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Customer Review

136 of 162 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nobody does it better than the British, November 11, 2010
This review is from: Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey, Season 1 (DVD)
I became aware of this wonderful ITV series while reading a message board about Larkrise to Candleford (another great series, highly recommended). I've just viewed it on youtube thank you british folks! After I watched it, it occurred to me that it was somewhat like "Upstairs Downstairs" in that you saw the workings "above the stairs" and was as down. The difference is that it is set in a magnificent country mansion (or seat, whatever, I'm not british).

It's set in the early 1900s. The costumes and settings are superb.

I did feel the earl was a little to egalitarian concerned about the downstairs staff, just too "nice". From the series 1901 house, on pbs, the servants/staff were to be as out of view as possible.

Highly recommended.
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Showing 1-10 of 15 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 12, 2010 2:27:42 PM PST
The first series is set just before the outbreak of WW1. Times were changing and the Women's Suffrage Movement was in full swing. Service was not the only job available for many girls. The Earl had been a soldier and his valet, Bates, played by Brendan Coyle, was his batman when they served in the army together. The location for the filming was Highclere Castle.

Posted on Nov 29, 2010 4:05:14 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 12, 2011 5:52:03 AM PST
pfvll says:
Downton Abbey tells the story of one of the better-run minor houses. It's a good tale, well told, well acted, beautifully photographed and directed, with superb production values. I was sorry when it ended, which is always a good sign. If you enjoy British period drama, you will love it and, like me, look forward eagerly to the promised next season.

I had grandparents who were "in service" and used to regale us with tales of what it was like. None of them felt they had been badly treated. For instance, standing aside to let the master or mistress pass in a corridor or on the stairs was regarded as normal courtesy, also extended to the butler and head housekeeper, but in most well-run houses servants were not expected to turn to the wall as well, as is shown in some modern reconstructions. The strict social hierarchy extended right through the servants and was strictly observed - a ladies' maid was far superior to an under-gardener and entitled to his respect!

A few wealthy families treated their servants appallingly. The result was invariably a high turnover of incompetent servants. A few were almost saintly, treating their long-serving staff like extended family. The vast majority were somewhere in between. Service in a big house was like a Welfare State - Food and clothing was supplied, the doctor was called when necessary, children were sent to the local school (or a big estate had its own school), tradesmen (gardeners, carpenters, etc.) were sent away to other houses for long enough to learn new ideas and methods. Retired servants were given a cottage in the village to see out their days, but were not forgotten - they would be consulted about problems and brought back to train new employees or to help out in emergencies. No holidays, of course, though the younger ones would be given a weekend now and then to go and see their families. And everyone was expected to learn their job, however humble, and do it well. Experienced servants from a good house were sought after and could always find a job.

Posted on Nov 29, 2010 4:06:42 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 29, 2010 4:08:45 PM PST]

Posted on Dec 6, 2010 9:28:47 PM PST
This series is very addicting. I've seen it everyday since I discovered it last November. I can't wait for the DVD to come out. It won't disappoint if you're a fan of Upstairs and Downstairs, or any period series. I can't think of waiting another year for the next installment of this series.

I read that Dan Stevens went straight to Detroit when they finished filming the series to do a movie called Vamp for Amy Heckerling. Can't wait to see him in more pictures in the US. Film producers pay attention. This guy is gorgeous and a very good actor.

Dan Stevens was perfect for the role of Matthew Crawley. The whole cast seems to get their role real suited to each of the actor's personality, especially Maggie Smith. She has the best lines.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 29, 2010 3:29:14 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 29, 2010 3:30:22 PM PST
J. Clemons says:
Excellent summary of how servants were treated in big house by wealthy families. This contradicts the Marxist, socialist, American liberal view of rich people and how they treat servants. Just to add, servants were and still are an integral part of the family. Though you won't read about it today, especially in high schools and especially university, even in our time servants are treated with respect and even love. Since this contradicts academics, the media and ignorant politicians (and knowledgable ones), any survey, study that shows the generosity of the rich to the poor in the UK is suppressed or dishonestly depicted and attacked.

Just for the record, the rich in the USA have far less noblesse oblige and regarding giving to charity, they give far less in real dollars and per capita, then the middle class (60K to 200K0, especially southern and western devout, Bible based, born again Christians who are by far the most generous, but you won't find this fact in America's books and journalism because by all means Christians are to be mocked and unfairly attacked.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2011 9:41:54 PM PST
Deb Johnson says:
It was totally unnecessary to bring your religious prejudices into this discussion. If Christians are "to be mocked and unfairly attacked", perhaps it is due to their insistence that everyone who is not Christian is immoral, going to hell and incapable of behaving in an ethical manner. Also, the hypocrisy of screaming "family values" and "Christian values" while cheating on your spouse or condemning those who disagree with you or believe differently from you tends to turn most intelligent people off.

Posted on Jan 10, 2011 10:16:40 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 10, 2011 10:22:30 AM PST
Tank says:
I thought that the servants were too outspoken to their masters;especially the butler (Carson) who basically told the Earl to fire Bates. Even when the Earl subtlety expressed his displeasure to the Carson (take a hint!) in that the butler expanded too much on his opinion whether or not Bates was up to the job, Carson continued to hammer home his point. I have done a lot of reading on domestic life and conduct and I doubt this would have ever happened. I think UpDown's "Hudson" was likely a more realistic character.

It also did not make sense to me that Carson would have it in for Bates as he did. After all, in one of the first scenes, he told the housekeeper that he considered his master and the rest of the family HIS family and that he needed to protect it, which I found very touching. Why then would he be against Bates when clearly, the Earl has good judgment, is a good man and above all, Bates was loyal to him in the war?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2011 10:20:18 AM PST
Tank says:
I'd be interested to know, did your grandparents serve in the same household? Did they leave the service to raise their family?

From Wikipedia: ITV confirmed on 12 October 2010 that Downton Abbey would return for a second series in 2011

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2011 3:47:55 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 10, 2011 4:22:58 PM PST
pfvll says:
Tank -

Well, it's fiction, and the idea is to tell an interesting story! As you can see, it all worked out well in the end! But the master of the house would certainly have listened to the opinion of a long-serving and trusted butler, on any domestic matter. Not necessarily agreed, but listened with attention.

No, my maternal grandparents worked in different houses in London. Grandma was an Irish girl, a convent girl from a good family, who came to London to work as a ladies' maid. Grandpa had been a soldier in the Boer War, afterwards a steward in an Officers' Mess near Aldershot, then an under-butler at a London house. They met outside work. When they decided to get married they moved out of service in to 'normal' jobs so that they could set up their own home.

On father's side of the family, Grandpa was a lampglass maker (!), the black sheep of a large family of carpenters going back generations, originally Welsh, who moved to London during the building boom in Georgian times. (Welsh carpenters were in great demand, famous for their craftmanship, construction methods and ingenuity. Their houses on the Welsh border are studied by architects to this day.) Grandma was another Irish girl who came to London to work as a maid in a big house. Both my parents were born during the first decade of the 20th. century and are no longer with us.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2011 7:52:12 PM PST
Square Peg says:
To pfvll, your comment was interesting and insightful and every bit as good as any of the actual reviews. Just wanted to express my appreciation.
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