Downton Abbey

 (44,898)
8.72011X-RayTV-14
After a tragedy at sea claims the life of the presumed heir, Lord Crawley is faced with the possibility that the house he's loved his whole life might someday belong to a distant cousin he's never met. Will the fate of Downton and its family be resolved?
Starring
Huge BonnevilleMichelle DockeryMaggie Smith
Genres
HistoricalRomanceDrama
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio languages
EnglishEnglish [Audio Description]

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  1. 1. Downton Abbey: Original UK Version Episode 1
    January 8, 2011
    1 h 6 min
    TV-14
    Subtitles
    English [CC]
    Audio languages
    English, English [Audio Description]
    The lives of the Crawley family and Downton Abbey's servants are changed for ever when the sinking of the Titanic leaves the estate without its heir and his son.
  2. 2. Downton Abbey: Original UK Version Episode 2
    January 8, 2011
    48min
    TV-14
    Subtitles
    English [CC]
    Audio languages
    English, English [Audio Description]
    Everyone is anxious at the arrival of Matthew Crawley, the heir presumptive.
  3. 3. Episode 3
    January 15, 2011
    48min
    TV-14
    Subtitles
    English
    Audio languages
    English, English [Audio Description]
    Cora's attempts at matchmaking and dashed when Mary is smitten not by intended target Evelyn Napier, but by his handsome friend, Turkish attache Kemal Pamuk.
  4. 4. Episode 4
    January 15, 2011
    47min
    TV-14
    Subtitles
    English
    Audio languages
    English, English [Audio Description]
    The fair arrives in the village and Mrs. Hughes finds herself the center of speculation when she meets a former suitor who makes her question her position at Downton.
  5. 5. Downton Abbey: Original UK Version Episode 5
    January 22, 2011
    48min
    TV-14
    Subtitles
    English [CC]
    Audio languages
    English, English [Audio Description]
    As the village prepares for the annual flower show, Isobel finds herself in conflict with Violet, and Mary is introduced to a potential suitor, but it would seem she only has eyes for Matthew.
  6. 6. Downton Abbey: Original UK Version Episode 6
    January 22, 2011
    47min
    TV-14
    Subtitles
    English [CC]
    Audio languages
    English, English [Audio Description]
    Sybil's determination to pursue her political leanings lands her in great danger when a fight breaks out at an election results meeting.
  7. 7. Downton Abbey: Original UK Version Episode 7
    January 29, 2011
    1 h 3 min
    TV-14
    Subtitles
    English [CC]
    Audio languages
    English, English [Audio Description]
    Cora makes a discovery that throws the inheritance issue into chaos, Thomas leaves the Abbey and Mary exacts vengeance on Edith for her treachery, while the household is rocked by a shocking announcement.

More details

Directors
Brian PercivalDavid EvansPhilip JohnAndy GoddardCatherine MorsheadMinkie SpiroBrian KellyMichael EnglerBen BoltAshley Pearce
Supporting actors
Jim CarterRobert James-CollierDan StevensElizabeth McGovern
Season year
2011
Network
BritBox
Content advisory
Violencefoul language
Purchase rights
Stream instantly Details
Format
Prime Video (streaming online video)
Devices
Available to watch on supported devices

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4.8 out of 5 stars

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Top reviews from the United States

PatriciaReviewed in the United States on April 16, 2011
5.0 out of 5 stars
H A P P I L Y......H A B I T -- F O R M I N G......B U T............W I L L ...I T.....P L A Y...I N.....N....A M E R I C A ?
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If you are of a romantic nature, and have friends who think you are somewhat out of sync with the 20th century, (not to mention the 21st), do let them watch MASTERPIECE CLASSIC, DOWNTON ABBEY, (ORIGINAL U.K. UNEDITED EDITION). This series has an early 20th-century setting, (starting in 1912, to be specific), but truly early 21st-century sensibilties, which, however, mesh in quite beautifully with the era, characters and situations presented. DOWNTON ABBEY has 1) a more than half-way human, (and humanistic!), Master of the House, 2) his handicapped valet -- who walks with a limp, and carries a cane, 3)Three spirited, beautiful daughters, (one of whom is very much "into" rights for women 4) A housemaid who wants to "rise above herself", and
secretly is learning typing and dictation 5) The distinguished and august butler, who has a secret, 6) A very capable, seemingly content housekeeper who is sorely tempted by, and very well may decide on, a very different career, 7) A murder case involving a guest who as "come on" a bit too strongly to one if the Daughters of the House.

