Downton Abbey is one of those rare shows that was able to surprise me. Not once, not twice, but almost constantly. The writer did a brilliant job of directing my expectations in one direction and then doubling back and surprising me.
The story is a familiar one, another tale of that fantasy world that existed in the British Empire for about thirty or forty years where a rich family owned an Estate and a Staff of fifty were needed to run the House of that Estate.
Downton Abbey is the story of The Lord of The Manner, his rich America wife, and their three daughters who spend a good deal of time worrying about money and throwing big dinner parties. It is also the story of The Butler, The Cook, and varied and sundry servants who love to gossip and complain. Then there is the Male Heir who will inherit Downton Abbey as The Lord has no son and daughters aren’t allowed to inherit. He is a lowly lawyer who actually works for a living. The very idea.
Maggie Smith plays the wonderfully grumpy mother of the Lord of the manner and spends a good deal of her time trying to marry off her granddaughters to rich men. The granddaughters are modern era women who are not sure they want to marry for money. At the same time the servants have their own problems. The Cook is going blind. The Butler has a secret past. Several of the servants are just not very nice people.
Written and created by Julian Fellowes of Gosford Park fame, he also played the part of Kilwillie in the wonderfully silly Monarch of the Glen. He does a brilliant job here. In addition to great writing, Downton Abbey has wonderful actors, amazing costumes, and great settings. I’m glad to see that PBS got Downton Abbey so quickly, it is a really good show.