Why Downton Abbey Appeals To Both Sides Of The Atlantic
It was with much excitement and after a weekend filled with lots of terribly British activities, in which I may or may not have visited a National Trust stately home and eaten both scones and roast beef with Yorkshire puddings, that I sat down to watch the first episode in the new series of Downton Abbey. *SCREAAAM*. Sunday night viewing in my house has always been a big tradition. My sister and I put ourselves through some god-awful programmes, purely to avoid the dreaded feeling of going to bed knowing that a full week of school awaited you in the morning. Programmes like Antiques Roadshow, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Monarch of the Glen… I could go on. An anomaly in this stream of awful Sunday night telly has been Downton Abbey, which seems to have captured not only the hearts of British but American viewers, along with many other viewers across the world. Yay for cultural imperialism!
For those of you who didn’t know, we Brits just love a good period drama. The reason for this is because it gives us legitimate reasons to be a bit pleased with ourselves, without being seen to brag, because it’s our history. So it’s not really BRAGGING or being smug, it’s merely watching historical fact unfold…. At least that’s what we like to tell ourselves, anyway. So you can imagine it is with great delight that the show has been a success in America, the very place Britain has had a slightly hilarious cultural rivalry with for years. Before I go on I would just like to say, I do not consider myself party to this, there are many things the States do better than us (such as celebrating the success of others and pronouncing words incorrectly). In turn, the British are mighty good at snobbery and ignoring each other on the tube. It all evens out in the end. But cultural differences aside, Downton Abbey has managed to appeal to both sides of the Atlantic. Here are some of the reasons you should tune in to series three (beware of minor spoilers for episode one of the new season!):
1. Period drama rumpy-pumpy
Let’s be honest guys, who didn’t love it when the Turkish dude had his wicked way with Lady Mary Crawley and then he died in her bed (major bad luck for a first time) and automatically put her at risk of being a ‘ruined woman’? There is nothing more thrilling than watching illicit Georgian era sexy time, and it seems that the start of series three promises us no less. The series starts two days before the wedding of Mary and Matthew Crawley (yay), having got engaged during the Christmas special after we thought it might not ever happen, what with the Great War, an engagement to a different girl, her subsequent death, Mary’s naughty Turkish fling, and um… I think that’s it. Much to my delight, Matthew slips a handful of cheeky little comments into the first episode, alluding to the fact that there is going to be plenty of post-nuptial nookie in episode two!
As Britain is a country that unfortunately still holds a pretty advanced class system, we love nothing more than watching the relationship between the servants who live downstairs and the gentry who live upstairs. It fascinates us. You can either be one or the other, never both, which makes life very difficult for Lady Sybil and her new husband, Tom Branson, who incidentally is the ex-chauffeur of the house, incredibly outspoken on Irish politics, oh yeah AND he’s got Sybil up the duff. Quite the conversation killer over dinner at Downton. The couple initially feel under scrutiny due to their unorthodox union, but as the episode unfolds, are surprised to find support in unusual places…
3. Money, money, money
The family have always taken pride in doing things properly, but it seems the wedding of Mary and Matthew could be the last time the family get to celebrate in style. (Spoiler alert) Lord Grantham has lost almost the entire family fortune (including his wife Cora’s inheritance) by making a bad investment in the Canadian Grand Trunk Line. The family need to consider the possibility of leaving Downton altogether, putting the families lives as they know it and the servant’s jobs at risk. After Mary discovers this, the night before her wedding, her relationship with Matthew is put to the test as he is reluctant to claim money that could potentially be left for him in his ex-fiancé’s fathers will, because he is just too damn nice. Just in time for all this money drama, Cora’s mother, Martha Levinson (played by Shirley MacLaine) arrives, ready to cause a stir with her crazy American ways.
4. Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine
Two matriarchs of the acting world come together from either side of the ocean. The two mothers-in-law, Martha Levinson and Violet the Dowager Countess of Grantham, get off on the wrong foot immediately – with Martha arriving in all her fur-shawled, beaded glory (MOST inappropriate) and declaring upon seeing Violet that ‘the war has made old women of us both’. Obviously that, along with her many other witty, modern quips about the English and their stale old traditions, pisses the Countess right off. Towards the end of the episode, it becomes clear we may see an unlikely friendship blossoming, with the two ladies meeting their match in each other and learning that to be a little bit more American and a little bit more British may be no bad thing. It appears that the pair will be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the family.
5. Bates and Anna
Many things are changing in Downton Abbey but one constant is Anna Bates’ determination to free her husband, Bates, from prison, having been wrongly accused of the murder of his previous wife. It really is like a 1920s version of Jerry Springer. They are still the cutest damn couple in Downton but there is trouble on the horizon, with Bates allocated a new cellmate who promises to cause trouble.
If these aren’t good enough reasons to catch up with Downton Abbey next Sunday, then I don’t know what are. You can catch up on the first episode on ITV Player. For all you period drama lovers in America, Downton Abbey will return to PBS in January 2013, but until then you could always wander arm in arm across a grassy field in a long skirt, or stare out of a window penning letters to somebody you are longing for. Or you could do a Mary and find a sexy Turk to have relations with and hope for a better ending to the whole sordid situation than hers had. Or failing that, please indulge in some of writer and co-creator of Downton, Julian Fellowes’, other masterpieces. If any of the listed reasons to watch Downton appeal to you, I beg you to watch Gosford Park for a smorgasbord of murder mystery, forbidden fruit affairs and British comedy. The world is your period-drama oyster!
Will you be watching Downton Abbey this season? What did you think of episode one? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
Written by Hannah Ridyard