Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"Downton Abbey" Returns

The new year welcomes in the second season of the delicious and addictive television series, "Downton Abbey," one of the most critically acclaimed shows on television.  The first episode airs on Sunday, January 8.  Did you know that it is the most popular period drama in Great Britain since "Brideshead Revisited" (which coincidentally is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month)?  Here in the U.S. "Downton Abbey" is equally beloved and won six primetime Emmy awards, including best mini-series.  The first episode of season two takes place in the year 1916, two years into World War I and will have seven episodes.  And yes, there will be a third season!  It starts filming in February.

The last episode left us with Lord Grantham announcing that World War I has been declared. Who can forget the very first episode when the kind and benevolent Lord Grantham retained Mr. Bates as his valet, even though Bates' disability prevented him from doing the best job.  Tears were flowing on my end!  Lady Mary tried to have it both ways and protect her interests regarding cousin Matthew's proposal of marriage and apparently has lost him. Lady Edith continues to be disappointed in love and Lady Sybil is embracing the women's rights movement.  The Countess of Grantham, played by American actress Elizabeth McGovern, has lost her baby due to the machinations of the malevolent maid O'Brien.  The servants' world is equally fraught with drama.   Gwen wants to leave service and become a secretary. Anna is in love with Mr. Bates who cannot return her affections due to his mysterious past.  The cook has had eye surgery to correct her blindness and save her job.  Head housekeeper Mrs. Hughes has been tempted to accept a marriage proposal but decides to stay at Downton Abbey, much to the relief of head butler Mr. Carlson.   The characters have grown, none more touchingly than Maggie Smith's character, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, who softened under the influence of Matthew's egalitarian mother and in one of my favorite scenes gave the flower award to one of the gardeners, despite the fact that she had actually won it.  

Many people have discussed the reasons for the great appeal of this series.  One of the reasons most often cited is that Julian Fellowes has made the stories of the characters upstairs and downstairs equally compelling.  I agree with that.  When you add to this the additional elements of gorgeous sets and costumes, the magnificent Highclere Castle where the series is based, incredible writing from Julian Fellowes, and great acting from talents such as Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Penelope Wilton, as well as younger relatively unknown actors such as the women who play the three sisters --  you have the formula for a spectacular television hit.  The leisurely episodic format of the show makes us feel as if we are immersed in a sprawling Edwardian novel, and that is also part of its appeal.

And of course for the Anglophiles amongst us the show is an adoration of "England's green and pleasant land."  The beauty of the English countryside is ever present and the story of a family and their servants whose personal dramas unfold within a magnificent English country house is fascinating.   There is also the satisfying storyline that is right out of a Jane Austen novel --   sisters that need to be married, entailment, possible loss of a great home, and love and romance. In addition, it looks like the next season will be very much about the affects of World War I on these characters which is not a theme Austen ever went into.  We wonder what will happen to all of the men, members of the family as well as the servants, since every able-bodied young man was required to serve.

Since January is "Downton Abbey month" I thought I might devote the entire month to all things British.  So let's put on the kettle, bring out the good china and have tea in front of the fireplace.  Let's talk about the show and other topics that are quintessentially British.  In the meantime, enjoy the first episode of the second season of "Downton Abbey"! 

First four photos via here


  1. Sunday, there was also a Christmas special here in the UK, shown on Christmas Day. It was fabulous!

  2. It is deliriously addictive, isn't it. Each shot like a painting.
    Although those two evil servants make me a bit crazy. I hope something dreadful happens to both of them this season!

  3. I just sat down with a cup of tea in my brown transferware teacup, and here you are, Sunday, teasing with Downton Abbey. I simply cannot wait until Sunday night. The pictures you include here have helped to contain my anticipation.

    Thomas is reprehensible, isn't he? I think as he goes off war he will meet up with what he justly deserves. O'Brien's heart seemed to seep through just a bit, like the Grinch's, when she rushed to remove the bar soap. Too late, of course. I wonder how she will redeem herself. I wonder what the dowager Lady Grantham will conspire to see Lady Mary married off.

    I look forward to the next episodes - and to all that you bring here during your month of all things British.

  4. Oh I can hardly wait!
    I absolutely love everything about this series....the writing, acting, sets, costumes....
    I just need a bit of patience as it is not on right now!

  5. OBSESSION. These pics are so gorgeous!

  6. I'm so looking forward to the new season! It will definitely help brighten up the dull, post-holiday season.

  7. My five daughters and I are all addicted! How fun of you to share a few more tidbits! Can't wait ... along with the rest of you!

  8. I'm SO excited and my husband is, too. I practically had to force him to watch it with me and now he can't wait for Sunday night! My parents, my mother-in-law and my best friend are all obsessed, too. Doesn't hurt that we're all such anglophiles!

  9. David and I have never watched this show, and I keep meaning to.
    I'm going to put aside a day or two to watch the previous seasons. I know I would love it.

  10. Downton Abbey is sheer bliss and each episode has me dreaming about a closet full of dresses just like the ones Lady Mary wears. Highly impractical as I'm lacking a Mrs Patmore or a Mrs Hughes to do my cooking and cleaning but a girl can dream.

    On a funny note, have you watched the Red Nose Day spoof of DA on Youtube? It had me in stitches!

  11. Does it get any better than Downton Abbey?

  12. So excited for Season 2 and THRILLED to hear about Season 3!!! and Margo...the answer is no. xoxo

  13. Hi Sunday, I've marked my calendar for the first episode of this season. I have to say this is one of the few things on television to get excited about. I love the photographs showing the beautiful people and elegant sets. The costumes are another reason to watch. Thanks for the reminder and bringing us up to speed.
    Hope your holidays were wonderful and wishing you the best for the New Year!

    The French Hutch

  14. I hadn't heard about it, but it looks and sounds wonderful. Maybe I ought to watch season 1 first?
    I remember going to my first British wedding while living in London in 1987. I wore a feminine off-the-shoulder flowered dress with a full skirt thinking I'd fit right in with the pastoral setting. But all the English women came in smart two-piece suits with prim hats, and I felt very out of place. That weekend I ran to Harrod's and picked out a pink linen skirt and blazer, and late cream colored hat and gloves, and felt well prepared for the next wedding. Too bad that hats and gloves haven't retained the popularity in America that they have in England. Such fun accessories!

  15. Sunday, this is such a beautiful post you wrote. I just recently got into the show and devoured season 1. Your wonderful article reminded me to tivo the first episode of season 2. Thanks for your inspiring words and photos.
    Happy New Year to you and Scott.

  16. I'm not surprised there are a lot of comments . Two hours at Downton Abbey are not enough ...sandy h