A few years ago, I decided that for the amount of new TV that I watched (it seemed that I only watched re-runs of favourite shows like MASH, Columbo and Murder She Wrote), I shouldn’t be supporting the incredibly wealthy cable company and so I cancelled it. Then, along came Downton Abbey. Oh, dear. Someone gave me season 1 a few years ago for Christmas and then I must have watched Season 2 online because it’s looking familiar. Just before Christmas, there was a 1-day special on the first 4 seasons. So now, I’m catching up. I’d forgotten much, so I’ve started at the beginning again. Wow!
Maggie Smith is absolutely amazing as the Dowager Duchess! Her sardonic sarcasm keeps me in stitches. And Barrows (Siobhan Finneran) is a hoot, as she has changed from a nasty, scheming witch, to a somewhat less objectionable creature with occasional flares of decency. So far, at least, Thomas (Rob James-Collier) continues to be a total jerk but what would the downstairs life be without all the tension he creates. Bates (Brendan Coyle) is a terribly romantic character who is at this point in my viewing still wasting away in prison so don’t tell me what happens to him. I don’t want to know either way — comes out safely or not! I can wait.
Of course, all the actors/actresses playing the main family, Lord and Lady Granville (Hugh Bonneville & Elizabeth McGovern), Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) and Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findley), are marvellous and Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) gives the Dowager Duchess a run for her money in the ironic wit department and behind the scenes scheming. Shirley MacLaine is wonderful as Lady Granville’s American mother — refreshingly frank and, well, so American. Allen Leech (Tom Branson), the radical Irish chauffeur and Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley) round out the romantic male roles quite nicely.
I guess it’s better to come late to the party rather than not showing up at all. I wonder what it is about the British nobility, that while around the world everyone wants to be separate from it, we do terribly enjoy watching the grandeur of it in action!