Vail Daily columnist Linda Stamper Boyne: I say, have you seen …?
January 22, 2013
When person after person tells you about something, eventually you realize perhaps should be paying attention and seek to find out what you had been missing.
Such was the case with “Downton Abbey.” It was up for multiple Emmys and Golden Globes for the last few years, but for whatever reason, I never tuned in.
Then one of my most trusted sources of recommendations said I must watch, and I knew I was missing out on something good. Somehow I remained out of the grasp of this period drama, but now I am obsessed.
I really didn’t think a TV show set in early 20th century England would be my cup of tea, but I realize it’s so much my cup of tea, I want to sip it from fine china served to me by my footman.
I have become completely engrossed in the lives of Lord and Lady Grantham, their daughters, the Dowager countess, the heir to Downton and his mother and the servants who look after them all. So much so, in fact, that my life seems all very modern and rather coarse and I keep looking around for my lady’s maid to dress me and do my hair. I don’t know where she’s gone off to …
The show starts in 1912 with the sinking of the Titanic and the loss of the heir to Downton Abbey and winds through the lives of those living on the estate, both upstairs and downstairs. They live through World War I and are entering the modern age where new ideas and ways of life are challenging the traditions that have always guided the people of the estate. It’s an engaging story.
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I’m fascinated by the era and the customs of the time, the formality and propriety of the English aristocracy, the codes they live by simply because it is proper way of things are done. And I love that tea is served in every situation, whether it be for a visit, when delivering bad news, at the end of a tough day, or just as a polite gesture.
I’m going to start offering tea at every opportunity. Please don’t judge me if I adopt a British accent.
Just figuring out the different titles and who is called what took a Google search to get straight. Robert Crowley is the earl of Grantham, called Lord Grantham or His Lordship. His mother, the former Lady Grantham, is now called the Dowager countess. There are ladies and lords and dukes, maids and butlers and footmen and chauffeurs. The higher-level servants are referred to as Mr. and Mrs., whether they have ever married or not. And the family all refers to each other as cousin as a catchall term to acknowledge the blood relation regardless of how many times removed they are from one another.
Lady Grantham is American, and it is pointed out that she looks at situations differently or doesn’t appreciate certain things because she’s not British. And as much as I have a slight obsession with all things British royalty, I love that we Americans are looked at as wild rebels from across the ocean.
The writing on the show is just brilliant. The storyline goes places you don’t expect, places that surely you would not go in a novel written in that time. The cultural references and idioms used throughout the show are fantastic, immediately taking you to that period. The characters are wonderful and awful, flawed and funny – people you want to know or hope you never encounter. And it’s a feast for the eyes with beautiful sets and gorgeous costumes.
The added bonus is that the show is on PBS, so in addition to not having to put up with annoying commercials, you just feel smarter and more cultured by having your TV on that station for a bit each week. We Americans can use a spot of culture now and then, can we not?
So if you haven’t yet experienced the joy that is “Downton Abbey,” let me be that final friend who pushes you to do so. Get thee to Netflix or Hulu or Amazon and catch up on the first two seasons. The third season just began and you can watch the first three episodes on pbs.org before watching live Sunday night.
Make a cup of tea and join the obsession.
Linda Stamper Boyne, of Edwards, can be contacted through email@example.com.