And all this goes on during the first six episodes of the first season!

The cook also tells one of the housemaids that a certain gentleman may not be quite normal, (or words to that effect). But the maid does not understand. The concept of homosexuality is not within her experience, conceptualization, or knowledge. So it was with many people in that era. Not everyone was filled with knowledge of the "different" side of life, now so freely discussed, and seen on TV and in the movies. It reminded me, in fact, of the time when I, as a child, was told by my parents that babies came from department stores -- Macy's (me), and Gimbels', (my sister), in our case. (No wonder, though we have so much in common, my sister and I still argue a lot!)

The innocence, cruelty, inequity, attitudes, and basic human feelings that sometimes were for that era only -- but also often transcend all time and all generations -- are here to see, in this magnificently-written, beautifully costumed, so-well acted, and very suspenseful period piece, which begins with the 1912 sinking of the Titanic -- and its consquences on this one particular family and their servants.

This series was shot at an actual English manor house, and the scenery -- inside the mansion and on its grounds -- itself is breath-taking.

Watching this series is much like eating peanuts is for most people -- and like eating potato chips is for me. Once viewed, one simply cannot get enough of this mesmerizing, enthralling, truly exciting and visually stunning series.

,.................................................................................

I finally decided to join AMAZON PRIME, because of the totally irresistable offer to view, for free, the thousands of TV and Movie programs in the Amazon Prime Library. I am really glad I did finally make the decision to join Amazon Prime -- because, as a North American -- and having missed DOWNTON ABBEY on PBS, this MAY be the only way I can ever see this program.

For, as I write this, it seems that the only version available is the "Uneditited UK Version". This means, I take it, that scenes attesting to homosexuality and other "outre" subjects are left in. To me, this is OK -- because this subject, and perhaps other "R" and "X" rated subjects are simply included as part of the story-line, and do are not presented in a sensationalized fashion for shock value.
Also included, as mentioned above, is the scene wherein the cook tries, unsuccessfully, to explain what "being different" in a sexual way is all about, to the confused kitchen-maid, who cannot understand any of it. Many people of that era -- no matter what their social status -- simply did not KNOW anything about these "abberations". And the way innocence in some people, and knowledge in others, is portrayed, makes this presentation all the more an early-20th-century true-to-life event....

So, this "PG", (oe is it "R"?), rated verrsion of the story is OK by me. (Strange, isn't it, that the so-called "straight-laced, class-concious" English can take this sort of "PG" or "R" rated storyline -- still only one of many storylines in this series -- without reservation, whist we North Americans -- reputed to be of "freer mind" and with no "class-consciousness", still are a bit squeamish about putting these things on OUR TV screens?) Yet, though I DO like this series a lot, I still will not buy it, but must continue to watch it on Amazon Prime, only.

Why?

Well, several other reviewers mention that this "Origial, Unedited UK Version", is
reproduced on REGION 2 DVDs ONLY! That means that they probably will NOT play in
North American DVD players. Is this a subtle form of censorship? It certainly IS decreasing sales -- because, though SOME other reviewers living in North America report no problems, others living in North America report that these discs will NOT play in their DVD players, taking Amazon to task for not mentioning this.

All I know is that I'd, (very much!) LIKE to purchase this DVD, so that I can watch it at all and any times, with Amazon Prime or without it. But I dare not, because I don't want to take a chance at wasting any of my money!

