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Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey, Season 1
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Downton Abbeya sprawling, lavish Edwardian mansion nestled in the Yorkshire landscapeneeds an heir. Dame Maggie Smith stars as Violet, the stubborn Dowager Countess of Grantham, matriarch of Downton. Hugh Bonneville stars as her son, the stoic, unflappable Lord Crawley; Elizabeth McGovern is his far-sighted American wife, Cora. From Academy Award®-winner Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park).
An addictive blend of suds and social commentary, ITV's Downton Abbey brings a microcosm of Edwardian society together under one roof. Lord Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) and his family live a life of leisure, while a fleet of servants, including butler Carson (Jim Carter), attend to their every need, but two events conspire to shake things up: the sinking of the Titanic, which claims Crawley's heirs, and the return of his valet, Bates (Brendan Coyle). Since Crawley and Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) have three daughters, his distant solicitor cousin, Matthew (Dan Stevens), becomes heir to the estate. With that, the scheming begins, since Thomas the footman (Rob James-Collier) views Bates as an interloper and Crawley's mother, Violet (Maggie Smith), feels the same way about Matthew's mother, Isobel (Penelope Wilton).
In the tradition of the BBC's Upstairs Downstairs and Robert Altman's Gosford Park, for which writer-creator Julian Fellowes received an Academy Award, the royals, servants, and middle-class relations struggle to get along. Sniffs uptight maid Miss O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran), "Gentlemen don't work," but that doesn't stop Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael) from competing for Matthew's affections. Though it takes awhile to warm up to the tightest-wound characters, most everyone reveals their more vulnerable side before the first season comes to an end, and a new small-screen classic is born.
The entire sprawling cast is quite wonderful, particularly Bonneville, Carter, and James-Collier, who provide a fascinating study in contrasts (the latter is downright dastardly). Unlike the version that aired on PBS's Masterpiece Classic, this set offers seven parts rather than four. Extras include a featurette, in which cast and crew discuss the production, and an introduction to Hampshire's Highclere Castle, which doubles for Downton Abbey. The first season was a phenomenon in the United Kingdom, and Fellowes has promised a second season set during World War I. --Kathleen C. FennessySee all Editorial Reviews
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Top Customer Reviews
To me, this is ruinous to a finely produced English landscape, pre-world war I.
Just be more alert to this. I am not aware of any information from my PBS station to this effect, that I am indeed viewing a condensed version of Downton Abbey....
I have just purchased DVD, UK edition of Downton Abbey to view in my home....this should be a more in-depth story, without the shifting of scenes that add up to being difficult to the entire story line.
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.
Do not buy the so-called "dumbed down" PBS version of the outstanding British ITV series Downton Abbey. We watched the entire series with great joy while in the UK last year, and after excitedly telling our American friends to watch Downton Abbey on PBS, my husband and I looked at each other in horror and confusion as we watched one butchered scene after another. Don't be misled by those who recalculate the running time to account for the removal of commercials (from the ITV version) or the reformatting to shorten the series by increasing episode length (7 episodes in the UK, 4 longer episodes in the US). The fact is, SCENES WERE OMITTED AND OR TRUNCATED because as PBS Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton shamefully admitted, "American audiences demand a `different speed' to their shows." She also claimed that American audiences would have trouble understanding the complicated inheritance issues. Wow. This is an extraordinary admission from a PBS executive. Don't people turn to PBS for an intelligent alternative to the idiocy of American commercial television? I submit it is Rebecca Eaton who is dumb, not the PBS viewership.
There is apparently a Region 2 version of the unedited ITV series on Amazon (EDIT: and now we see there is an "unedited UK" version provided by PBS though I have not seen it and cannot attest that it's the actual ITV version), so just check your tech specs before buying or search elsewhere. And for the much anticipated season two of Downton Abbey when it premieres later this year, get a UK VPN and stream it from the ITV Player. Each episode remains available for streaming for several weeks after it airs. Note: Many inadvertently refer to this as a BBC series. It is in fact an ITV production.
Shame, shame, shame on Rebecca Eaton and PBS.