Last weekend, the family watched a new British television series called Downton Abbey (2010 and running). Episode 1 of Season 1 was very interesting and we’re waiting to see what happens next.
Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) plays the Earl of Grantham who must contend with a distant cousin as the next in line to his family heritage, including Downton Abbey, now that his first cousin, the original heir, and his son, have died in the Titanic mishap.
Crawley decides to follow his conscience and tells his family that his distant cousin will inherit everything after his death.
However, Crawley must also contend with his wife Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern), Countess of Grantham, and his mother Violet Crawley (Dame Maggie Smith), Dowager Countess of Grantham, who are equally determined to retain Downton Abbey, including his wife’s dowry, within the Crawley family. This would have been possible when the eldest of their three daughters married the original heir’s son who, as mentioned, was on the ill-fated Titanic with his father.
Now the Crawleys are suddenly staring at the prospect of losing everything to a stranger.
These are still early days and Downton Abbey promises much familial drama, stiff upper lip and dignified behaviour, not to mention gossip and intrigue, the latter generously supplied by the Abbey staff led by a conscientious butler who along with the footmen, chambermaids, and cooks add colour to what promises to be a delightful series.
I was struck by the peculiarity of British aristocracy, the necessity of a male heir and how the entail must pass on to a male progeny, however distant a relative he may be. Something similar was practiced by the erstwhile royal families of India. Even today, in many Indian communities it is taken for granted that the son inherits most, if not everything, after the death of his parents. Times are changing, however, and daughters are increasingly getting a share in family wealth and property.
The only thing that goes against Downton Abbey is its timing—10 pm to 11 pm, Monday to Friday—which is a little late for us working people. Each episode is re-telecast next afternoon when we’re actually at work. It might be possible to catch the series on the weekend when the channels usually repeat all five episodes. The series has been created by Julian Fellowes, actor, writer, and producer.
P.S.: Since writing and posting this piece, I have corrected "Downtown" to "Downton" as it should be. I didn't realise my mistake till I sat down to watch the second episode Monday night.
Warning: As someone who has watched all episodes from all seasons, I need to warn you that Downton Abbey is a wonderful but inescapable addiction. British and American audiences have made the series an amazing success. So, enjoy yourself! You have some interesting moments ahead of you. But be wary of anyone who wants to talk to you about upcoming episodes because it cannot be done without "spoiler alerts." And, as a sidebar, I suspect viewers in India will bring a somewhat different perspective to the whole British class system themes in the series. Keep your blog followers posted.ReplyDelete
R.T., thanks for the warning. I think we're already addicted to the series. We enjoy British dramas and sitcoms having been exposed to them on government-owned channels in the seventies and eighties, long before cable and private television. I particularly remember enjoying TO THE MANOR BORN. I agree, the class-conscious Indian viewer will have his or her own take on DOWNTON ABBEY.Delete
I have not watched it and it doesn't really sound that interesting to me but I know quite a few folks who swear by it.ReplyDelete
Charles, we love British serials and sitcoms and have seen many of them, YES, MINISTER and YES, PRIME MINISTER, to name just two. I believe DOWNTON ABBEY has been doing well in the West.Delete
Like you before this first viewing, I haven't seen any of it, though I've been tempted. It's all available, the first 3 seasons, on Netflix, if you have access to that. We'll watch it one of these days, I suppose.ReplyDelete
Richard, Netflix hasn't come to India yet but I believe there are plans to launch it here. I enjoy watching the doings of the staff more than the Crawley family though Dame Maggie Smith does liven up things in her inimitable way.Delete
I have so far managed to avoid this thankfully - long may it continue. I'm not a fan of the period drama and fortunately neither is the wife and the rest of the clan! Notwithstanding that - I do like Maggie Smith, but not enough to want to sit through the dramas of British aristocracy.ReplyDelete
Col, we have seen a few episodes and, well, we're lovin' it. The series is getting to be interesting as it progresses. We are suckers for period dramas, especially where it concerns British aristocracy.Delete
