Are You Watching Downton Abbey?

I love this new BBC series playing on our PBS stations’ Masterpiece Theatre! Downton Abbey is an original series, that is, not adapted from period fiction, but written for TV. The “inciting incident” is the sinking of the Titantic taking with it 2 heirs in line to inherit, one who the eldest daughter was obligated to marry. The premise of this show is wonderful, because it, like the Regency, takes place at a period of social change. The earl had to marry an American heiress to save the estate. They, alas, did not have a son. Now when the earl dies, the millions the heiress brought to the estate will go to a distant cousin.

We see some familiar faces on the series:

Maggie Smith, of course as the dowager Countess

Hugh Bonneville as the earl, whom we saw in Miss Austen Regrets

Dan Stevens (with the incredible blue eyes) as the new heir who was Edward in BBC’s Sense and Sensibility

My two favorite characters (so far) are:


Daisy, the scullery maid, played by Sophie McShera. Daisy so perfectly knows her place as the lowest of the servants, yet she is lively and happy and optimistic. I believe I must have been a scullery maid in a past life. I mean, why else would I not mind washing dishes? (Just don’t ask me to cook). I like to believe I would have been the same sort of scullery maid as Daisy.


Bates, the earl’s new butler and his former batman from the Boer War. Bates is played by Brenden Coyle, who did such a marvelous job as Nicholas Higgins in North and South (which I finally watched, by the way. Sigh!!!!!!) I fell in love with Bates immediately. He’s such a wonderful character, an obviously strong, proud man made vulnerable by an injury that makes him lame. When he almost has to leave–omigosh, what an emotional scene.

I am hooked!!!!

I’m delighted that BBC has renewed this series. Could it become the new Upstairs, Downstairs?

For an entirely different opinion of the series see Number One London. Kristine and several of her commenters did not like it too much. One comment was that it was like a soap opera, but, frankly, that’s one of the things I like about it!

Have you seen Downton Abbey? Do you like it? Who’s your favorite character?

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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Erastes
11 years ago

I loved it, especially because it actually has a gay subplot here and there. Hurrah – it’s rare enough on tv, let alone period drama. I love Hugh Bonneville’s character and Lady Mary, and of course, Thomas, the upwardly mobile homosexual valet.

However, It’s not a BBC series – it’s an ITV one. the BBC have just shown a new Upstairs Downstairs which is also very good.

Linda
11 years ago

I am totally enjoying Downton Abbey, and like you I love the Bates character and enjoy the actor. In addition to his role in North and South, he has a great role in the English series Lark Rise to Candleford. I like the relationship between the Lord and Lady too, an arranged marriage yet one in which the couple have learned to love one another. Great series.

Kristine Hughes and Victoria Hinshaw

Last nights episode was much better, IMHO. Characters seemed more developed and/or were less annoying. I am beginning to share your opinion, Diane.

Kristine

Margay
11 years ago

I watched the first episode, but missed last night’s because of the Golden Globes. But I’ll try to catch it later. I agree with you about Daisy and Bates (love, love, love Brendan Coyle), but some of the other characters make me want to scream – like the eldest daughter and Thomas, the one who wants Bates’s job. Not sure if I’m in love with this story yet – it’s no North and South!

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

Erastes, I just ASSUMED it was BBC!!! Thanks for the correction. I also like the gay subtext. I started to feel rather sorry for Thomas in this second episode.

Linda, I definitely will look for other series/movies with Brendan Coyle. He has a very “ordinary man” persona. Great actor.

Kristine, I am glad you are coming around! It is a soap opera and intended to run a long time, I think.

Margay, I think you will like the oldest daughter better after seeing the second episode. I think Thomas is supposed to make us want to scream! And, because it is a series and not a mini-series, I think that it is unfolding more slowly.

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

I actually bought the DVD and watched it straight through in one day! It IS soapy and scandalous, but that’s the fun of it. It’s no “North and South” or “Lark Rise to Candleford” (both of which, ironically, feature Brendan Coyle) but lots of good fun 🙂

Margay
11 years ago

I watch Lark Rise, too! Good show.

Melanie
11 years ago

Hi Diane!
I missed last night’s episode, but will catch up today…I just LOVED the first episode and I just wanted to slap that upstart footman! I am looking forward to his downfall! Acting is SUPERB from all of them!

