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Downton Abbey – Is it any good?

My wife and I recently watched the series “Downton Abbey,” an acclaimed British television program that was featured on PBS in the United States. It has won numerous awards, including about 12 Emmys last year, but I’m not sure it’s worth all the hype. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a large english estate in the early 1900s and deals with the lives of the residents and servants and how they interact and co-exist. It is interesting to see how the wealthy lived at this time, the strong barrier between social classes, and how the servants and residents talked to each other. I have very little knowledge of the historal accuracy of all this, but it makes for interesting television, at least for a while.

“Downton Abbey” really good at times, but it’s mostly just a glorified soap opera, and especially in season 2, the plot lines seem to get more and more ridiculous. There are characters who are evil with absolutely no motivation. The most likeable character on the show is Bates, an injured war vet who serves as a butler in the house. He has a horrible ex-wife with a maniacal laugh who will stop at nothing to ruin his life, despite the fact that he was a devoted, faithful husband who even served jail time for her. There are also two other servants in the house who go to extreme lengths to make sure that he lives in misery even though he has done nothing to deserve it. Basically, these characters exist to stir up trouble.

Throughout the course of the series, the character’s personalities seem to change to fit the situation. The writers don’t seem to know who these characters are, and why we should care about them. The are awful one minute, and incredibly loving and compassionate the next. The actors are strong and do their best, but as the series progresses and things are more absurd, there’s not much even they can do to save it. One other note – I’m not sure who much I can like a show where I find myself constantly thinking that I should tell my grandma about this because it’s right up her alley.

Ultimately, “Downton Abbey” looks good and the dialogue is often well-written, but when you dig beneath the surface it’s just a hollow shell.

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