Thursday, February 3, 2011
I have been watching the BBC America presentation of Downton Abbey over the last couple of weeks.
IT IS PURE GENIUS.
I've always been a sucker for a period piece. I'm fond of Jane Austen stuff, and the Bronte sisters, and even some lesser known writers of the time. Anything is good as long as it involves England, complicated social behaviors, foreign customs, forbidden romances, gorgeous costumes, archaic language, breathtaking manors and estates, and puritanical values.
I wasn't sure if I'd like Downton Abby. For one thing, it was written currently, not in the 18th or even 19th century. For another thing, it takes place in the 1910's, not the distant past. Thirdly, it stars Elizabeth McGovern, star of She's Having A Baby, which I thought would throw off the authenticity. Really, I didn't give it much of a chance at all. But I underestimated just how effective it can be to take all the things I love about period pieces and then make them into a SOAP OPERA.
The plot centers around the Earl and Countess of Grantham and their three grown daughters, but it also deals equally with the "downstairs," the lives of the house's servants, which you seldom see in period pieces. Though the values and morals of the time are preserved, and the characters generally behave with the decency, honor, and integrity you expect of people from bygone eras (which is what I love about period pieces--reading about people who behaved so much better than people do now), the story still manages to get the characters into all kinds of scrapes and situations that really keep the plot twisting and turning and bringing you back for more. It's like Days Of Our Lives 1913-style!
If you haven't checked it out yet, I highly recommend you do. I'm not sure how you'd get ahold of the past episodes. BBCA reruns? On Demand TV? Hulu? Pirating them somewhere on the internet (which, of course, if you're a network exec reading this, I don't support AT ALL.)? But find a way to watch this show. I guarantee, you'll love it. Unless you're a straight man. Then skip right over to footage of Jimmer Fredette. You'll get the exact same high.