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Customer Review

776 of 860 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, if a tad flawed, Edwardian series, November 13, 2010
This review is from: Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey, Season 1 (DVD)
Julian Fellowes has mined his script for Gosford Park, and took a few cues from the beloved 1970s series Upstairs, Downstairs - Collector's Edition Megaset (The Complete Series plus Thomas and Sarah), to create Downton Abbey, a stunning and colorful drama set around the aristocratic Crawley family and the staff which serves them. Set between 1912 and 1914, Downton Abbey chronicles the conflict of class, gender, and politics, and serves it up with a refreshing dollop of sizzle and scandal. Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, and Dame Maggie Smith (as Robert, Earl of Grantham, Cora, Countess of Grantham, and Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, respectively) are knock outs, but the rest of the cast are no slouches either, with the stunning Michelle Dockery at the forefront as Lady Mary Crawley, who is the selfish, proud, and vindictive eldest daughter you can't help but like. The actors and the stunning interiors of Highclere Castle, home to the Earls of Carnarvon, give Downton Abbey a glossy, sophisticated sheen, even when the script's twists and turns can be a bit of a let-down. Nevertheless, the drama is engrossing and invigorating, and a worthy addition to the collection of any period drama aficionado--and anyone who likes good drama, period!
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Showing 1-10 of 66 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 10, 2011 8:17:17 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 1, 2011 2:41:28 PM PST
Glow Worm says:
The script of Downton Abbey cannot compare with the authenticity, complexities & DEPTH of characters of the original Forsyth Saga and Upstairs, Downstairs.

In too many ways this series is an 21st. century's idea of how it was in 1912, rather than the reality. Despite their trumped up airs & graces, the same can be said of the modern day attention deficited characters of Downton Abby dressed up in Edwardian costumes that never seemed to fit.

The actors were fine but hardly resembled pre-World War One English aristocrats. The accents, liberties taken between the classes & the cold disconnect between the younger siblings of Doenton Abbey was particularily jarring.

This is mild soap opera entertainment (meringue), but admittedly, better than most TV fair, considering what's out there. Bonneville & Smith, as usual, do not disappoint with what they had to work with. Unfortunately, they don't appear to have signed up for the second series.
(Correction. Both actors will be in the second series.)

By the way, it was the business of a competent butler of a great house, during that period, to know exactly what was going on under his nose and to act accordingly. There are two servants below stairs who are not only snakes in the grass they are OPENLY vipors, deliberately muking things up below stairs & bad mouthing to undermine their employers upstairs.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 13, 2011 1:08:12 PM PST
In fact this series has more claim to authenticity than the two you mention. Fellowes wife being a member of the aristocracy whose life has similar circumstances to the women in Downton Abbey in that the inheritance of her parent's estate passed out of the direct family line when her father died, there being no male heir in the immediate family to inherit it. To suggest that the 21stC is too far removed from 1912 to accurately depict those lives and times is preposterous. Comparison with Upstairs Downstairs is to misunderstand the circumstances of the two families. One family were city folk closely involved with the government of the day and were active in the politics of the time and apart from the Lady of the house they were not aristocrats. Downton's inhabitants are country people who own large estates. They are titled people whose estates include numerous farms and villages. They are the landed gentry at the top of the aristocratic tree. The accents are authentic. Listen to recordings of speakers from that era and you will see that the cut glass accents are faithfully reproduced. The people who make these series don't just make it up as they go along. They do a lot of research and consult many experts on the history of the period being portrayed.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2011 6:38:50 AM PST
G. Wimer says:
I love a good period film. I have 18 grandchildren and introduced them early on to classic books and period drama. The grandchildren range from 26 down to 1yr. I was excited about a new film. I am discouraged that the film felt it had to show too much rather than suggest. I'm not a prude nor am I prejudice; however, I am selective when exposing my grandchildren to films and make sure I watch them first. I think the Colin Firth version of "Pride & Prejudice" was a great example of love and passion while allowing the audience to use their imagination. That is probably why I prefer period films. I'm sick of today's films revealing everything and the makers believing the more vulgar and revealing the more appealing. There is more sex in imagination and I didn't need to see men kissing. I would be complaining if Hugh Bonneville & Elizabeth McGovern were naked in bed and showing too much so it has nothing to do with the subject. But please, let it to our imagination!
Otherwise I love the film but I'm disappointed I feel I can't expose my younger grandchildren to it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 15, 2011 11:59:55 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 22, 2011 2:55:50 AM PDT
This is not a children's series, so they should not be watching it anyway. If you don't like to see men kissing each other then I should steer well clear of any latino countries or Greece. As for Pride and Prejudice being pure and free from sex; that is because Jane Austen never experienced it so she wasn't in a position to write about it. You remind me of the so called incorruptible film censors. They can watch anything and everything and emerge unscathed whilst at the same time deciding that the rest of us are not to be exposed to uncensored art, and they decide what we are allowerd to see. You are censoring what your grandchildren will be able to watch, purely on the basis that you don't like what you see, not by what might be disturbing for them. I should stick to 1940s black and white films where married couples closed the bedroom door and the scene fades. The woman emerges from her bed in the morning in a full length uncreased nightdress and with perfectly coiffured hair and her make up still intact after her night of rampant bonking. Also she will later fall down in a faint from the effects of being eight and a half months pregnant. Though you would be hard put to tell by perusing her still sylphe like figure. A pregnancy which no-one noticed, not even her husband. That sort of stuff won't cut the mustard these days. Youngsters are much more savvy and street wise these days than you seem to be able to give them credit for.

