I love period dramas, good period dramas. Give me a good Jane Austen or Dickens adaptation and I will sit entertained for hours on end. I find the eras of the past so fascinating, sometimes I wish I lived during those times…but then I wake myself up and thank God for the blessings of this day and age. There is quite a large fan-base of others, like myself, who have a great appreciation for the classics and for the quality period dramas being produced over the past decades. This fan-base has expanded greatly with the arrival of the now acclaimed drama series Downton Abbey.
Downton Abbey is a television production by Julian Fellowes currently in its 3rd season. The series centres around the Crawleys, an aristocratic family who reside in Downton Abbey and their downstairs staff , as they live life through Edwardian England and beyond. The lives of those who reside in the village of Downton and the Abbey serves as a depiction of society during the early 20th century, portraying the highest and lowest classes.
When I first heard mention of Downton I couldn’t help but look forward to it. An “Upstairs Downstairs” like series will no doubt be quite entertaining, and it isn’t too often that Edwardian England in addressed in period drama – well not quite as often as the Regency and Victorian eras. Also by being created season-by-season there is an assurance of uncertainty in the plot. This program will be without debates as to whether the “original work” has been done justice because this drama remains in the hands its makers. There is no book to adapt; with every episode absolutely anything could happen. This intrigued me.
When the series finally came to air it was only a matter of time for the whole world to come to know of it. It wasn’t just the average period drama fanatics who were glued to their television sets; there was an even larger of audience worldwide, even those who were not otherwise interested in period films. Something about the series caught the eye of the public, and they wanted more.
What I believe strikes us about this series, is that we viewers were born in the same century that the world of Downton existed. Edwardian England may seem so distant, with expectations and etiquette much the same as those of the Jane Austen’s time, but in actual fact this period is in much closer proximity (in years) to the world we live in now. Though Downton Abbey depicts an almost fairy-tale-like world of Lords and Ladies with glittering gowns, parties, and a staff of servants larger than the household itself, we are constantly reminded of how close we are to that world. We see the use of electricity, telephones, automobiles, curling irons and even toasters all of which are still in constant use to this day. We are introduced to characters each with different backgrounds and temperaments, like our own. We see the human struggle, during times of hardship and loss, the joyous moments that life has in store and how those living in this period dealt with an ever-changing world. There are many similarities we of the 2000s share with the 1900s, Downton Abbey has really shed a light on that.
Naturally being a drama, the program is peppered with adult concepts and at times can be shocking even to me (I’m quite delicate/old fashioned in these areas.) Not that there is anything explicit, especially considering what is out there today, but allusions to sex, adulterous affairs, homosexuality (i.e. men seen kissing on two occasions) are present and may not be for the eyes and ears of little ones – even I have the fastforward button ready. 😉 Though there are deeds of the characters I don’t agree with, the program doesn’t ask you to side with the individual in their decisions. There are times were you feel disappointment in a character and then there are times when you feel so utterly sorry for them. Every character has their faults and their virtues no matter how central they are to the storyline. Yes, even the cunning lady’s maid Miss O’Brien and conniving Footman/Valet Thomas have their share of goodness. That is what makes the show present so well, the fact that every character is human.
An aspect of the Downton Abbey that I personally enjoy (besides the soundtrack – I do love a good soundtrack) is the femininity of the gowns, and overall style of the women. There is even a sense of wear-ability in the trends of the era that can definitely adapted by us today. It is undeniable that Downton has made it’s mark on today’s fashion world, there have been several inspired gowns; even Ralph Lauren was officially influenced. This is one wonderful mark Downton has made on our culture; I hope it continues to do so for the better.
This past weekend I finished watching the 3rd season online (I couldn’t wait any longer for its return to Australia.) I must say I enjoyed this season a great deal more than the past two. Season 1 for me was an introduction, and a very good introduction, but I still needed to grow in familiarity with each character. Season 2 was very good too but I felt it lacking in certain areas. Season 3 met my expectations ^.^ I did have my disappointments, especially in the killing off of my two favourite characters – but I dare not say any more. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t reached the conclusion.
Long live Downton!