TV Series Review: Downton Abbey (Season 1) – 4 Stars

Downton Abbey (Season 1)

Masterpiece (PBS)

4 out of 5 stars

I resisted watching Downton Abbey via my local PBS station, mostly because I rarely tune in to it.  I do not take full advantage of my DVR as I should, preferring to rely on Netflix (streaming or DVD) to catch up on series of interest.  Last week, I went looking for the first series via my Netflix streaming queue.  I swear I added the series months ago, but I could no longer find it waiting for me.  Apparently, the contract expired between Netflix and that particular content provider.  My next best option came from my local library, which had the entire series sitting on the shelf waiting for me to check it out.  This has one advantage over Netflix DVD service via snail mail – I get the entire series at once, instead of dribbled to me a disc at a time.  The disadvantage is I only had one week to view the series and only two renewals allowed for a total of three weeks in which to carve out seven or eight hours.  I guess another disadvantage to watching via DVD instead of streaming, I was forced to watch it via my home theater system (not a true disadvantage as I love my setup) or on my laptop.  With streaming, I could have continued watching the series over my lunch hours on my smartphone or laptop.  And before you ask, no, I don’t want to purchase this series from iTunes or Amazon or Google Play.  It aired on PBS (ostensibly paid for with my tax dollars and donations) and I don’t fancy having this series in my collection for posterity.  I consume content as efficiently as possible and support the artists and authors I consider exceptional with my hard-earned wages.

I picked up the DVDs late on Saturday morning last while out doing my weekly errands.  The rest of Saturday was spent working on household chores and remodelling projects, both of which tuckered me out too much to settle down and watch the series.  I woke up early Sunday morning and popped in the first DVD.  I watched the first two episodes and the documentary followed by another couple of episodes on the second DVD before noon.  That evening, I watched two more episodes, this time with my husband joining in (thankfully the plot wasn’t so complicated that I could catch him up quickly with a few brief pauses).  I finished the final episode of Season 1 on Monday evening, returning the DVDs to the library Tuesday evening.  Not bad considering I didn’t think I could squeeze in that much television viewing in my crazy week schedule.

Things I liked about the Downtown Abbey:

  • Beautiful locations and costumes
  • Well acted
  • Occasional well placed humor, a bit of mystery and not too much melodrama.
  • Glimpse of technology integration from 100 years ago (automobiles, telephones)

Things I didn’t like about the show (spoilers so beware):

  • Change in Mr. Bates character with respect to his job security
  • Virile young lover dies of a nearly unbelievable heart attack in oldest daughter’s arms
  • Miscarriage cliché (overused and too predictable).

I love to watch (but not necessarily read) period dramas because when they are well done, the visuals are beautiful and engrossing.  Like a window into the past. Downton Abbey delivered those in spades.  The glimpse into the changing times (woman’s suffrage, organized labor, rise of socialism, tensions in Europe leading up to WWI) from the upper and lower classes was well done.

While the plot didn’t tax my intellect overmuch, it was a welcome balm to my otherwise hectic life.  I’m looking forward to watching Season 2, starting tomorrow, once I retrieve the next set of discs from my local library this morning.