Posted on Jan 17, 2011 4:25:36 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Sep 13, 2011 5:56:06 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2011 2:18:45 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 1, 2011 4:29:23 PM PST
Glow Worm says:

I wrote that Downton Abbey was a 21st. century dumb downed Disney conception of pre World War One aristocracy. It's not that a contemporary writer CAN'T give a fair facsimile of the upper crusts of 1912 (i.e., Hawksworth's Upstairs/Downstairs) it's just that Downton Abbey didn't do it convincingly. That the characters & their relationships lacked dimension, that the story lines were strictly formula, and the dialogue hackneyed & repetitious didn't help. (Was it neccessary that Maggie Smith & McGovern repeat the same monotonous bit of doalogue about the family inheritance 10 times during the first episode?)

Where to begin?

It's the job of the butler of a great house to know what is going on under his nose & to act accordingly. Two of staff (O'Brian & the guest assauting Thomas) in Downton OPENLY undermine the other servants & the running of the household, are in high revolt--and show nothing but contempt for--their employers, BUT are rewarded, receiving pass after pass, year after year.

Ditto, considering that this was the Edwardian era of "great country estates"--Downton Abbey was laughably UNDER STAFFED.

City & country Victorian/Edwardian aristocrats attended the same public schools. Contrast the bearing & recorded voices of Lord Mountbatten, Anthony Eden, or Nancy Mitford (aristocrats who grew up on country estates) with the actors employed to impersonate the British upper classes in current period drama.
No comparison.

Contrast the recorded voices of rich Americans Nancy Astor and Consuelo Vanderbuilt (both married into the Edwardian aristocracy) with that of Elizabeth McGovern. JARRING.
(A pity but EM can't act either.)

And how many unmarried teen daughters of the aristocracy in 1912 lost their viginity under their parent's roof to a disrespectful bedroom invading PANTING foreign guest (on a diplomatic mission no less) with the aid of a house servant, after only a few hours acquaintance?
Got any names?

If it is script mandatory that the young daughter of the house be involved in prurient behaviors the unfortunate Elizabeth Bellamy's fate in Upstairs/Downstairs was far more realistic.
(In the Edwardian period the unmarried daughters of the aristocracy were considered "untouchables"--inviolate. Besides, upper class men of that period had more interesting & accessable "fish to fry". Safer too. Lady Mary Crawley was no shopgirl. What would have happened to the Turk's reputation & career had Lady Mary informed her father, the Earl of Grantham, or had become pregnant??
Moreover, in a "he said/she said" contest between the uppers and lowers what a halfwitted scullery maid may have thought she saw in the dead of night rated a major zero.)