It's a huge hit over here. Already in its 4th season. It's appeal eludes me actually. Though I enjoy reading the books written in this era I can't stand soap operas of any type. And to me this in nothing more than a soap opera in period costume. I guess I prefer reading the about real thing than a 21st century re-creation of it. When I first heard of this I immediately thought that it was a revamp of Gosford Park. Then I found out that Downton Abbey was created by Julian Fellowes who --surprise!-- wrote the screenplay for Gosford Park.ReplyDelete
John, I have been reading good things about the series and I read that it has been doing well in your part of the world. Unlike you, I have read almost nothing on British royalty and aristocracy or the Victorian era though I have seen a few assorted films and television serials on the subject.Delete
Prashant: Don't let those grumps dissuade you. Downton Abbey is a wonderful series. Sharon and I have both been engaged and engrossed in the show. I disagree with soap opera. The challenges faced by the characters seem very real to me. I also think it has been fun to watch 5 episodes over 5 weeks and then eagerly await the next season a year later. I think anticipation can add to the enjoyment but do watch it in sequence and don't let anyone tell you about what is coming. I think it a grand saga.ReplyDelete
Bill, our family of four is currently "engrossed" in watching DOWNTON ABBEY and we look forward to it every night at 10 pm. We plan to watch it in sequence and I agree the characters "seem very real." In fact, that's exactly what we were discussing after watching last night's episode. Nothing is overdone. Thanks for your inputs, Bill.Delete
I also gave it up after a season. I just found it too soapy. And I must admit to a prejudice against the rich, who always seem to get the better story lines as well as everything else. But most everyone I know seems to love it so it's just me probably.ReplyDelete
Patti, I don't know how the series has been received in India. There is not much coverage either in the print or online media. English television serials are not talked about as much as their melodramatic Hindi counterparts. I'm enjoying it for now.Delete
This is a HUGE hit here in the states, Prashant. I watched the first season and part of the second but then, I lost interest. But as Patti says, '...everyone I know seems to love it so it's just me probably.'ReplyDelete
I do adore Hugh Bonneville and Maggie Smith.
Yvette, I believe it is. I read about the serial's popularity in the West and that it has done well at the Emmy Awards. So far we have seen only a week's worth of episodes and it's getting interesting every day. I think I have seen Hugh Bonneville in just one film, NOTTING HILL, though I almost didn't recognise him as being the same actor.Delete
I have yet to watch more than about 5 minutes of this though the rest of the family is addicted - really enjoyed the review prashant, thanks chum, may have to indulge after all ...ReplyDelete
Sergio, thank you. Our family of four is already addicted to DOWNTON ABBEY. The characters are evenly matched and so far they haven't gone overboard. The story has been scripted well too.Delete
My charmer and I watched the first two seasons/series and enjoyed it but I lost interest toward the end of 2.ReplyDelete
David, so far we've been charmed by the series and we actually look forward to watching it every night.Delete
In our house we have watched every episode! It is quite soap-y, and I have my reservations about it, but it was always shown on Sunday evenings at 9pm, and it made the perfect ending to the weekend, you settled down with the family to watch it: nice to look at and plenty to enjoy. And it is very popular, so always a good topic of conversation.ReplyDelete
Moira, I never thought of DOWNTON ABBEY as a soap opera though I can see why it might be deemed so. I like the character of Mr. Bates and I'm curious to learn more about his past. I hope he stays on for a while. Here it's telecast at 10 pm, an hour after MONK.Delete
Soap, yes, but thoroughly polished and apparently authentic period material. We have watched most of it, losing interest and then slipping back into it again after a while.ReplyDelete
Ron, I agree, the series is "polished" and well-directed. So far we haven't missed an episode and even if we do, I think it'd be easy to pick up the thread along the way. The cable channel shows a small recap of the episodes every week. We can also watch the week's reruns on Sundays.Delete
Interesting to see the differing opinions of Downton Abbey in the comments. We have only watched two seasons -- which we liked a lot -- but we have another that we will watch eventually.ReplyDelete
Tracy, you're right. The comments have livened up my sketchy account of DOWNTON ABBEY. So far we're staying glued to the idiot box and the series is getting more interesting with a couple of unexpected twists.Delete