can anything be really important? I think that this is the reason why Downton Abbey has so much appeal, particularly to those of us that remember a different time.
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« Last Edit: March 22, 2013, 02:57:11 PM by gitano1 »
Gitano
"Race has now replaced rule of law officially. In one speech our president has reversed 60 years of healing the racial divide and destroyed the dream of Dr. King. The result will be an exact reversal of the conditions existing before The Civil Rights Act. And the hardest hit will be the children in whose name the left always claims to act. Well done Obama". - Pendark