The British class system in the Edwardian era was rigid and was virtually defined by one's lineage & accent. The aristocracy hung on for dear life to their privilege and status. Ditto the servants knew their place or they would be sacked without references into an unforgiving world. The liberties taken & the near egalitarian familiarity assumed between the classes as depicted in Downton verged on burlesque.

Barring the odd suffragette, and for reasons that are obvious, the majority of pre-war Edwardian aristocrats were conservative, as were their uneducated country servants. At Downton there can be found proselytizing socialists, would be revolutionaries & feminists under every tea leaf.
(Note that Lady Mary is fairly militant in her 21 century stance to shrug off as unimportant her pre marital one night stand with a virtual stranger.)

And did it never occur to Lady Edith, as it would to any aristocratic young woman of that era, that ruining her sister's reputation would have had serious repercussions on the reputations of her parents and her own chances of making a good match?

At odds with other aristocratic families of the Edwardian period there was depicted absolutely NO generational divide between parents and children at Downton. One got the impression that the in-your-face VERY 21 century daughters of that house were the masters and their parents were squaters of no real consequence (towing the line OR ELSE) at a time when even the densest "Lord of the Manner" had an inflated sense of his position as head of the household. The Countess of Grantham is barely tolerated a cipher companion to her daughters. (That is, when she isn't dragging away what's left of her daughter's dead lovers in the wee hours of the morning.)

English inheritance entailment plotlines (Pride & Prejudice, etc) are well chronicled in literature & bios. The hitch, as portrayed Downton, is that America multi-millionaires didn't get rich being clueless with respect to protecting their financial interests--ditto the interests of their beloved daughters. Wealthy American men who bankrolled the great houses of the British aristocracy generally made sure that their daughters didn't get the short end of it in foreign lands. It was so contracted in the marriage settlements. Who inherited the estate & title was another matter.
(Example: When Consuelo Vanderbilt abandoned her marriage to the $$ marrying Duke of Marlborough she was well fixed. Reference "The Viceroy's Daughters" to see how the daughters of a Marshall Field heiress got hold of their mother's money.)

The Downton Abbey reaction to the outbreak of World War One was typically from a strictly 21st century perspective i.e., dismay, doom & horror. In reality, when war was declared in 1914 the news was greeted by the British people with rejoicing & cheering. From Westminster, Charring Cross & in the thoroughfares around Westminster there were thronged all night exalted crowds. The Union Jack was everywhere to be seen & the air was filled with patriotic songs culminating with a deafening roar outside Buckingham Palace when King George V showed himself. GLEEFUL!

By the way, in which century & year was Julian Fellow's wife born?

Hugh Bonneville (GREAT in Danial Doranda) & Maggie Smith (funniest lines in Downton), as always, were a treat with what they had to work with. The sets and production values in Downton were high standard.

LOVED Julian Fellows in "Aristocrats". Gotsford Park was a nasty caricature served up by director Altman for contemporary audiences & their sensibilities.)

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2011 8:39:47 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Sep 13, 2011 5:56:08 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 24, 2011 9:00:12 AM PST
Pattie says:
Hi.. well I must admit, I know nothing of those days, and what is proper or not, Up and Down. I do know for sure, I don't want it to end, cannot wait from week to week with next Episode, and have enjoyed every moment,, yes, even the men kissing, which is a turn off, but luckily, it passed quickly. I hate that the final episode is next Sunday... and they will all get their "come up-ings" and all will end happily ever after. Bad Actor/actresses as stated, never occured to me, not a critic on those lines. Love story lines with this same Saga of Families, Estates, Earls, Dukes etc.. backstabbing, intrigue, affairs... Just love watching, all that is on Masterpiece.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 3, 2011 3:29:53 PM PST
All true, though I still find this series entertaining. In real life upstairs and downstairs didn't fraternize nearly as much either. I know the point this show is trying to make is that things are changing, and herein lies the future, but it didn't happen like this, or with this minimal of resistance.

Still, great acting, a guilty pleasure.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 3, 2011 3:30:49 PM PST
They do a lot of research. They also take liberties when it will make the story juicier to a 21st century audience. Demographics.
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