‘Abbey’ strikes chord with viewers

Shelby Gee, Production Editor

“Downton Abbey” is, in short, an engaging and complex tale which pulls viewers in to every storyline and character.

Unlike many modern programs, each episode seems well thought out, like it must have taken months to write, film and edit. In some ways, it seems more like fourteen little movies than a television series.

The BBC show tells the story of a wealthy English family in the early twentieth century. Each character, from the eldest daughter to the chauffeur, is full of personality and strong opinions, and not one of the main characters is flat. Each one develops throughout the series.

The downside to such strong characters is viewers will either love them or hate them; there really is no in between. The two most despicable characters on the show would have to be Thomas, a footman in the great estate of Downton Abbey, and the maid, O’Brien. These two are always stirring up trouble in the household, especially for the newcomer Bates. It can be really grating, but even they are shown to have their soft spots.

A key aspect of the plot is the time period, which is truly one of the most fascinating aspects of the tale. In the first episode, the entire lives of the Crawley family are shaken up by the death of their cousin in the infamous sinking of the Titanic. This leads to one of the main storylines of the show: the introduction of the new heir of Downton Abbey, a middle class cousin named Matthew, who initially has no interest in the wealth or prestige of the estate.

The first series of the show features seven episodes, mainly based around the integration of Matthew and his mother, Isobel, into the tightly knit group of Downton: Lord and Lady Grantham, their three daughters, Lord Grantham’s judgmental mother and the ten main staff members of the estate. Most episodes also have plots relating to the eldest daughter, Mary. Her parents wish to marry her off to a suitable gentleman.

While these storylines are important to the show, they do get a little tedious by episode four. However, the show really picks up in its second series when World War I begins in Europe, forever changing the lives of the characters and leading to a lot more emotion than was ever revealed in the first series. It is in the second series the romantic relationships of the characters are developed and sometimes destroyed due to the war, within the staff as well as the family.

In its first fourteen episodes, “Downton Abbey” has managed to captivate many on both sides of the pond, and with good reason. It is a cleverly written show, with great scenery, a juicy plot and a strong group of characters.

It is very similar to films such as “Pride and Prejudice” or “Atonement,” but it strikes more of a chord with some viewers, because of the dynamic characters and depth due to the War and other major events in the characters’ lives.

It is not just another “boring old-time British production” as some might speculate. There is scandal and romance as well as some action and tragedy, just like most modern shows, but with a more unique backdrop and more thought put into the writing of each episode.