Things I Love/Hate about Downton

This is probably going to be a purely subjective post as it came to my head as such. With the fourth series of Downton Abbey underway, I know it has divided opinion: whilst creative and stylish, it is also, apparently, inaccurate in, for instance, the sense of how nicely the servants are treated. So I have been told. I just keep my eyes peeled for factual points I can use in my stories.

 290px-Downton_Abbey

THINGS I LIKE:

The acting. I don’t think there’s a weak actor amongst the cast (even the dog!). Everybody obviously enjoys acting in the programme, and that brings the stories to life. Too, those characters are brought into vivid creation by their actors’ incorporation of voice, tone, movement: everything! Good acting makes me proud.

20s. As you may well know, I have started to become something of a 1930s existant, so, of course, I was excited to learn that Downton has moved away from the war and into the 20s – perfect timing, too, as I (slowly) write the prequel to 30s-set A Game of Murder, and I can update my mental impressions of the period to employ the style into my novel.

It's Alexandra and Christophe all over again (except, Christophe was butler rather than valet, but who cares?)!
It’s Alexandra and Christophe all over again (except, Christophe was butler rather than valet, but who cares?)!

The storylines. Although some storylines lack much interest, or dissolve way too quickly for my liking as both a viewer and a writer, many really make me sit forward, thinking “this is a great story that I wish I written.” In particular, Bates’ and Anna’s love story and Bates’ subsequent arrest captured my interest.

And, yes, I cried when Lady Sybil died. Her voice may have got on my nerves at times, but she was a gentle, creative character – and no woman deserves to die in childbirth.

The Dowager Countess even has her own memes. That's how amazing - :')
The Dowager Countess even has her own memes. That’s how amazing – :’)

Script. In particular Dame Maggie Smith’s. There are some genuinely brilliant lines in the script, worth communicating to the world. I draw attention to the Dowager’s, because her character is one central to the changing times; she highlights what fear and wariness of change we all have inside ourselves. Plus, she makes me laugh every time.

Set. Not only is Highclere Castle lavish in itself, it provides a wonderful backdrop for the series. I particularly enjoy the colours of every room – each has something different to give to a scene. As a stage actress, I know how important scene is for acting.

Highclere-Dining-Room-Google

 THINGS I DISLIKE:

Couples. Firstly, I was never convinced by the whole Matthew and Mary sub-plot; it just tasted contrived to me. Mary’s hard exterior and confidence in society made her a match for Sir Richard, whilst the softness of Matthew made him fit for Lavinia. Sometimes the pairings in storylines work well (Lady Sybil and Tom), but this can only work to an extent. See the soapyness point below.

At least THIS picture does not make me want to roll my eyes. Awesome fan-art by marzo20
At least THIS picture does not make me want to roll my eyes. Awesome fan-art by marzo20

The characters. Sometimes I’m tempted to stop watching Downton altogether, because I have no sympathy for the characters and what they are doing.

Perhaps because of my bias of having protagonists myself who are servants (A Game of Murder), I find I’m caring about what happens to the servants a lot more than the Downton family themselves. The servants are more genuine characters often, whilst the family don’t ‘fit’ without leaning towards stereotypes sometimes. As I said above, I love the acting from everyone…it’s the cores of the characters that I’m not so sure about.

It leaves me not caring. The whole of the third series, I felt nothing about Mary’s fertility problems. Whether it was just the distinct lack of chemistry between the two or the plotline, rather than the show, I don’t know.

But, I think what keeps me watching Downton nowadays is the style and the period, rather than the transitions the changing family is going through. It feels too rushed, so that I find myself brushing their problems aside. Ah.

Soapy. My worry – as I have with a lot of TV shows nowadays – is that actors start to see Downton as the ‘place to be’, but get tired of their role after a series or two. This leads to characters coming in and out of the show, leading to sometimes-contrived circumstances. Yes, the show spans many years and death is bound to happen, but it has come to the stage where, to me, it feels like “oh look, another one’s dead”, in the same way this happens in soaps.

Script. Sometimes the script has lines that I wouldn’t put there. It’s not bad writing, it’s just bad compilation of lines, making some conversation less genuine. I have to stop and think “this would not happen in real life”. It may be the past, but even the past was not so.

However, there’s no doubt that Downton Abbey is extremely popular. My Google image searches were instant, showing that people do invest an interest in the lives of these fictional characters. No wonder Fellows is happy.

So, anyway, that’s my creative consultation (!) on the series, and something casual for my blog today. 🙂

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10 thoughts on “Things I Love/Hate about Downton

  1. I think the bonus to Downton having such a large cast is you’re bound to care about someone’s story line. The third season, that annoying maid that got knocked up… Yeah, I didn’t care about her one bit. Through things like that, there was Anna and Bates. They were most of the reason I was watching.

  2. I watched this show up until halfway through the third season. It got TOO soapish for my liking. Originally the plot was a lot sadder and filled with more tension. Like with Lady Grantham’s miscarried baby and Thomas and O’Brien’s schemes. But bit by bit the old plots got solved and the new ones didn’t engage me. As you said.
    And I HATE Bates. Hate him with every fibre of my being. Every scene with him makes me cringe. Mary and Matthew’s relationship IS silly, I agree.
    The show just doesn’t seem as good any more. Or maybe I’ve grown too used to it.

    1. Exactly. I found Lady Grantham’s miscarriage very touching.
      Really? How come? Is it the actor or the character?
      Hmm, there is that I might have grown too used to it. Sometimes shows become too samey like so.

      1. I loathe Batse’s character, not the actor. He’s just such a righteous goody-two-shoes. He’s got no real depth other than his ability to never stick up for himself because… I don’t even know. The pretentious prick would rather make himself a martyr than simply explain to Lord Grantham that his wife blackmailed him.

        And his relationship with Anna’s dragged on for FAR too long. Originally I liked Bates more but now he just melodramatically whines about not being able to get married. Bleugh.

        And he wants to run away and make a hotel. The Bates Hotel… hah, I wonder if their son’s name will be Norman.

  3. I still haven’t watched it yet. I really need to, especially for Professor McGonagall. But thanks to your review, I know now not to expect golden perfection. 😉

    1. I agree. It felt too rushed going from her being left at the altar to falling for the journalist. Whilst she did say she wanted to love, the plot seems to imply that, even when she could make a living out of writing, love is all she is suited for.
      Thanks for commenting 🙂

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