Downton Abbey- Season 1
Lord Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) and his family live a life of leisure, while a fleet of servants, including butler Carson (Jim Carter), attend to their every need, but two events conspire to shake things up: the sinking of the Titanic, which claims Crawley’s heirs, and the return of his valet, Bates (Brendan Coyle). Since Crawley and Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) have three daughters, his distant solicitor cousin, Matthew (Dan Stevens), becomes heir to the estate. With that, the scheming begins, since Thomas the footman (Rob James-Collier) views Bates as an interloper and Crawley’s mother, Violet (Maggie Smith), feels the same way about Matthew’s mother, Isobel (Penelope Wilton).
I added a second rating to this because, even though the plot is EXTREMELY basic this first season it still sucks you in completely. Honestly, the last time I was drawn in so intensely by a series was “Supernatural”! The Overview (copied from Amazon.com) pretty much tells you what the deal is. The cast is huge, and each person or group seems to have their own story, so thre is a lot of content in each episode. The story is a pretty even split between following the lives of the Crawley family as their heir and his son die on the Titanic. They are forced to accept a new heir into the house, and there isn’t exactly love at first sight. Lord Crowley grows quickly fond of Matthew, as does his wife Lady Cora. But their eldest daughter Mary, former reluctant fiance to the last heir, hates Matthew and does all she can to show he is not welcome. Matthew’s mother Isobel has a similar relationship with Violet, Lord Crawley’s mother.
On the other side of the curtain is the army of servants who run Downton Abbey and have a deep love for the family that lives there (except the sarcastic and rude footman Thomas). Anna is the kind head of the housemaids who always speaks softly and works hard. She finds herself drawn to Bates, the half-lame ex-comrade of Lord Crawley who is brought in as a vallet. She helps protect Bates against the schemings of Thomas (who wants Bates’ job for himself) and O’Reiley, Thomas’ friend and the handmaid to Lady Crawley. Overseeing the staff is the stern and proper Carson, butler and leader of all the footmen and valets.
It sounds complex, with so many characters to get to know, but the approach to it all is wonderful. It’s a very light story. I know I said there is a lot of content in each episode, but you can still watch it only half paying attention and enjoy it just as much (when I watch TV I tend to play solitaire or browse online at the same time, so I like shows like this). And in case you didn’t notice in that Amazon description- Maggie Smith is in it. And she’s basically the Goddess of acting. It’s worth watching all season just to hear her at the end say “Stick that in your pipe and smoke it”.
I really can’t explain why I love this show, I just do. It’s not mentally exhausting, it doesn’t tend to be particularly exciting, but it draws you in and holds you in place.
Acting Score 5/5
I’m not going to go into all the actors here individually, just because there really are so many. It is a great show though, and I really enjoyed everyone’s performances. Maggie Smith was brilliant in Harry Potter (and every other film/show she’s ever been in) and she just thrives with the role of the proper-yet-untameable grandmother Violet. Penelope Wilton (who Doctor Who fans will recognize) is the perfect foil for Smith. The two act off each other wonderfully at their scenes together were really what I looked forward to each episode.
Age Rating: 13+
I based the rating on the nature of the show only. It’s a drama about a proper British family living proper British lives. Trust me, under 13 (and we’re talking the mature end of 13) and they won’t pay any attention. Even at 13 they might be bored out of their skulls. It’s written to entertain and older audience, the plot is very subtle, so it is up to parents if their children would like such a show. There is no real cursing (it aired on PBS after all) and sexual content is limited to kissing in full clothing. No nudity, sex, violence, or language, and yet it’s a great show.
This one’s not so fun: the show’s creator got a lot of heat from fans for “borrowing” some plot ideas from “Little Women”, but no legal action was ever taken.
Sir Anthony Strallan’s house is the same house Maggie Smith lived in in “Gosford Park”, and both “Downton Abbey” and “Gosford Park” were written by Julian Fellowes.