This show is way past its shelf life. In the beginning I approached this soap opera with trepidation. I’m not a soap fan and I have to admit I was a captive audience. While growing up, my wife was very close to her English grandmother. She was regaled with stories about the family in Manchester and tales of her great grandmother. That gave her an affinity for England of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “Downton Abby” was right up her alley. She watched. I grumbled…quietly.
To my surprise I had to begrudgingly admit I liked it. I wasn’t into it that much that I could miss an episode and not care but I knew I was watching something special. After all, the show does have Maggie Smith…but therein lies the beginning of the downfall.
Her character comes across as if it was written by Neil Simon. Most of her dialogue consists of quips and one liners more suitable to Simon’s New York than an English period piece. This was getting annoying. Someone must have thought it would be cute to have an acerbic elderly lady toss snark at everybody and it wouldn’t get old. Wrong.
By series three I was really having my doubts. Then the decision was made to bring in Shirley MacLaine. Since I’m a fan of hers, things were looking up….but not for long. If her character was supposed to light up the small screen with snappy repartee with Maggie Smith’s character the writers forgot something ….wit. Here are two great actresses with the potential to tear up the TV and instead it was embarrassingly dull. What a waste of talent.
When series four started both of us were skeptical but tuned in anyway. The show got worse and worse. The rape of Anna by Mr.Green was the beginning of the end of a class show. They just had to put in a cheap storyline to try and raise some excitement and soapie thrills. It was tough to watch because it was just tossed in to try and get something of interest since the rest of the show was falling apart. The ending of the storyline went by so fast it’s almost as if it never happened. Mr.Bates’ solution was broadly hinted but never shown and just about brushed over. Lazy writing strikes again. A number of columns in London ripped the show after the final episode of series four and with good reason. Along with the unnecessary Anna storyline the show tries to get by with trying to dazzle the audience with costumes and interior set design and nothing else.
Now the nauseating PBS overhype for series five is underway. The overselling is way out of hand and is relentless. They’re using the promos as part of their, what seems to be, daily begathons. The frequency of the plugs for the upcoming series five is offensive, not because of content, but due to the non stop, in your face angle after angle from costume specials to features on old manor homes to an Angela Lansbury hosted plugathon..on and on and on it goes.
To make matters worse series six filming is underway. This juggernaut of mediocrity isn’t slowing down. We are debating whether to check out series five. It may be a situation of watching because there just isn’t anything else on. That doesn’t mean we won’t be looking to see what else is around. We’ll find something else.
If you want the real deal about life in that time period than do yourself a favor and get the non fiction book “Servants” by Lucy Lethbridge. A great read packed with information that will keep you glued to the pages.