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Erica K

Erica K
New Jersey, USA
September 26
I have a new blog: Grew up in Jackson Heights, New York, but now live in Jersey. Married and the proud owner (servant?) of 4 cats, including a little blind guy named Quincy. Jobs have included: English teacher in U.S. and abroad, cabaret performer and member of a NYC sketch comedy troupe; now a legal secretary and freelance writer. Other jobs: canvasser for NYPIRG/cannery worker in Naknek, Alaska (a fisherman told me it was "the ugliest part of Alaska")/dog kennel cleaner/member of the swine and poultry crew on a California farm. "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." Samuel Beckett


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FEBRUARY 8, 2012 1:41PM

Hooked on Downton Abbey

Rate: 20 Flag

“Must every day involve a fight with an American?”

            Maggie Smith, as the Dowager Countess of Grantham 


I’m a TV baby.  I was raised on I Love Lucy, Lost in Space, The Honeymooners, Family Affair, The Waltons, One Day at a Time, Good Times, The Jeffersons, The Carol Burnett Show, Family . . . I could go on and on.  Reality TV never struck a chord with me except for Hoarders, Intervention and Confessions:  Extreme Animal Hoarding.  Disturbing, I know.  Then Mad Men and Breaking Bad became my favorites when they appeared on AMC.  I’m not as enamored with Mad Men since Don Draper married his new secretary:  didn’t seem plausible, and I stopped believing in his character.  My latest indulgence is Downton Abbey.  Say what?  Me, a proud American, hooked on Masterpiece Theatre’s sophisticated soap?  Guilty as charged.


We are currently in season two, post-World War I.  The season’s January opener attracted 4.2 million U.S. viewers, an 18% rise over the first season.  So it’s not just me!  It has surpassed both Mad Men by a million viewers (regular number of viewers) and is on par with (gag) the finale of Kourtney and Kim Take New York. 


For those who have not seen this gem, it is set in Edwardian England, with a diverse cast of countesses, gentlemen and housekeeping staff.  Oscar winning writer Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) is one of the show’s creators.  Maggie Smith plays the Dowager Countess of Grantham (aka “Violet”) and has some of the best one liners ever on screen.  I have seen her in action from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie to Lettice and Lovage on Broadway.  As always, she doesn’t disappoint.


My husband said that we like Downton because our aristocracy has no class and they do.  He said, “Their dying aristocracy still maintained dignity and style.”


Pithy point, if I don’t say so myself.


In the current season, part of the estate is converted into a convalescent home to take in wounded and dying soldiers, including Lord Grantham’s cousin and a footman from their staff.  Would any of our “American aristocracy” dream of doing such a thing?  Mitt, why not open the doors of the La Jolla beachfront complex you are quadrupling in size to accommodate the homeless and Iraq and Afghanistan war vets who are not being provided the medical attention they need.  Where is the sense of duty to one’s fellow man?


Perhaps that is part of the draw.  As much as I know the world of Downton is not mine and that the show is a creation, not an historical replication, I am moved by the pride and decency in members of the privileged class as well as those dwelling under the stairs.  People helping people not of their station.  Were they socialists?  I don’t think so.  Were they humane?  Yes.


Of course, all is not goodness and light.  Villains in the guise of Miss O’Brien, lady’s maid to Lady Grantham, Thomas the footman and Vera Bates, Mr. Bates’ (Lord Grantham’s valet) estranged wife make mischief whenever they can.  I find it curious that both O’Brien and Thomas are smokers, and do much of their scheming when they go outside for a puff.  Not that the writers meant to demonize smokers as they do in our society today.  But it’s still funny.


I have read that the show attracts liberals, and that might be so, but I don’t think you have to be a liberal to like Downton Abbey.  Tune in this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. (EST) on PBS.  You’ll be glad you did.


