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on December 19, 2011
Julian Fellowes has once again proven he is absolutely shameless when it comes to pinching plot lines or re-hashing the cliched storylines that have gone before.
Yes, Downton Abbey is back with series two, ....oh, and don't worry, there's a definite lead-in to a third series at the end of this one. After all there must be at least two more cliches Fellowes hasn't rehashed just yet, but they'll pop up I'm sure.
Okay, so what's it like?
Well its still very lush in its set dressing , but the photography with its over use of steadycam zooming and circling about in very long takes will make those of you who suffer vertigo more than a little dizzy at times.
We are still largely confined to Downton Abbey, with very brief scenes in the "designer" trenches with some very obvious photoshopping to provide the shattered landscape that is supposedly The Somme.
There's a little blood, but one never really gets the feeling that it's anything but a set piece.

The acting is once again good, with the VERY noticeable exception of Elizabeth McGovern, who gives the most bizarre performance as the wife. Now she's an American actress playing an American, which shouldn't be all that hard a stretch you would imagine, ....BUT her "style", (if I may call it that), seems to consist of constantly cocking her head at an odd angle, gazing intensely just off to the side of camera and going cross-eyed!
I kid you not! AND she does it all the time, in just about every situation other than when she is supposed to be dying of the Spanish 'flu.
(Aside: Spanish 'flu was VERY contagious and yet despite all the cast being shown in very close contact with the designated victims, no one else ever seems to catch it!)

I can only suggest McGovern normally wears glasses in life, but has removed them to play her character and now has to squint to read her lines off a cue card held just off camera? You will not miss this strange affectation I assure you, ......she looks like a myopic beagle at times.

There are deaths of some characters, ...but they are the "disposable" ones, .....or those whose demise creates a very convenient advantage for the plot, .....AND you'll see all of them coming long before the last dying gasp. As I said above, the writing is FAR from being full of any surprises. It's strictly "paint-by-number" as far as plot goes.
There are also some noticeable gaps where a quite interesting sub-plot is begun, then just abandoned completely without any resolution or further mention. The re-appearance of an extremely facially disfigured "true" heir who supposedly perished on the Titanic at the beginning of series one is a point in question. Is he an impostor or the real deal? He just leaves and is written out and we never find out. Maybe it's left for the proposed third season?

The "villain" Thomas once again turns up like the proverbial bad penny and lords it over everyone when he is appointed to army staff in charge of Downton Abbey's military hospital and is no longer a servant, ......yes, the Abbey becomes a hospital, but really more of a "designer rest home" so don't expect any severe war wounds or dying soldiers. Most of 'em look like they are smart young chaps at a house party, leaping about playing ping-pong rather than suffering any of the vicissitudes of war!
Our arrogant Thomas also makes a disastrous foray into the black market, but rather than suffer any disgrace, despite palming off adulterated foodstuffs to the Downton kitchens, again manages to land on his feet and remain at the Abbey rather than be dismissed for his many crimes. They are obviously very sympathetic employers, considering there were no unfair dismissal laws in force at the time! There is a most convenient plotline for Thomas, which has most of the serving staff get sick and the Abbey become short-staffed. Well, down to it's last ten or so servants to look after five people anyway! Positively a skeleton staff.....

It must also be mentioned that several of the cast have certainly "tubbed-up" in the break between the two series. Perhaps the actors have been spending their unaccustomed regular paychecks on some seriously long lunches?

Fellowes seems incapable of deciding whether Her Ladyship's maid O'Brian is still a nasty piece of business or has undergone redemption after she deliberately caused Her Ladyship to miscarry the unexpected true heir. Her character vacillates between Mother Theresa and Cruella de Ville.
(Come to think of it, ...if miscarriages are so easily procurred with just a simple cake of soap, ...why were so many troubled heroines fooling around with coathangers, or those sleazy backyard butchers?)

Loose ends? There are many, including the "cliff-hanger" in the final shot, which is also telegraphed for about two episodes before it happens and you too will go "Ho-hum;...yeah, like I didn't see THAT coming!".

