There are only seven episodes in the first series, each approximately an hour long ( without the adverts) as I tend to download it off the internet. The genre and format is quite different, from what I usually watch.
The plot revolves around the fictional Earl of Grantham, his family and his army of resident servants and their lives on the estate of Downton Abbey. He has an American wife, three daughters, a widowed mother who is they Dowager Countess. As he has no sons, his nearest male relative is his heir presumptive. In the fateful sinking of the RMS Titanic, his heir apparent is drowned. The Earl had also arranged for his eldest daughter, Mary to be married to his heir apparent's son, so that his wealth and his wife's wealth which is entailed (male tail ) to the estate will stay in the family.
The news of his cousin and his son's untimely deaths throws their well-made plans into disarray. Now his estate and his wife's fortune are to be inherited by a distant relative, Matthew Crawley, a solicitor by profession.
Earl of Grantham, invites Matthew and his mother to move to At first Mary, and Matthew make a bad start, Mary prejudiced against him due to his background and Matthew proud and unwilling to change, to what he thinks are silly and snobbish traditions. A bit of the Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice thrown in there, and why not? If it works- use it!
However, this is no Jane Austern period drama, with lust, homosexuality, and the worst villains in the form of Thomas the Machiavellian footman, O' Brian the bitchy lady's maid, and the anti-heroine Edith, it caters firmly to present day audiences.
The setting is beautifully done, the cinematography transports you effortlessly into another era. I love the soundtrack as well, it marries well with the show.
Downton Abbey is a well written drama, with most characters receiving quite meaty roles. The writer lets each character marinate in a problem so to speak unti their true flavours show. Could the secret be that their are no special effects to distract, that viewers just sit there trying to absorb everything as it happens? Although each episode shows a day or two of their lives, but a whole month or two elapses in DT time in between each episode- which keeps the suspense alive? I just wish they spent more time on Mary and Matthew as they are the most interesting.
Mary(Michelle Dockery) is the eldest daughter, getting older and needs to find a suitable husband soon, especially as she is no longer an heiress.Mary's asymmetric hairstyle in the first series drove me to distraction, I just wanted to fix it so bad, and was surprised no one wrote in to say that it was driving them crazy.
Despite Mary's flaws, you relate to her and get sucked into her relationship with,and complicated feelings for Matthew. She's strong-willed, with a quick wit, and her naivete or good side is hidden under a more controlled exterior.
I empathise with her situation, it is no easy task choosing a suitor with an expiry date hanging over your head like a guillotine. Audiences in Western countries my find the subject quaint , but it is still quite relevant in the Middle East and Asia.
Edith(Laura Carmichael) is the odd one out, she isn't pretty, or clever, or passionate, she seems only to be jealous of Mary and her actions seem to be driven by that sole force in Season 1. She's comes across as desperate and annoying, I'm not sure if we're meant to pity her, but I can't find pity for person a who tarnishes her sister's reputation the way she did- the bonds of blood should be sacred.
Sybil(Jessica Brown-Findlay) is the prettiest, in my opinion, although at the beginning of the first series she's 'not out' yet, and hence she's kep in the background. You can tell she's naturally attractive and the writer's saving her up for later. Sybil is the sweetest of the three, thinking of others rather than herself;soft spoken, and willing to do only good. She's determined to be useful, interested in politics, and begins training as a nurse as the war starts in Season two.
The Dowager Countess played wonderfully by veteran Maggie Smith(Professor McNogal of Harry Potter fame), has the most hilarious dialogs, and delivers with perfect timing, facial expressions: raising of the eyebrows, pursing of the lips. My favourite quote is when in the second episode of series one, Matthew is saying that he'll learn how to look after the estate during the weekend as he plans on continuing to work as a solicitor during the week- she interrupts and asks very gravely:What is a weekend? Most of Downton Abbey's laughs are at her expense!
To be continued ...
I still have to do the lovely Mr Bates and sensible Anna, the Earl and Countess, how can I forget Matthew and his Mother, and few plot lines..stay tuned for Part II