Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

January 12, 2013

Guilty pleasure found on PBS with ‘Downton Abbey’ show

By LISA SIMPSON STRANGE
Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — “Downton Abbey” has become my latest guilty pleasure.

I stumbled onto this PBS Masterpiece gem halfway through a rerun of the first season’s episodes while channel surfing one night.

If there is anyone out there who still doesn’t know about “DA” and is not yet a card-carrying, bona fide “Downie” or “Abbeyfite,” I will give you some background.

Created and written by Englishman Julian Fellowes, “Abbey” is a British period drama taking place during the first quarter of the 20th century. Set against a background of historical events such as the sinking of the Titanic and World War I, the series tells of the Crawleys, the aristocrats who live in the palatial English estate from which the series takes its name, and of the servants downstairs who take care of all their needs.

I know what you’re thinking, but this is no rehash of “Upstairs, Downstairs,” which has also been running new episodes during the last year or so.

No, “Downton” is much richer and deeper in its storytelling. The viewer cannot help but get caught up in the lives of everyone residing in the house, regardless of their station in society.

Will Anna, the lady’s maid, and Bates, the long-suffering valet to the Earl of Grantham, finally be able to live happily ever after?

Will Lady Mary, the eldest daughter of the house, and Matthew Crawley, her distant cousin who is destined to someday inherit the title, be able to overcome all their initial missteps and find true love?

Will Thomas, the scheming footman and valet, continue to get away with his misdeeds or will he finally get the boot?

Will Downton Abbey be able to survive the financial hardships of a post-World War I England even with the fortune from Lord Robert Crawley’s American heiress wife, Cora?

Will youngest daughter Lady Sybil and her handsome Irish chauffeur Branson ever be accepted in society?

And will middle daughter, Lady Edith, finally find someone to love who actually loves her back?

I know, I know. On the surface it all sounds like some English countryside soap opera, but I assure you it’s much more. I don’t want to give too much away for those few who haven’t watched before.

The topics of class systems, women’s rights and political self-rule are just a few of the social issues addressed in the series.

With wonderful cast members such as Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham, Elizabeth McGovern and Hugh Bonnieville as Lord and Lady Grantham, Jim Carter as Carson the butler, and Brendan Coyle as Bates to perform them, Fellowes’ wonderful dialogue and interwoven story lines are irresistible.

The period costuming and vintage cars along with the spectacular interiors and exteriors on their own make “Downton Abbey” worth an hour or two of viewing time. But be careful, or you too may find yourself developing the need for a little stiff upper lip every Sunday evening.

Lisa Simpson Strange is news editor for the Glasgow Daily Times. She can be contacted by e-mail at lsstrange@glasgowdailytimes.com.