Now considering all the above, did I enjoy it?
Well for me it was rather a guilty pleasure I have to confess, as despite it's VERY obvious plot-line failings and not being anywhere near as good as the first series, the characters are familiar and there is some interest in watching them once again. I just wish someone else had written the script. Fellowes really struggles to maintain credibility at times, ....and constanly finding oneself about three pages ahead of his script really holds no surprises or unexpected revelations. You ALWAYS know where it's going, which will either diminish your enjoyment as it does for me, ....or you'll enjoy feeling clairvoyant.

The costumes are nice, the scenery great, most of the performances are very good to most adequate, ....(exception being Ms. McGovern's crook-necked gazings at nothing in particular), and all in all it's still a quite enjoyable Sunday night fare.

Mention must be made to those who tsk-tsked about the rather chaste male/male kiss in the first series making it unsuitable for their sheltered little sprogs, that there is.....shock horror, ...wait for it, ......a pre-marital sex scene which results in an.....please understand I can hardly bring myself to type this; ....an illegitimate child and an unmarried mother! There! I've said it! Oh the shocking obscenity of it all! So it's send the little brats off to bed, take bible in hand for protection and brace yourself yet again for the unbridled depravity of the inmates of Downton Abbey!
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on October 12, 2011
The greatly anticipated second series of Downton Abbey picks up two years on from the first series in 1916, in the middle of World War 1. Downton Abbey has been converted into a convalescent home for injured servicemen and the action covers the period from the Battle of the Somme up to the end of the war. As in the first series, topical events of the period, political, economic and military are covered.

The wartime scenario and the convalescent home setting provide an excellent background for some interesting story lines. The combination of excellent plot lines, great acting and the superb setting display all that is best in TV period drama. This time round we have eight more episodes to add to the seven in the first series. As befits wartime, the costumes are not as flamboyant as in the first series but they are thoroughly researched and appropriate to the period.

There continue to be many superb individual performances but mention must be made of Maggie Smith. What a stroke of genius to cast her as Violet. She dominates every scene she appears in and often has some very funny lines.

This DVD includes the Downton Abbey 2 hour Christmas Special which is probably the single best episode of Downton Abbey to date. High drama here with a cliffhanging murder trial as well as the usual romance, drama, betrayal etc one would expect!

The UK has a long tradition of producing fine period dramas and this is the most successful since the early 1980s when Brideshead Revisited: 30th Anniversary Edition took the world by storm. Peak viewing figures in the UK are 11m which is an astounding number for that market. It is pleasing to learn that a third series is already planned and we now know that this will cover an 18 month period from 1920 to 1921. This one is likely to run and run and I would not be surprised to see Downton Abbey continuing up to the 1930s eventually.
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on October 17, 2011
I cannot review this set, as it has not yet been released. But I can tell others that it is well worth the wait. Here in the UK we are on the 5th episode of 8 and are promised a Chrsitmas special as well. I hope that will be included in the US version, hence the February release. The story is set during World War I and there are some spectacular twists to the story! Those you love and those you love to hate are all back, with some new characters as well. The scripts are very well written, Maggie Smith has some fabulous lines! The costumes and scenery are again lush. I am enjoying this series so much I have pre-ordered this set for my brother in the US. If you loved series 1 and got involved with the characters you will love series 2 which continues their stories. It is a huge hit here and they are already talking about series 3, to be set in the 1920's.
Update: the DVD set has come out in the UK. I cannot know what will be on the US version, but the UK version has a section of deleted scenes. Have a look at them, some bits of the story make more sense. The reveiws here are mixed, as many thought it got too "soap opera" and predictable, while others felt it was unbelievable.
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on January 4, 2012
Amazon doesn't list some important specifications so I'm just posting it here. I got them from the PBS website.

Length : 544 minutes on 3 Discs
Subtitles : Yes
Number of Programs : 9
Includes the Downton Abbey Christmas Special

As for season 2, it's pretty much more Downton Abbey. More Matthew/Mary, Mr. Bates/Anna, and more dastardly Miss O'Brien and Thomas. It's very interesting to see things start to change in the WW1 setting as well and some characters go through some big changes. The Christmas Special in particular is beautifully shot and makes me very excited for season 3 which has already been announced.
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on January 4, 2012
The story was interesting and engaging, but I stopped watching when they portrayed a man kissing another man romantically. Not my cup of tea. If you like that sort of thing, this will likely be a good choice for you. If you don't like that sort of thing, be prepared for a surprise "yuck" factor.

