It is impossible to fathom what people and critics see in Downton Abbey. It does absolutely nothing for me and it is an example of that quintessential “crossover hit” that actually does nothing to sell Britain to the rest of the world.
It is just another one of those quaint, British period dramas about the upper classes that panders to populism rather than realism. But, it has been wildly successful and its second season recently picked up an impressive array of Emmy nominations, despite how weak it was.
The success that it gained in the UK, where it reaches around 7 million viewers per week, granted it a third season and means for expansion.
For the upcoming season, Shirley MacLaine joined the cast as the Countess of Grantham’s mother, adding more prestige to a series that already has an inflated ego. The teaser below gives us the first official look at the character in action and granted, the scenes between her flamboyant character and Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess will probably be the season’s highlight.
The other teaser just hints further that the show hasn’t got anything new to bring to it and that for the most part it will be focusing on overprivileged land owners sitting down and talking over dinner.
My main problem with Downton Abbey is that Julian Fellowes is doing nothing original here at all. In the end this is simply Gosford Park in long form, lacking a director that has the style and intelligence of Robert Altman (despite the show’s attempts to imitate that style).
Both the show and the film are Upstairs/Downstairs examinations between the rich and their servants, and how the working classes are the ones who provide the backbone and structure to the upper classes. How in fact, the rich are blissfully ignorant and the servants are the ones keeping them that way. Gosford Park and Downton Abbey essentially tell the same story with exactly the same characters, the big telltale being that there is barely any difference between the characters that Maggie Smith plays in both pieces of material.
The introduction of an American character into this environment and noticing the culture clash is a key observation in Gosford Park and with Shirley MacLaine’s character, Fellowes is just lifting that idea and placing it in this show as if it were something new.
Fellowes’ work on Downton Abbey is lazy, it rips off his own work and doesn’t do anything to improve it. Gosford Park was a scathing social satire but it also had a sense of humour and lightness of touch. That was mainly provided by Altman’s direction but it is there in the writing also.
Fellowes proved with Downton Abbey that the ideas and characters of Gosford Park don’t suit a TV series and the transition has left the concept boring, lifeless and humourless.
Downton Abbey returns to UK screens later in the fall and will premiere on American screens in early 2013.
Check out the teasers below.
Source: The Playlist