Lost sales. Disappointed viewers. This is NOT what this wonderful series should be in the midst of. Amazon sells such controversial books as "The Protocols of The Elders of Zion", and Jesse Ventura's "Don't Start The Revolution Without Me."
It sells funny false teeth, memoirs of pre-revolutionary Russian Grand Duchesses, videos of UFOs, poltergeists, and rumoured no-goodnick dooings of the rich and powerful, fresh whole rabbit, canned unicorn "meat" -- and Tuscan Whole Milk, (at prices ranging up to $25,000 a gallon -- and more, (and also much less), -- all from third-party sellers) -- to name but a few interesting and fabulous products. Surely an engrossing, highly-intelligent, beautifully presented and wonderfully acted program such as "DOWNTON ABBEY" should be available to North Americans in all it's unexpurgated, and many complex story-lines? Perhaps a rating of "R", or "PG", or even "R" -- and "X" in some limited segments" -- should be added. For "DOWNTON ABBEY" is certainly NOT a "sex-fest"! It is a highly intelligent and engrossing drama, with a few mentions of (sometimes)-"unmentionable" topics, as just ONE of the many intertwining plotlines!

I myself have been called a "prude" more than once. I disapprove of ladie's skirts being more than three-inches below the knees, (even Kate Middleton's otherwise totally wonderful engagement-announcement dress sorely disappointed me, because I just don't think it was quite long enough, sigh!), do not like rock or hip-hop music, disapprove absolutely the use of any "foul" four-letter words, fervently wish that the novels of Horatio Alger, the McGuffy Readersm and even the Royal Crown Readers, were (again) commonplace in American schools, love the dresses, coats, suits, and evening wear of Balanciaga, Hartnell, Amies, and similar designers, take my dress-cues from the wardrobes of Queen Elizabeth II, (and to a smaller extent, Jacqueline Kennedy), happily subscribe to "Royalty" Magazine, absolutely, positively do NOT like to see jeans on anyone over the age of 18, and proudly do not, myself, own a single pair of jeans. But a good story is a Good Story is a GOOD STORY! (How wonderful -- just to mention one highlight of this all-encompassing series -- to have a storyline wherein the master of the house is NOT a mini Simon Legree, as most left-wingers seem to think ALL English aristocrats are....forgetting, it seems, that lumping ALL members of ANY group together is called "stereotyping"....and prejudice!) If only this wonderful
series, (with ALL SORTS of storylines...not just controversial ones!), were just labeled "PG", "R", or "X -", buyers and viewers -- even in North America -- will get some idea of what they will see. (Unlike another DVD which I got -- thankfully out of the library -- "THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL", (the version N O T starrring Natalie Portman),which came with NO rating whatsoever....and, in conseqence, the truly "single-X" rated sex scenes within, shocked me immensely, as I had NO preparation whatsoever that such scenes would appear in this 16th century costume drama!) There are -- at least in the first 6 episodes which I have seen -- NO overt sex scenes such as this in DOWNTON ABBEY. Only the merest hinting of, and mention of...h-----------y.) Not seen. Just, to repeat, hinted at, described ever so slightly, and mentioned.

Lost sales, disappointed and forced-to-become-far-too-cautious would-be buyers. This is NOT the way to make money on a DVD set. PLEASE make a Region 1 compatible set of this truly masterfully-done, MASTERPIECE CLASSIC series, reproducing ALL the scenes in the original UK version. People today -- with tabloid informatioo of all kinds, literally screamed at us from TV, magazines and the internet -- can surely judge wether this series is good for their own families at the present time, or -- if they have younger children right now -- whether they would prefer to wait a few years to have this series in their homes.

BUT, PLEASE, D_O MAKE IT AVAILABLE FOR NORTH AMERICANS, AS SOON AS IS POSSIBLE!

Thanks!

P.S.: There are some interesting parodies of DOWNTON ABBEY on YouTube.com. Funnier if you've seen the series, of course. The parodies are funny -- but somehowl I feel they could have been funnier. Yet they are definitely worth one viewing -- more if you like them! Enjoy!
2 people found this helpful
Jana L.PerskieReviewed in the United States on March 25, 2014
5.0 out of 5 stars
5+ stars!!! Wish I could give it 10!!
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This excellent Masterpiece Classic series, "Downton Abby," follows an aristocratic British family and its servants in a drama set in the early 20th century. I love PBS' Masterpiece Theater and I think, along with "Pride and Prejudice," and other series based on Jane Austen's novels, this show is at the top of my list favorites.