NOTE: This was accidentally posted on the Season 2 review. I have reposted this under Season 1 where it belongs. I am leaving the accidental Season 2 review in place because of all the dialogue it generated.
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on November 7, 2011
Considered one of the most successful "darlings" in the history of television, the first season of Downton Abbey achieved international success and a worldwide following. Its second season includes the same likable (and some not so likable) characters, but in an entirely new world...

When last we left Downton, the house was in turmoil at the recent news that war has begun with Germany. Some time later, the inhabitants of the great old estate have seen their lives immensely changed. Robert (Hugh Bonneville) feels inadequate and wants greatly to once more go to battle rather than staying at home and raising the morale of the women, and his wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) is too distracted to take much notice of his melancholy mood. Each of his daughters have embarked on individual quests to be of some use: Mary (Michelle Dockery) is both pining and praying for her beloved Matthew (Dan Stevens) at the front, Edith (Laura Carmichael) is learning to drive a tractor (among other things), and Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) is hoping to become a nurse at the local hospital.

Downstairs, Carson (Jim Carter) is attempting to contend with a limited staff and even scarcer resources. Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) is confronted with the antics and perils of a brand new maid with ideas above her station, and the would-be-romance between Anna (Joan Froggatt) and Bates (Brendan Coyle) is put on temporary hold when his wife (Maria Doyle Kennedy) arrives with a startling proposition.

While each of the characters confronts their fears and struggles to find a way to fit into a world that is altering all around them, the second season powers forward with purpose and sentimentality... although it does sometimes stray into convenient clichés and predictable outcomes. One of the more remarkable things about it is how this series manages to involve us so completely in the lives of its many protagonists, whether we love or hate them, find them irritating or are frustrated with their bad choices. This season finds a dramatic change in Lady Mary for the better, makes us feel sorry for Thomas (I never thought it possible!), and invokes tears of both joy and sorrow as each installment comes to a close. The writing is sometimes magnificent and sometimes subpar, its main problem in moving too quickly through situations (in some instances, I would have advocated slowing down) and not permitting the audience to really spend much time on some of the romantic relationships. It also on occasion suffers from "telling" rather than "showing," which is a shame. Some moments are very, very good (such as an attempted assassination, the return of a missing soldier, and the final ten minutes of the finale) while others are downright cringe-worthy - Mrs. Bates in particular is too conveniently evil for my taste.

Season two has taken a lot of heat from critics and audiences alike for its predictable storylines and rampant clichés. Much of this criticism is deserved, since while some of the character development is believable (such as the transformations of Mary and Edith) other departures are completely unexpected and unlikely. The series hits all the right emotional notes but doesn't quite have the spark of its predecessor. Gone are all the wonderful conversations and moments that were used to build character and humor and forthright plot-driven exposition is in its place. Even so, there are some terrific one-liners from Maggie Smith and the happy ending to one couple's crisis is more than enough to redeem any of its mistakes.
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on February 14, 2012
The music, house and clothes are beautiful. All very well done.
But the acting and storylines are cartoonish! I found myself
laughing out loud at the miracle recovery, the bufoonish doctor, the servants
talking back!! It's like a cliff notes version of a harlequin romance.

I recommend the old Upstairs Downstairs. Never lived like the filthy rich parasites but the relationship between the two classes makes more sense.
Much better acting, fully developed characters and storylines.
It looks dated but still excellent.
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on February 9, 2012
Season two is a huge disappointment. I just watched Season 1 episode 1 again, and I admit I am bewildered wondering what happened? What were the writers thinking? What audience did they produce Season 2 for? Downton Abbey Season 1 began as an intelligent, cerebral show and it has become an insipid, silly soap opera with ridiculous plots. For shame. Such amazing acting talent wasted on such stupid scripts.
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on February 10, 2012
Says it is Region 1 U.S. and it "should" play on US Blu Ray Drives but have tried out two of them and they simply do not work.
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on January 10, 2012
This is a really good show. I enjoyed being introduced to the family in season 1 and am interested to see how they fare through WWI. You can watch season 2 for FREE on PBS.com. I highly recommend going there instead of paying for it on Amazon.
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