So…why does Downton Abbey do a number on me? Why do I completely lose myself in each episode?
Without question, my favorite TV genre is the crime drama, whether it be the quirky, L.A. light Major Crimes, the serious, New York-y Blue Bloods, the dark, twisty Prime Suspect, or the gritty, real The Wire.
As for Downton, until I binge viewed the first two seasons, I was completely dismissive of it. I figured that I would have no interest in a drama about upstairs/downstairs life in a stuffy old across-the-pond estate. That kind of program has never caught my eye.
Well, I’ve gulped down the Downton Kool Aid, and there appears to be little I can do about it.
Convincing performances, interesting characters, entertaining plots and subplots, and top-notch production values pretty much tie it up in a bow for me. The show draws you into the daily goings on of the Downton denizens, and both the little and big things in their lives start to matter — as they do in our own.
Season 5 has just finished here in the U.S., capped off by a two-hour “Downton Christmas” special that set the TV reviewing blogosphere afire. I won’t give up any details — no spoiler alerts necessary — but suffice it to say that the two hours were very well spent.
About that blogosphere: After each Downton episode, you’ll find dozens of clever, funny, and poignant commentaries online, not to mention blow-by-blow summaries to remind you of everything you saw and point out a few things you missed. Judging from the comments left to these pieces, a lot of people are watching intently and then taking to their computers to compare notes with others.
I’ve read articles praising The Wire for being like a modern day Dickensian tale, set in the underbelly of modern urban society. The kudos are well deserved, but Downton Abbey merits literary comparisons as well. Like readers of serialized stories by Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle back in the day, viewers of Downton are immersing themselves in the weekly episodes and debriefing the latest twists soon afterwards.
In other words, the medium might be different, but the cultural ripple effects are quite similar. We follow the stories, and we talk about them later. Cool.