I also enjoyed the 1971 PBS series "Upstairs Downstairs," which has a similar theme. However, this new production features a glorious country estate of which the camera takes gorgeous advantage, star power (it's difficult to beat Maggie Smith as a dowager anything), and a tricky and absorbing storyline. The show was created by Julian Fellowes and co-produced by Carnival Films and Masterpiece Theater. "Downton Abby" first aired on ITV in the United Kingdom and Ireland on 26 September 2010 and on PBS in the United States on 9 January 2011 as part of the Masterpiece Classic anthology. Four series have been made so far; a fifth is planned for 2014...and I cannot wait for it to begin. I think i have been lucky in that I didn't see this theatrical piece until recently and watched all 4 seasons at once on Amazon streaming video.

The series is set in the fictional Downton Abbey, a Yorkshire country great house, the seat of the Earl and Countess of Grantham, (surname the Crawleys), and follows the lives of this aristocratic family and their servants during the reign of King George V. The first series opens at the end of the Edwardian era in 1912 with news of the family heir's tragic death aboard the Titanic, spanning the two years before the Great War. Events depicted throughout the first series include news of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the outbreak of the First World War, and the deadly outbreak of the Spanish influenza.

This influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe" the influenza was a global disaster.

However, Downton Abby remains an idyllic and bustling home for the Crawley family, aided by their cadre of servants. Robert, Earl of Grantham, (Hugh onneville), his American heiress wife Cora, (Elizabeth McGovern), their three daughters, along with Robert's mother Violet, (the superb Maggie Smith), have lived largely uncomplicated lives. But the sinking of the Titanic hits home in an unexpected and dramatic way -- Lord Grantham's heir, James Crawley, and his son Patrick have perished

Though their way of life has existed for generations, this news arrives and threatens the future of the title and estate. Downton Abby is entailed. Since Robert and Cora have no sons and Robert has no younger brothers, nephews or surviving male first cousins, and James and Patrick are dead, a distant third cousin becomes the new heir. An "entail," is a legal limitation on the current tenant's (in our case, Robert, the 6th Earl of Grantham), ownership interest in the estate. If he owned Downton Abbey outright, he would have a fee simple. Instead, he has a fee tail, which gives him a life interest so he can't be evicted in his lifetime, but not the right to say who gets Downton Abbey after he dies.

While the two men who drowned were known to the family, and the indifferent Lady Mary, (Michelle Dockery), was conveniently engaged to Patrick, the family is in an uproar at the thought that the estate will be lost to their line. The new heir is Matthew Crawley, (Dan Stevens), a middle-class lawyer. (Horrors! He is not a nobleman)! Over the gentle pleadings of Cora, (Elizabeth McGovern), an American whose fortune saved Downton and is now part of the estate, or the less gentle insistence of his mother (Maggie Smith), Grantham refuses to fight the entail. Instead he invites Matthew and his mother, (Penelope Wilton), to come live on the estate, to learn his duties and, perhaps, for an attachment to Lady Mary.

The earl's daughters contribute plenty of juicy drama to "Downton,'' particularly the oldest, Mary. Ideally, Mary would have married Matthew and keep the property in the immediate family However, Mary is independent and drawn to flashier men. She is also engaged in a vicious battle with her seemingly genteel sister Edith, (Laura Carmichael), who is less picky when it comes to finding a husband. I found Ms. Dockery compelling, as Mary's plotline takes her in unexpected directions. Her face, with sharp features and cold, close eyes, seems to change shape across the miniseries. The third sister, fifteen year-old Sybil, (Jessica Rose Brown-Findlay), is the most beautiful and kindest of the sisters. She eventually becomes involved in politics women's rights.

As the drama unfolds among the aristocrats of Downton Abbey, changes are happening amidst the servants as well. Meanwhile, Lord Grantham hires his former batman, the lame John Bates, to be his valet, to the consternation of the butler, Mr. Carson, and the other servants. However, a housemaid, Anna, takes a liking to him. Thomas, an ambitious footman, who also wanted the job, repeatedly tries to undermine Bates, with the help of Cora's maid, the vindictive Miss O'Brien.

The final episode in the first season ends with a glimpse of the new heir, Matthew Crawley, as he learns of his good fortune.