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I totally fell in love with Downton Abbey, too. I found it first on either Netflix or Hulu Plus and watched the whole first season in a week. Beautiful. Then I HAD to know what came next, and found it beginning season two on PBS. I was able to watch it through the PBS website, but even better, my antenna TV got the broadcast! How lovely. It takes place in such an exciting time of transition, with electricity, the auto, and the telephone just beginning to be available to the nobility. I have passed my passion for the elegance of this television on, even though I had nearly stopped watching TV altogether because it's normally a total waste of time. It still is a waste of time, but this time, I'm willing to give it. I agree. Watch.
" Mitt, why not open the doors of the La Jolla beachfront complex you are quadrupling in size to accommodate the homeless and Iraq and Afghanistan war vets who are not being provided the medical attention they need."

Oh yes!

My sister and I were just discussing Downton Abbey yesterday, a show I haven't seen....since Husband is out of town, (the husband who still hasn't gotten over the movie Remains of the Day and ridicules it and me endlessly) this might be just the moment to get engrossed in an Edwardian saga : )
I'm a Downton watcher too. I look forward to Sunday Evenings! It's a soap opera with an English accent yes, but if people didn't love them, they wouldn't get made. =o)

Okay I have seen everything.. two seasons and a Christmas special. Now I have to wait until September for a new season.
I just cannot wait.
Well done and what is a weekend??:)
Jane, try again, I think you can watch it there. How about netflix--they have it. Maggie is a hoot!

C. Berg, I agree. Most TV is garbage. My husband and I have Apple TV and watch mostly British crime dramas such as "Wire in the Blood", "Inspector Lewis," "George Gently" and others. As far as American TV, "Breaking Bad", "Damages" and "Homeland" are terrific. New season of BB and Homeland will air sometime this year. I come from a family of actors, so you must excuse my overzealousness at times.

JT, oh you must see Downton. Priceless.

Shiral, me too. I will be sad when the season comes to a close. Next season will feature Shirley MacLaine!

Jane, I agree!
Linda, LOL. "What is a week-end?" she says. I love Maggie Smith. She looks like she is having a ball too. Hug back.
I believe Netflix has season one for instant downloading, probably not definitely. My British friend is hooked too. I try and limit all TV until there are enough episodes to watch. Actually I prefer movies or documentaries but my friend, very Brit, says this is riveting and wonderful. So thanks for the heads-up. Meself, the best series ever was the West Wing which I watched all of the episodes on DVD. R
Wendyo, yes, you can see or buy all of season one on netflix. The West Wing was very good too. Thanks for reading.
[r] Erica K, I was going to post a simple link (below now in this comment) I thought Open Salon Downton afficionados (like you) would groove on. You are welcome to update add it to your terrific blog above on the show.

This show certainly resonates with all that is going on today on both sides of the Atlantic, and the class haves and have nots. Though what a benign "have" Lord Grantham is.

My two favorite lines from ol' Maggie, "What on earth is a week-end???" and when Mrs. Crowley takes one of her insults and says, "I'll take that as as a compliment", Maggie comes back with, "I must have said it wrong!" Wait til Shirley MacLaine joins the cast.

Anyway, the link I wanted to share holds pix of the cast members in costume and as they look IRL. Check out O'Brien especially!

Best, libby
Libby, thank you. I will add the photo.
Wow, Libby, O'Brien is a hottie!
Hear, hear! My husband and I have been hooked since the first episode aired. It was a loong wait until season 2, let me tell you! We often use the PBS app for iPad, which is better than watching on the PBS. I've heard the class theory before, but I've also read that Downton is popular because it is watched by young people. I asked some of my law student interns and they are all addicted. Even my 9 yo son said last Sunday, "If I finish my homework by 8, can I watch Downton Abbey?"
Love Dowton Abbey. Libby thanks for the link. I might try makeup myself considering what a difference it made in several of the more dour women. I am a big fan of PBS...Doc Martin is another good one. And Bill Moyers is back.
Cannot wait to see's coming to SA soon!!
Yess!!! I LOVE "Downton Abbey"! I'm lucky because here I've already been able to see all of season 2 including the Christmas Special...although that means I have no more episodes to look forward to for a maybe I'm not so lucky after all.