@ Erastes: I also love the ITV for putting out such great work! I actually have worked with ITV, and they’re so helpful and professional. At least their International division! I get a lot of screeners from the company, and we then decide what we put out to our cable audience…

Janet Mullany
11 years ago

zzzzzzzzz

What a waste of fine acting talent and what a mass of cliches with some sort of nod to gay culture thrown in.
Well, it could have been worse. Didn’t ITV inflict The Tudors upon us?

Margay
11 years ago

Janet, now I don’t feel so bad that I’m not sure if I liked it. The settings are beautiful, but I agree that it is a waste for the talented actors in it. They can do so much better – ah, hello, Brendan Coyle, North and South, that’s all I’m saying.

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

Janet, I was eager to hear your view and not surprised! I do like it for what it is. On the other hand, I’ve watched a little of The Tudors (on BBC America this weekend) and cannot get into it.

Melanie, I can see you are as into it as I am! How interesting that you have worked with ITV!

Rachel
11 years ago

I am enjoying it, but most of all I adore the ladies’ clothing. I have seen several items of clothing that I would love, but I have always loved Edwardian dress. JA

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

All of the period detail thrills me, Rachel!

Janet Mullany
11 years ago

Rachel, I agree the women’s clothes are fabulous, but those 21st-century toned bodies don’t do them justice. They call for a more voluptuous body type.

Oh, and did anyone else notice the tv aerial on one of the cottage roofs in part 1?

Janet Mullany
11 years ago

BWHAHAHAHA the things I do for the Riskies. Just watched ep. 2 which exceeded my expectations by turning into a cross between Death at a Funeral and Fawlty Towers.

Has anyone else noticed how poor the sound quality is? A heavy breathing cameraman?

Keira Soleore
11 years ago

My favorite character by far is Maggie Smith. “What’s a weekend?” Everyone else’s face at that table was a sight to be seen.

I’m loving “Downton Abbey”. And there’re going to show “Upstairs Downstairs.”

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

I never watched Upstairs Downstairs in its day, so I know of it only by reputation.

Janet, I’m so glad you like Downton Abbey now. What could be better than Death at a Funeral and Fawlty Towers?? (the sound was fine for me – I watched it on Channel 22)

Keira, I liked Maggie Smith, too. She’s so great at presenting the “old” way!

Louisa Cornell
11 years ago

I am so jealous! I haven’t seen it yet! I live so far out in the boonies that once everything switched to digital my television reception dropped to NOTHING! I don’t have access to cable and I have not succumbed to the lure of satellite television yet. So, I will wait and give the series a go on DVD.

So glad you finally got to see North and South, O Divine One. I LOVE that miniseries. Lovely!

librarypat
librarypat
11 years ago

Unfortunately we missed the first show. We watched part 2 last night and enjoyed it. Hope we can catch the rest of it.

Kim in Hawaii
11 years ago

I am enjoying Downton Abbey … it brings back a bit of England here in Hawaii. I called my British mother in Florida to see if she is watching it. She is but commented that it is not Upstairs/Downstairs (the original BBC production).

I’m rooting for the “heir.”

Keira Soleore
11 years ago

@Louisa: You can catch it online at PBS Video or on Hulu.

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

Kim, Aloha!!! I’m not surprised that your mother said it was not Upstairs, Downstairs, but it may be this era’s approximation of that iconic show.

Keira, I was about to tell Louisa the same thing!

Rachel
11 years ago

I don’t actually think it’s supposed to be the new Upstairs Downstairs especially since Masterpiece is showing a new Upstairs Downstairs later in the season.

Kim in Hawaii
11 years ago

Aloha, Diane and Janet!

I’m waiting for housing maintenance … so I read the comments in depth.

I suspect that Janet and my mother – both Brits – think alike. I don’t know if ITV inflicted the Tudors onto America -I thought it was Showtime’s effort to muscle into the “big dramas” where HBO has succeeded with the Sopranos, Rome, and now Boardwalk Empire.

When the Tudors premiered 5 years ago, I had just come home from RT/Houston where everyone was talking about it. RT historical reviewer Kathe Robin liked it but noted that Henry VIII was a red head; Jonathan Rhys Meyers was not. And it was generally understood that Showtime took “liberties” with history (i.e., combining Henry’s two sisters into one character).

That being said, the first season was spicy and America loves sex! Still, the costumes, scenery, and music were beautiful.

I thought the second season was the best, spotlighting Anne Boleyn’s rise and fall. The last episode with her in the Tower of London was moving.

Seasons Three was OK and Season Four did not live up to the hype. Perhaps America (and Showtime) had grown tired of the Tudors. But a few fans (such as myself) wanted Showtime to continue with Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth on the Throne.