"Downton Abby" won a Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie. It was recognised by Guinness World Records as the most critically acclaimed English-language television series of 2011. It also earned the most nominations of any international television series in the history of the Primetime Emmy Awards, with twenty-seven in total, (after two series). It was the most watched television series on both ITV and PBS, and subsequently became the most successful British costume drama series since the 1981 television serial of Brideshead Revisited By the third series, it had become one of the most widely watched television drama shows in the world.

I cannot recommend all 4 seasons highly enough!

[[ASIN:B00APPJELG Downton Abbey Season 1 and 2 Recap]]

[[ASIN:B00D3PYQT0 Masterpiece: Downton Abbey Seasons 1, 2 & 3 Deluxe Limited Edition (Amazon Exclusive Season 4 Bonus Features)]]

JANA
Le StrygeReviewed in the United States on June 29, 2011
5.0 out of 5 stars
Lovely pictures, comfort food for very slow digestion.
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Bought this series on DVD to avoid having to endure ad breaks so liberally inserted by the commercial channel it was shown on here. This proved an excellent idea as the story itself is very slow to develop. Not that that's such a bad thing, ....indeed a welcome change to the frenetic and raucous quick cutting we have become used to in most TV series shown nowadays, and the snail's pace does give the viewer time to admire the wonderful locations, the exquisitely detailed costumes and set dressing.
There are seven episodes, spanning the time between the sinking of the Titanic (1912) and the outbreak of World War One(1914).
Okay so they make two short years seem like a decade, BUT life moved slowly back then.

The simple narrative is centred on class differences, and the rigid expectations of the ways of behaviour expected, no, demanded of both upstairs and downstairs.
The writing, for whom Julian Fellowes is credited, really seems an amalgam of many other familiar stories.
There is an absolutely shameless plagiarism of a whole storyline revolving around a rose show that has been entirely stolen in total from the Greer Garson/Walter Pidgeon movie "Mrs. Miniver", which is SO barefaced as to be a hanging offence! How Fellowes brazened this out is beyond me!
Even the other elements of the Upstairs/Downstairs derived plot line are hardly anything new, but of course this was a wildly popular series, so obviously the audience either didn't realise this wasn't very original storytelling, ...or simply forgave it and sat back to enjoy the undeniably pretty pictures. I certainly thought it visually stunning. The series is reputed to have cost over one million pounds per episode, ...and yes, it shows!

The writing also seems to avoid any conflict at all cost. Nothing ever really comes to a head.
A women's reputation is threatened with disgrace? It is simply avoided in the end without much being done at all.
A new personal valet with a disability is about to be discharged out onto the streets to face miserable poverty? He is reprieved at the very last minute.
A self-centred thieving and conniving manservant (the villain!) is due to face very deserved exposure, a dressing down and dismissal which the audience is keen to witness?
He resigns to go on to a better job oh-so-conveniently just minutes before this is going to happen, thereby avoiding a "scene".
A very nasty and bitchy lady's maid causes no end of trouble? She undergoes a biblical-like redemption before discovery.
Even any conflicts between the father and his three daughters fizzle out rather than end with Dad putting his foot down, as was the very ingrained mark of the times.

I also had problems with the main male protagonist, who we are told was an alcoholic and a very forceful army soldier in his prior life, but suddenly somehow has now inexplicably mutated into an absolute wimp unable or unwilling, (or far too noble?) to stand up for himself at all, despite his silence seeing him facing certain dismissal and total ruin, or even when he becomes the victim of planted incriminating evidence by a person he knows to be the guilty one. With his past such as is later revealed, it's hard to believe such a transformation of a one-time fighting he-man soldier into a meek, mild and ever so humble doormat.

