10 January 2011

Downton Abbey

Just when I thought there was nothing to watch on television this month along comes Downton Abbey on MasterpieceWritten by Julian Fellowes of Gosford Park fame, this opulent new drama follows the lives of the Crawley family and their servants in Edwardian England.

Episode one opens on April 15, 1912 with news of the sinking of the Titanic. Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, learns that among the dead are James and Patrick Crawley, his cousins and male heirs. This poses an enormous complication for him and his family as Patrick had been engaged to Grantham's eldest daughter, Mary. Now the family's future is uncertain as the estate is entailed and girls cannot inherit. Grantham invites his new heir, a distant relation whom he barely knows, to move onto the estate and get to know the lay of the land. But Matthew Crawley is not your typical heir. For starters, he’s a practicing lawyer and appears to be opposed to the customs of the upper class. Marriage between Matthew and Mary would solve the family’s problems. But can the two overcome their differences and fall in love? 

 The three Crawley daughters.

The show is simply gorgeous, from the wonderful sets to the lovely costumes. The opening scene—a tracking shot that follows various servants through the house—allows the viewers to get a close look at the real star of the show, Downton Abbey itself. Filmed at Highclere Castle in Hampshire, the house represents the English upper class and their beliefs, which will soon go the way of the dodo bird with the coming of World War I.

The cast is excellent. The always-solid Hugh Bonneville plays the Earl of Grantham and the surprisingly good Elizabeth McGovern is his American heiress wife, Cora. The servants are portrayed by many stellar actors including Jim Carter as Carson the butler, Phyllis Logan as Mrs. Hughes the housekeeper, and Brendan Coyle as the crippled new valet John Bates. But it is Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess who steals every scene she’s in. Has any other actress perfected the glowering glare or the cutting putdown delivered with a smile better than Smith?

There are three more episodes left to air, and a second season has already been commissioned by ITV. I can’t wait to watch the rest of the series and highly recommend that you do the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...