Downton Abbey

In case you missed Downton Abbey, which premiered January 3rd on Masterpiece Classic, PBS, you can watch the episodes on the newly released DVD series.

The plot of Downton Abbey centers on the family and servants of Earl Robert Crawley, who are in danger of losing their home because there are no male heirs. The only heir apparent is a middle-class lawyer, Robert Crawley. The household, from the servants to its leisure class inhabitants, holds him and his mother (a former nurse) in disdain.

The time period of part one of this series is of great interest. It takes place in 1912, just after the sinking of the Titanic and before the start of WWI. Women are still in corsets, but the Woman's Movement is beginning. The class system is in place, but there are "radicals" in the crowds, as well as talk of equal rights. The typewriter has been invented, and young women servants hope to better themselves with jobs as secretaries. One of the Earl's daughters is caught up in the fever of the times. Meanwhile, the eldest daughter, Mary, chafes at the notion of having to marry; she does not want the life her mother has.

Downton Abbey is sheer entertainment. The series has a cast of characters matched only by Charles Dickens or Jane Austen. Maggie Smith masterfully plays the mother of Robert Crawley; Elizabeth McGovern plays his beautiful American wife. The performance of Maggie Smith alone is worth watching.

If you are looking for a period piece with engaging characters, great sets, and fine acting, this Masterpiece series will certainly deliver.

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