All the above having been said, it is one of those Sunday night series that is best enjoyed on a cold winter's evening, on a comfy couch, under a warm rug with a bowl of steaming soup.
There's more than enough in the visuals and the great acting, ...with the one very noticeably grating exception of the American wife, who manages to strike a false note. The rest of the entire cast are all exceptional.
Worthy of special mention is "The Butler", played by the stentorian voiced Charles Carson, who so perfectly catches the nuances of his character from the stuffy formality down to the secret fears of new technology and the need for facades to be maintained at all costs.
If it's coming to a commercial TV channel near you, DO buy it on DVD!
The insertion of glaring commercials into the already slow storyline will spoil the lush atmosphere and drive you berserk.
I would have surely lost interest if forced to endure one episode a week, and those with interruptions every few minutes.
The blu-ray version certainly does justice to the lavish locations and costumes.
I will also buy the second series now in production.
Hopefully Julian Fellowes can resist stealing all the plot lines this time? Or at least credit them?
4 people found this helpful
PJReviewed in the United States on October 21, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Accuracy in time period
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Very enjoyable. Worth your time to go back in time.
Sean CurleyReviewed in the United States on April 5, 2011
5.0 out of 5 stars
Terrific.
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Lord Fellowes won an Academy Award for the screenplay to the 2001 Robert Altman-directed "Gosford Park", a massive ensemble drama set in a 1930s English country estate on the weekend of a shooting party. Based in great part on the acclaimed British TV series "Upstairs, Downstairs", "Gosford Park" featured a huge cast of characters from both the upper and servant classes. However, as is the nature of films with so many characters, there was not tremendous space to examine any of them. Much as Aaron Sorkin developed "The West Wing" from "The American President", Fellowes has turned the kernels of the film into "Downton Abbey", a much more expansive canvas on which to examine characters. The result was a huge success for ITV (and foreign networks choosing to take it up), and is easily one of my favourite recent TV products. Some spoilers follow.

The first season (or series, as the British would have it) spans roughly two years, from April 1912 to August 1914: the Edwardian era is in its twilight (with Edward VII himself already dead, and George V on the throne), though the characters obviously do not know that. The RMS Titanic sinks, taking with it not just Leonardo DiCaprio but James and Patrick Crawley, cousins and heirs to the Earldom of Grantham. The current Earl, Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville), has three daughters, but no son, and no reasonable prospect of producing one. Previously, he had planned to marry his eldest daughter Mary (Michelle Dockery) to the late Patrick, but that no longer being viable, the title and family fortune is set to pass to third cousin, once removed, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), a Manchester solicitor. Matthew and his mother Isobel (Penelope Wilton) move to Downton, at the Earl's request, their arrival coinciding with some changes in the household staff: the Earl's old war comrade, John Bates (Brendan Coyle), becomes his new valet, in spite of his limp, causing irritation among some members of the staff. That Matthew stands to inherit not just the title but the considerable dowry that Lady Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern) brought into the marriage angers both Lady Crawley and her mother-in-law, the Dowager Countess (Dame Maggie Smith, playing more or less the same character she played in "Gosford Park", to similarly delightful effect).

That summation only mentions a few of the show's many characters. There are well over a dozen notable figures introduced in the show's seven-episode first season, and Fellowes and the other writers do a commendable job in introducing a cast of such a size in such short order. Storywise, one can cite any number of precursors for the series, including (apart from the ones already mentioned) "The Remains of the Day" and "Mrs. Miniver" (a subplot in one episode is pretty much a direct reference to a plot in that film, albeit with a happier ending). It's been suggested that Fellowes is a little too fond of the class system he's depicting, but I disagree; it's shown to have problems (and "Gosford" was certainly not overflowing with love for the upper class), but this is meant to be a program with generally likeable characters, and I hardly think it's a reactionary assertion that some great households might have been good employers.

All the same, one can imagine why writers like this era of more defined class relations: these barriers make for incredible drama for the characters to play against, whereas today there are far, far fewer ideas of social class for people to struggle with. The acting is strong across the board, particularly from Smith, Coyle, and Joanne Froggatt as housemaid Anna, who has one of those very English romantic courtships with Mr. Bates. I do think the series could stand to add more dimensions to Thomas (Rob James-Collier), the footman out for Bates' job, who is most of the time almost a cartoon villain. The first series ends with the announcement of the beginning of World War One, which will surely revolutionize the lives of Downton's residents, whatever their class.

