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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