While perusing my Netflix menu I have picked up another gem that somehow bypassed me: Downton Abbey.
PBS’ Downton Abbey is an aesthetic masterpiece which examines the lifestyles of a filthy rich aristocracy during turn of the century (20th) England. The Titanic has just sunk and along with it, the heir to the estate (the Earls nephew). The Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) are now faced with a crisis. Who shall inherit the estate? The Earls three daughters, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Edith (Laura Carmichael), and Sybil (Jessica-Brown Findlay) have been entailed to the estate (passed over in favor of a male heir). Since the Earl’s nephew was conveniently engaged to Lady Mary, there is now no legal heir to inherit the estate and a suitor must be found: this is the main crux of story.
The next in line for heir is a distant cousin of the Earl, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), a middle-class lawyer who prefers to dress himself (much to the dismay of his servant). Crawley is invited to Downton with hopes that he will court Lady Mary and keep the money in the family, but he shows little interest in both the way of life and Mary herself. A string of other interesting suitors with their eyes on the prize revolve through the doors of Downton pursuing Mary, with none of them apparently fitting the bill.
The most interesting aspect of the show is underworld of the servants. The Earl has just hired a new valet named Bates (Brendan Coyle), surpassing the insidious footman Thomas (Rob-James Collier), who spends his days conniving plots to get Bates fired along with the help of maid O’Brian (Siobhan Finnerman). All of this takes place behind the back of butler Carson (Jim Carter), the man who oversees all of the servants and the estate.
These are just a few of the characters involved in this outstanding story of a time period in which class warfare, suffrage, technology, love, hate, betrayal, scandal, power, and a plethora of other issues show there face. There are enough side stories here to spin your head, but when an episode ends you will be craving for more. When I think about how good this show is, I just cannot imagine how people can sit for hours watching ridiculous reality shows.
If you are looking for intelligent television, it is out there: you just have to look for it. Watch the first seven episodes of Downton (first season) on Netflix. This is for real, “Must see TV.”
My Rating: 5 of 5 Dinner Gongs.