Highly recommended.
One person found this helpful
S. D. YinglingReviewed in the United States on February 28, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
I'm Not a TV Guy.
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I'm not really a TV guy. By that I mean I don't have shows that I watch on a regular basis. My wife begs me to sit and watch a movie with her. I'm just not a TV guy. But I purchased Amazon Prime a few months ago, not so much for TV shows or movies but for the free shipping and the other benefits of being a Prime member. Then in November I injured my back and I ended up missing a whole month of work. I was literally immobilized and planted in my chair at home. One day I was casually looking through some of the other benefits of my Prime membership like music, movies and TV shows. I was just playing around with the site and not even looking for Downton Abbey, I just kind of stumbled on it by chance and I clicked on Season One, Episode One. I really hadn't even intended to watch the whole episode. I was just experimenting. But the show got my attention right from the beginning with the haunting opening theme music. I was very quickly engrossed in the story and that was that. I ended up watching multiple episodes that day, more the next, and within a week I had finished Season One. The characters are phenomenal, the story lines are genuine and very personal. The incredible attention to detail and superb acting are way beyond what is the norm for TV serials. I am a 52 year old man and I am addicted to this English soap opera. I have talked about it so much to my wife that she became jealous. It's like pulling teeth for her to get me to sit and watch TV with her but I watched this program from start to the end of Season 5 in a matter of weeks. Now she feels left out so I am going to go back and watch it all over again with her from the beginning and and by then Season 6 will be new to both of us.

In short, this is a fantastic show and Season 1 is where it all starts. Some of the characters are detestable, others you love almost as if they were your family. One thing I can say is I can't remember the last time a TV show made me actually gasp or yell at the TV in anger or really laugh heartily. As I said, with rare exception I don't often follow series or TV shows. Two of those exceptions were NYPD Blue and Seinfeld when they were on network TV. I guess I set my bar pretty high. I had to quit watching Game of Thrones with my wife because I just got bored with it. Not a bad show, obviously the huge ratings and popularity attest to that. But there was just no appeal for me week after week and I never felt like I knew the characters that well. There was no connection with any of them for me. But now I know how a dog or cat feels when it hears food being poured into it's bowl. That's me when I hear the opening theme music to Downton Abbey. The music sets the tone for the show perfectly I think.

I guess it's pretty clear I like this show. I would very eagerly recommend it to anybody who wants to become really engrossed in a story. It's like a great book, you just want to keep turning the pages until you can't see anymore. The fact that I'm willing to watch it all over again, five seasons in all so far, should give you an idea of how much I enjoy this wonderful English drama.
21 people found this helpful
anonymousReviewed in the United States on April 14, 2012
4.0 out of 5 stars
A Jolly Good Show!
Verified purchase
This is the first time I've watched a continuing British drama. I wasn't sure if I'd like it, but it's turned out to be very entertaining. I understand this kind of show or period piece may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I'm hooked on the characters, their stories and their culture. Their thick English and Irish accents can make it hard to understand their words at times, but their motivations are clear and relatable. After all, the show is just a soap opera, but it's a very polished one. Maggie Smith is probably the most notable name in the cast (her character's a hoot!), but there's good acting all around, interesting plot twists and lots of gorgeous scenery. I wish Season 1 were much longer than 7 episodes, but at least those 7 are very well done.

Although this set is put out by PBS, it's my understanding this is the unedited version of the show--the way it aired in the UK--not the version that was broadcast on PBS stations in the States (hence, the label "Original UK Edition" on the cover). I may be wrong, but after reading many others' comments on Amazon, that was the conclusion I came to. Another clue these are the unedited episodes is that they vary in length, from 47 minutes long to 1 hour 7 minutes long. When PBS aired the series, it showed it as four 90-minute episodes, requiring PBS to cut them in length a bit.

Since I'm reviewing the product and not just the show itself, it wouldn't be fair to ignore the blu-ray set's shortcomings. My first gripe deals with technical issues: the set should have been released with 1080p resolution and 5.1 lossless audio. After all, it's 2012 and we're talking blu-ray, not DVD. I know there's a UK set that has 1080p resolution, but there seems to be some question as to whether or not it will play on American blu-ray players (which is why I went with this set instead). The difference in resolution is subtle to some, but the difference becomes more obvious on bigger screens. That's not to say the 1080i presentation is bad because it's certainly better than DVD quality. I just know I would have appreciated the higher resolution on my 120" screen.

