I just read that it was broadcast on PBS in the USA in January of this year, but I missed that and I first read about it on A Reader's Respite a few months back. Her glowing review was enough to peak my interest. Sort of a new version of Upstairs/Downstairs, for those old enough to remember that series.
What is it about? Well here is a little description from my friends at Wikipedia...
"The series is set in the fictional Downton Abbey, stately home of the Earl and Countess of Grantham, and follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants early in the reign of King George V. The series spans the two years prior to the Great War, commencing with news of the sinking of the Titanic, an event that sets the story in motion."And of course, we the viewer, know that the specter of WWI and how it will change all their lives, is brewing just over the horizon.
The Earl's heir, his cousin, was killed on the Titanic and the next in line is a decided middle class (gasp!) young lawyer, who arrives, along with his mother, to take up residence in the village so he can begin to learn what his future duties as Earl will entail. Then, there is the issue of the three Crawley daughters, who must be married off but are decidedly less appealing in the marriage market, especially the eldest, since she will not inherit manor. And of course, downstairs, there are all sorts of dramas and intrigues going on as well. But it is all written in a believable and not overdone way...one of the most appealing things about this series. Still, as excellent and very entertaining as the story is, it is not the only attraction of this show.
I love when we get to see parts of this fantastic house where the series was filmed. They used Highclere Castle in Hampshire and wow, it is very nice.
Then, there is the cast, which is excellent. Perhaps my favorite is Maggie Smith, who plays Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, the Earl's mother. She steals every scene she is in, and with the quality of the rest of the cast, that is saying something. Also familiar to American viewers will be Elizabeth McGovern as the Countess of Grantham, the daughter-in-law of Smith's character. I must say that their scenes together are one of the highlights of the show. But to single out these two may be unfair because the whole cast is very good.
What I perhaps like best is that all the characters, all the storylines, Up and Down, are very good. I think the show's creator, Julian Fellowes, hit it on the nail when he said..
“I think the reason why people love Downton Abbey is because all the characters are given the same weight. Some are nice, some are not, but it has nothing to do with class or oppressors versus the oppressed. There’s no agenda here – I say, if you want to send a message, go to Western Union –Daisy’s crisis is as important to her as Lady Mary’s is to Lady Mary.”The first part of the series, seven episodes ending with the announcement at a garden party that England is at war with Germany, is available on Netflix. You can get it on DVD or watch it instantly if you are a member.
Best of all, I read that season two started filming in March, to play in England near the end of this year and hopefully will be available in the US not too much later.
It can not be soon enough, because I am waiting for my next Downton Abbey fix!