Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Ode to My New Obsession, Downton Abbey


For pretty much forevers, the things that I have become obsessed with, like when you get that feeling in your gut that you simply need *more*, have been television shows like Buffy or Battlestar, movies like The Matrix, Star Wars or Starship Troopers (there were a lot of intense film obsessions in Middle School...) comics like Y: The Last Man or Fables and Video Games like Fable 2 or Bioshock. Fangirl stuff, through and through. But recently, I've been introduced to a television show that appeals to a totally different side of my geekdom. The one who loves period drama. And that show is the 2011 Emmy winner for Best Mini Series, Downton Abbey.

It took me no time at all to get hooked on to the show, and once I started, I finished all of season one in two days and spent the next two days getting my hands on the episodes of season 2 that have just aired in Britain. Through downloading, yes. I'm not ashamed. I normally don't approve of illegal downloading, taking money away from the creatives involved and not participating in the numbers that will help keep certain shows on the air, but I do think there are exceptions and this is one of them. I am buying the season 2 blu-ray, no one has to worry about that. But I CANNOT wait until January to watch these. Are you kidding me?!!?! If someone was like, oh yeah, you know, Lost season whatever just started in Britain, we are getting in six months, I would be like STFU, illegal downloading now, bye.

Wait, comparing Downton Abbey to Lost? Am I crazy?! YES CRAZY FOR MATTHEW CRAWLEY. And Maggie Smith. And frankly, Julian Fellowes. This thing is so damn well written, that it's not just one couple or one mystery that keeps me coming back, it's anticipation of the writing itself. It's so unpredictable, and with each season lasting only 6-8 hours, the show moves. Fast. It began in 1912 and we're already at 1917. If there is a season 3, god willing, could a crossover with Boardwalk Empire be that out of the question? I'd like to see any of those folks encounter gorgeous revolutionary in the making, Lady Sybil. Ah, wishful thinking.

I actually find myself craving a sparring scene between Maggie Smith's Violet Grantham and Penelope Wilton's Isobel Crawley. Every exchange of theirs is like Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen had a baby and that baby was two old, brilliant women. The Countess of Grantham in particular is a fascinating character. While old fashioned in many ways, she has the sharpest mind of the bunch (helps us see where Lady Mary gets it) and is seemingly a Fangirl! She is the only character on the show to regularly reference things like The Lost World, HG Wells, The Wind and the Willows, Greek Drama and more. This is a woman with a lot of time on her hands and a love for science fiction, fantasy and plays. Perhaps her love of the written word in all of its forms explains her wit? In any event, I dig it.


Another fascinating element of this show for me is I care about every character and every storyline. The pacing is such that we never get bored and although we see character development happen quickly, it's still completely believable. Season two has already hinted at the slightest bit of redemption for the darstardly Thomas and Mrs O'Brien and I can't wait to see how their glimmers of having a heart play out. As if I wasn't rooting for Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley enough, Season 2's developments have made my heart ache with every scene they have together. There was a confession of love in the first episode of Season 2 that I had hoped we would see eventually that made me squee with delight and although it cannot be reciprocated for now, I'm curious to see how Fellowe's characters, as true to the time period and traditions as I've ever seen, will eventually deal with it. With World War I almost ending, change is coming, but will we get deep enough into reform to see certain traditions truly blown apart?

If you have been on the fence about watching this series, jump off that fence and then tear the fence down and then stomp all over it. It's like long form freaking Austen, people! The costumes, the production design, the acting, MY GOD, the acting. The weakest link is Elizabeth McGovern and she still does a fine job as the lone American of the bunch. As I watch, I have trouble believing these are actors. How is Mrs Patmore an actor, not a cook?! It doesn't make sense! And how is Mrs Hughes anything but the woman in charge of this house?! How is Lady Edith anything but the snake of a middle sister in the Grantham family?! How is Mr Bates anything but the crippled ex-soldier with a heart of gold?1 HOW?! IT"S NOT POSSISLBLEELLEE MATTHEW CRAWLEY IS REAL AHHHHHH!!!

Why is there a camera there?! Isn't it 1917?! AHH!

I've also noticed that every episode seems to have a subtle theme that is spoken aloud at some point. The one I can think of most readily is season two premiere's "War has a way of distinguishing between the things that matter and the things that don’t." But every episode has an overarching thesis that ties everything together nicely and makes each episode feel complete.

So what have we learned?
1. If you haven't watched Downton season one, watch it. It's on Netflix Instant Watch or I will lend you my blu-ray if I know you.
2. If you've seen Downton season one, and you need season two right now, feel free to ask me.
3. If you've seen every episode possible for humans not working on the show to have seen, OMG HOW GOOD IS IT?!?!
4. Matthew Crawley's eyes
5. OMG!
6. Jessica Brown Findlay is stunning and is going to be a star
7. Some of these things I didn't mention until we got to this list
8. So many accents on display in one hour! It's music to the ears!

Okay. All for now. End of Fangirling. SQUEE!

Hat Tip: @xoxogg, the reason why I started watching in the first place!!!

4 comments:

Lenswoman said...

It is a WONDERFUL show...but please do not encourage illegal downloading...it deprives the crew members who worked on those shows the residuals which pay for their health care and pensions and lessens the money available to make MORE shows!

LoquaciousMuse said...

Not if you buy the DVD as well :)

Chris Hodgson said...

I'm alternating watching Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire and googled to see if a cross-over had occurred to anyone else :-)

I think I'd like to see if Downton nursing would do any good for Jimmy and Richard Harrow (I'm thinking *no* but the visit from their pal Al would be spectacular), and what the Dowager Countess and Lady Sybil would make of Atlantic City..

Fascinating in last ep of Boardwalk I saw Chalky White dealing (in the dinner scene with family) very similar class issues to Downton but from a very different environment.

I'm sure you know an american kicked all this new millenia Upstairs Downstairs stuff off.. Robert Altman's
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gosford_Park

is like Downton Abbey's pilot episode

I am what would have been servant class Brit so watching DA is like class treachery.. but Fellowes' is a great writer and we suspect he's got his heart in the right place (see guardian article below)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/01/downton-abbey-occupy-london-tory-allies

You know this actually should all be on my blog

corben-dallas.blogspot.com

..sorry for intruding ladies

arnoldsmith said...

I used to watch that day every Friday on the local channel and it was so cool, I imagine sometimes how those men in the show would behave if they had Generic Viagra pills available to treat their problems, I think it would change a lot in that show