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Thursday, January 5, 2012

World War I Class And Aristocracy In ‘Downton Abbey’

Spoiler alert! Our radio interview gives away some plot points about season 2.

Rose Leslie, left, and Siobhan Finneran are shown in a scene from "Downton Abbey," a four-part drama about life in an English country estate. (AP/PBS)

“Dear Downton Abbey: may I please have my wife back.”

That’s a Tweet from a man named Rob Hyndman, whose wife apparently spends too much time watching the Emmy-award-winning British television mini-series.  Entertainment Weekly calls “Downton Abbey” addictive– it’s wildly popular in the U.K. and is gaining fans here in the U.S., where it has been airing on PBS.

The mini-series is set in the early 20th century, as tensions between the classes are about to explode along with the bombs signaling the start of World War I.

The drama is played out through the trials and tribulations of Lord Grantham, his wife and three daughters, and of course, their many servants.

Ed Siegel, Here and Now critic-at-large said that Downton Abbey’s themes of honor, betrayal and loyalty resonate with contemporary audiences partly because they are such a contrast.

“We live in an age of hyper-ironic humor, marriages that end at the first sign of trouble, and moral ambiguity. ‘Downton Abbey’ features characters who strive with every bone in their body to do the right thing. And those who don’t are unmistakable villains,” he said.

PBS Masterpiece presents the second season of Downton Abbey starting on Sunday.


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  • Jill

    I made the mistake of poking around online and found the episode synopses for season 2. Have they already aired in the UK? 

    I can’t wait to see how the Bates storyline unfolds, especially with Anna. Mary and Matthew too!

    The casting is brilliant.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jimhfoster Jim Foster

    I’m totally hooked on Downton Abbey.  Just watched the first season over again.

    Jill: Don’t you dare post anything about season 2. Yes, I think it aired in the UK last year (2011).

  • Brian

    Why are you doing this? I had to turn off the radio to keep you from ruining Downton Abbey for me. SHAME ON YOU, ROBIN!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Travis-Morgon-Macaraeg/1092528349 Travis Morgon Macaraeg

    I won’t ruin anything for you but you can find all episodes from seasons 1 and 2 online from the itv broadcasts. I’ve already watched season 2 episodes 1-8 (excellent!) and am in the middle watching ep 9. Downton Abbey is the best and it’s so great there’s going to be season 3. There are many issues to be resolved…

  • Greg

    Robin, I love your show and know that you were probably quite surprised at the spoilers, but how could your guest have not realized what he was doing? My girlfriend was listening to the car radio and is quite upset at having several things revealed. Fortunately she called me and interrupted the broadcast (I listen on the iphone app, which has a 10-15 sec delay) before your guest gave too much away.

    It’s one thing to give away details the day after a show has been broadcasted, but what critic gives it away before the season has even started? Your guest should be ashamed of himself.

    • Jryan Bur

      Hi @1ca5df39fc3dbcb8f49dfd1710ea04b6:disqus , @6f696071b88ee19c2d361ae976466316:disqus , Very sorry we didn’t have a spoiler alert at the top of this as we usually do.  Hope that you are still able to enjoy the series.
      -Jill Ryan, H&N

  • J Frog

    Yeah…it’s a good thing that critic hadn’t seen the last show.  The ride will be fun but it is nice to have a few surprises along the way, too.  But gee..that critic…giving away all those spoilers….that’s something only “Thomas” would do!

  • Halfrunnerbeans

    Aaargh! Why no spoiler alert? I’d already heard far too much by the time I realized this guest is having waaay too much fun revealing the whole darn plot line and turned off my radio!

  • kelty1965

    I can only hope PBS doesn’t cut it like they did with the 1st season. I purchased the UK version on DVD so I could find out what the cut scenes were and they were pivitol to the plot. Great series – really looking forward to it.  

  • Anomalous1

    Unlike your critic, I found Elizabeth McGovern one of the best things about the first series. He falls into the particular trap of Americans in believing that the frothiness of a British accent and the supercilious sneer of a British peer must necessarily put any American–actress or heiress–to shame. McGovern’s acting is a nice corrolary to the character she plays: she doesn’t have the vocal agility of Maggie Smith and she is not meant to, but she is aware of the lack and strives for the polish with which her character would have been raised. On the other hand, she is blessed with the confidence of her beauty and empathy, as her character would be in knowledge that, whatever the social prejudices that surround her, it is her money that provides their security. 

    • Kelly

      “McGovern’s acting is a nice corrolary to the character she plays: she doesn’t have the vocal agility of Maggie Smith and she is not meant to, but she is aware of the lack and strives for the polish with which her character would have been raised.”

      HILARIOUS…thanks for the laugh, Ms. McGovern’s agent. “Strives for the polish” is the understatement of the decade. Victoria Principal could’ve done a better job.

  • Remontant

    Does anyone know whether the “Christmas at Downton” special that was just aired in the UK will be shown with Season 2 here–or do we have to wait until December?

    • James in Fairbanks

       I downloaded it, and proceeded to watch the intro. Thankfully the date flashed along the bottom and I realized it was far far into the future. After the 2nd season. I immediately switched it off, so as not to spoil the surprise.

      Alas, I should have done that yesterday morning before Ed Seigal and Robin Young made me cuss at the radio. Damn. I’m still mad about that.

      …Let it go, let it go..

  • Robin Young

    I’M SO SORRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    We talked about giving away too much.. but obviously, didn’t talk enough!!!!

    I have to say I was personally upset to find out anything about Bates, my favorite….
    should have followed through on instincts!

    SO SORRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Both Ed and I are wearing hair shirts as I write this.


    • Jill

      Always go with your gut! It’s okay. We’re still going to enjoy every moment. Bates is my favorite too.And there will be a Season 3. So you’ll get a do-over on doing a segment about the show without spoilers.
      Thanks Robin.

  • Anon

    I don’t undersatnd all the gushing over Downton Abbey.  Just a glorified soap opera.  The first episode of season 2 was actually pretty boring.

  • Steveandsal

    At the age of 15 my twin sister and I went to work at a stately manor house in Yorkshire[1950s].We were maids working 6 days a weekWe stayed 10 years. 
    The comunication between the upstairs and downstairs was virtually none exsistant.Apart from the polite good morning/night that was it.
    I find it hard to believe the dialoge between the gentry and the servants.

  • Sallie from North Carolina.

    My twin sister and I worked in service as housemaids at a stately manor house in Yorkshire [1950s/60].We stayed 10 years.We were spoken to with respect , however there was definately no causual chit chat or familiarity between the two classes.It was unheard of ,we all knew our places.
    I find it hard to  appreciate the dialoge between the gentry and the  servants at Downton Abbey.
    This Masterpiece is not for me.

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