I have to say, though, I thought season 1 was so much better than season 2 - I find this season is just too chock-full of shockers and twists; I liked the first seaon's more subtle mix of strong emotions and quiet observation. But still, what a great show! Thanks for writing about it and I hope more people will discover it thanks to this post!
I hardly ever watch anything but the news, but I love Shameless on Showtime. But, I may have to check this out. Maggie Smith is great!
You might want to check out "Upstairs, Downstairs." The original and then the recent followup. The whole country was hooked on that series for years, about 20 years ago.
Season 2 is now available on DVD on Netflix (as of 2/7) Don't know about download.
Why don't the servants just poison the gentry then take all their cool stuff? Power to the People! ;-)
Rw0059 -- your comment deserves a rating, too! well said! libby
Erica, this show is so dazzling and thematically rich for us now. The war stuff especially with me and the class stuff. My coworkers are all a-buzz about it, real water cooler talk, and something I love to join in with as opposed to sports or reality show stuff or schadenfreude celeb gossip. (NOTE TO DAISY, HOW CAN ANYONE NOT LOVE WILLIAM??? Poor Little Daisy! She's been thru it at very bottom of serving food chain.)

Erica and Beauty1947 -- what a diff with makeup and hair, eh? I may get more earnest myself in those departments inspired by O'Brien! :)
I like your side to Mitt Romney the best.
Love Maggie Smith and MPT.
Love Downton Abbey, Erika, have been following it for the 2 years now. Excellent, writing, casting and production. The action happening 'downstairs' is as exciting, of not more so, than 'upstairs.' The last couple weeks with the war scenes have been riveting. Thanks for this.
I'll wait for the DVD and then have a binge weekend. The show sounds great but I didn't pick it up from the beginning. I like Maggie Smith too. I saw her live as Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra and she was terrific in Room With a View. Thanks for the post Erica.
Thanks for the tip; I am on it. R
Now that I've had more time to read more of your post, I agree; I like it that the Grantham family makes the sacrifice for the good of the soldiers. Never in a thousand years would all the chickenhawks we've got running things now want the wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan living in their homes. All those missing limbs and all disfiguring burns and the psychological damage that go with those long tours of duty might force them to turn back into decent people instead of panting with eagerness to turn right around and go make war with Iran.

No, decency is human. Generosity is humanity at it's best. And if that's to be equated with socialism, then I'd say America needs a lot more Socialism and a whole lot less crony capitalism. Anyway, we all know the Dowager Countess of Grantham would make the world's worst proletariat. =o)
Jennifer, I'm impressed with your son's taste!

beauty, I like Doc Martin too. Yes, thanks Libby!

Brazen, yay!

Alysa, Wow, you've seen it all then. I hope so too. It's such a good show.

scanner, I have seen the British version of "Shameless" but not the one with William H. Macy. Have you seen "Homeland"?

Lea, I did see Upstairs, Downstairs years ago. Now Jean Marsh is in the remake, playing the head housekeeper, I believe.

GeeBee, Thanks!

Rw, What a brilliant analysis. Yes, some of them are overly attached to the house, as if it were an entity, which I suppose it is (was).

Libby, Oh, poor Daisy. She tries so hard to do the right thing. I thought William was sweet, but kind of a drip.

Fusun, Thanks.

Kate, it's a must-see!

Scarlett, I agree. I have enjoyed season 2 more than season 1. I almost lost it during Mary's scene with Matthew when he talks about being impotent.
Shirley MacLaine will be making an appearance in season 3.

Abra, Maggie Smith is terrific in this. You will enjoy it.

Thoth, yay!

Shiral, wonderful. So true.

This is on my list. I've never even seen it. Looking forward to seeing Maggie Smith! Thanks for the rundown, Erica. R.
It's a must-see, Margie. Next Sunday is the final episode of Season 2.