Downton Abbey

I’d heard Downton Abbey was excellent some time ago and have found time to watch the first few episodes. Set in the early 20th century, before WWI, Downton Abbey delves into the lives of the inhabitants of a magnificent family estate. Like the earlier Sense and Sensibility, the family who has lived in this mansion for generations is likely to lose it because there’s no living male heir. A middle class third cousin is now in line for the estate including the wife’s fortune and though everyone involved sees the injustice, there’s something of a sho-ga-nai (it can’t be helped) attitude towards this change of events. The young lawyer who’s set to inherit moves to the village and really does not want this house or the servants that come with it.

Half the drama takes place amongst the servants. There’s deceit, rivalry, jealousy and envy. When Bates a new butler arrives, he is in the crosshairs of the more venial staff, who’re appalled because he walks with a limp and thus the more superficial see him as an affront to the dignity of the house. The characters are reserved and articulate as you’d expect. The drama is elegant and tense with little surprises. The clothes are exquisite and while I’m more like the third cousin who doesn’t see the need for assistance getting dressed, etc., it is interesting to watch how this house operates and how everyone cares so much about doing their work with excellence. (A sharp counterpoint to my maid in Indonesia.)

The cast features some familiar faces. Elizabeth McGovern (Ordinary People) plays the mother and Hugh Bonneville (Notting Hill) plays the father.

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