As far as the audio goes, this set definitely would have benefited from surround sound. Instead, it comes with a 2.0 DTS-HD MA track. (At least that's what my PS3 says it is. The back cover simply says 2.0 Stereo.) When my receiver tries to create a surround experience using DTS Neo:6 Cinema mode, the dialog in the center speaker is not as clear as it could have been with a dedicated front channel, and there's little bass effect coming from the subwoofer.

My second gripe is the lack of an episode guide in this set. There's isn't one on screen nor is there a printed version included in the case. The disc labels don't even specify which episodes are on which discs. It's not until you load each disc that you discover which episodes are on it. Granted, there are only 2 discs, but I find this inexcusable when plenty of other studios release TV seasons with some method of tracking episodes. For instance, the Season Play feature on the "Lost" blu-rays is an excellent way to keep track of your progress, especially if it's been some time since you've watched the show. The on-screen menus on these discs, however, don't do much to help the viewer recall which episode they left off on: each episode is simply titled "Part 1," "Part 2," etc., offering no hint as to what each episode is about; nor is there a synopsis of each episode that viewers can read before playing an episode.

The quality of the show itself certainly outweighs the blu-ray's limitations, so don't let them stop you from getting this set if you're on the fence about it. It has wonderful characters, and all the juicy fun of a good soap. Highly recommended.
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cknReviewed in the United States on August 2, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
Rebecca Eatons Cleverest Masterpiece
Verified purchase
A period piece on the idyllic interpersonal dynamic between nobility and staff beneath the roof of the grand English castle Downton abbey where within it's walls, the lowest born show due deference to the highest born and in return are given more respect and dignity than they would otherwise receive elsewhere.

The series is centered around Downton Abbey, and the events that occur within the lives of the noble Crawley family and staff. At times, the demarcation line between aristocracy and servants is crossed and the deeper personal connection that binds them is briefly explored. The first episode begins with the sinking of the Titanic and presumed loss of Lord Grantham's heir who was a passenger on the ship; and then proceeds through time at irregular intervals to significant events, both local and global, that give each episode a brisk pace which is enhanced by steadiecam shots that take a seemingly trifle event, such as rushing the hollandaise sauce to the dining room in time for the entree, making it possible for the viewer to feel the gravity of the situation as experienced by the subject in the scene.

Downton Abbey is filmed on location at Highclere castle within who's brick and mortar exterior lies a lush interior resplendent with gorgeous tapestries, paintings and reliefs carved into high, polished wood ceilings which all at once convey a sense of warmth, grandeur, elegance, permanence and stability. Exterior aerial shots and panoramic views can only provide a glimpse of the surrounding Highclere park 5000 acre estate with its woods, streams, cottages, architectural follies and gardens that can only instill in the observer a sense of awe that one family can own so much.

Lord Grantham an English earl, played by Hugh Bonneville, appreciates the vastness of the estate, it's inhabitants and employees and sees himself as merely the custodian of the estate upon whose shoulders rests the welfare of all. With no uncertain loyalty to the crown, Grantham also possess a sense of selflessness and compassion; who never hesitates to help those less fortunate when they encounter insurmountable challenges. Lest the character become too simple and good, he is also endowed with human frailties such as jealousy, indecision and, occasionally, vanity. He is further blessed with his beautiful, elegant American wife Cora, played by Elizabeth McGovern, who keeps him centered.

Big, barrel chested,baritone voiced, authoritative Carson the butler, aptly played by Jim Carter, whose unswerving loyalty to crown, country and master make him appear a snobbish, Tory royalist at times but, is kept from getting too full of himself by the firm footed earthly Mrs. Hughes the head house keeper. All the rest of the characters are equally fleshed out with believable qualities that can only be the result of dedication and thoughtful deliberation provided by a well put together cast and director. This series is excellent for family viewing as there are no sex scenes, nudity or intense intimate moments but, there are sensitive topics occasionally, albeit scripted for discreetness, that may raise questions by inquisitive little ones.

This review is based on viewings on a 24" desktop monitor with standard definition and yet the picture quality is quite good and simply indicates that on a large HD screen, the lighting, backgrounds and costumes would be absolutely gorgeous and for each episode you would be effortlessly transported to another time far away from the dreary present.
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