If you have a Facebook account and more than about five Facebook friends, chances are you’ve been hearing all about the PBS hit Downton Abbey. Honestly, I’ve been slightly on the fence. I mean, I like Jane Austen, but I don’t love Jane Austen, and this show seemed to have the potential to be quite Austen-esque. I wasn’t sure if it would be a good fit for me.
However, curiosity (and multiple strong recommendations) won out and, in an effort to ensure I wasn’t left out of this cultural flurry, I decided to give Downton Abbey a try this Friday evening. It was perfect timing because Kevin was out of town, so I wouldn’t have to pester him with “girl TV.”
About 14 minutes into the first episode, I realized I was going to love this show and, a mere 36-ish hours later, I was done with Season One. I’ve now joined the many who heartily sing the praises of Downton Abbey. This is some good TV.
What are the things I love best about this lovely show? I’m so very glad you asked!:
- The clothes. The first season of Downton Abbey spans the years 1912 through 1914, so the clothes the women wear are straddling the line between Victorian- and 20s-era garb. The Crawley ladies and their peers wear dresses and hats and jewelry that are regal and breathtaking, but not so very Victorian that they’re drowning in fabric or heavy jewels. The dresses have clean lines, often accented by long pearl necklaces.
- Lady Grantham, played by Maggie Smith. The characters Maggie Smith portrays are always divine, but this is by far the best Maggie role yet. The Dowager Countess can always be counted on to bring a good deal of snark to just about any situation, and it’s wonderful. A few quotes worth noting:
- “What is a weekend?”
- “Last night! He looked so well. Of course it would happen to a foreigner. No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house.”
- Lady Grantham: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”
Mrs. Crawley: “I take that as a compliment.”
Lady Grantham: “I must’ve said it wrong.”
Someone else loves this character so much they put together a “Downton Abbey: Top 10 Maggie Moments” montage from Season One:
- The staff’s perspective. Though some members of the Downton Abbey household staff are rather despicable (ahem, Thomas and O’Brien) the majority are lovable. The fact that the show focuses as heavily on the staff as it does the Crawley family means we’re left with a perfect balance as far as understanding this strangely foreign lifestyle that is early-1900s England from both perspectives. We cheer Gwen on as she bravely decides to leave service to pursue a career as a secretary. We cringe as poor little Daisy continues to irk Mrs. Patmore, the cook. We hold our breaths as the relationship between sweet Anna and kind Mr. Bates begins to blossom.
- Sybil Crawley. The youngest of the three Crawley sisters, Sybil stays largely in the wings for the first half of Season One. When she emerges, though, she is so very lovable. An advocate for women’s rights (which includes assisting housemaid Gwen in her goal to become a secretary) and a soft-spoken kind soul, Sybil is easily the noblest of the Crawley girls. (She must take after her mother and father, both of whom are impossibly benevolent.)
Obviously, I highly recommend this show to those who haven’t yet been exposed to it. Season One is currently streaming on Netflix and is also available to watch on Hulu, so do yourself a favor and immerse yourself in the beautiful world of Downton Abbey for a few hours. (And, as a bonus for Arrested Development fans, once you’ve watched Season One of Downton Abbey this Tumblr will make lots of sense.)