by Del Harvey
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Downton Abbey is another one of those magical places captured forever in time by PBS/BBC and presented to us in installments beginning Sunday, January 9, 2011. It is just after the turn of the century, just prior to the first World War, and life at Downton Abbey is idyllic, for the most part, because the class system is still in effect and for those born into the genteel life, comforts and security abound. Except the only male heir has just died on the Titanic, and so the eldest daughter must marry, and soon, or else the entire estate will be passed on to the next mail heir in the family. And he is a poor country lawyer who has little concern for the class system, let alone a hundred year old estate and what it means to the family and all those who live and serve there.
The eldest daughter is far too superior in attitude and appearance for her own good, and her mother (Elizabeth McGovern) and grandmother (Maggie Smith) are doing their best simply to keep up with one scandalous situation after another. Then there is the youngest daughter, a budding beauty who believes and fights for the suffragette movement, much to the chagrin of father (Hugh Bonneville), who may be very forgiving, but who also is stuck firmly in the conservative ways of class.
A stately country house, a noble family, and a succession crisis caused by the sinking of the Titanic are the backdrop for this epic drama by Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) about the lives of aristocrats and servants in the years before World War I.
Downton Abby was a runaway hit during its UK broadcast, thanks to stars Hugh Bonneville, Dame Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, and other great actors in a production that brings a glittering bygone era to life. I greatly enjoyed this series and hope there will be more to come in future, for they do leave the end dangling a bit with the promise of more. No one does historical pieces better than BBC television, and Downton Abbey is among some of the best they have ever done.
Downton Abbey airs on MASTERPIECE Classic, Sundays, January 9 through January 30, 2011 at 9pm on PBS.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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