News and Tribune

Columns

January 18, 2013

STAWAR: Georgeton Abbey

Like William and Kate (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) and most Americans, my wife Diane and I have found ourselves caught up in “Downton Abbey” mania. 

We have just caught up on season two, so that we can join with the rest of the country in watching season three of the popular British television series on PBS. We enjoyed the first season, but stopped watching after the first episode or so of the second season, when the show’s plot twists became too nerve-racking to tolerate. 

Unless you have been wrongly imprisoned, like Lord Grantham’s valet Mr. Bates, you probably already know that “Downton Abbey” is a period British television show that depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in post-Edwardian England. For the most part, the action is set in the fictional country estate of Downton Abbey, which is actually Highclere Castle, the residence of the current Countess of Carnarvon. 

In the midst of the NFL playoff season, one of the show’s recent advertisements rings true when it says, “There are football widows and there are Downton widowers.” Although, I personally believe that men are just as vulnerable to these soap opera plots as women — just read any comic book series.

Doni M. Wilson, an associate professor of English at Houston Baptist University, has called “Downton Abbey” “the delicious addiction” and admits to being an unrepentant “Downton addict.” Wilson, however, offers five rationalizations for her addiction to this guilty pleasure. 

1. She says there is no way to get enough of Maggie Smith, who plays the snarky, sharp-tongued, but ultimately sympathetic dowager countess; 2. She asserts that although life is unfair, Downton displays” a healthy dose of justice,” as a variety of miscreants eventually get their comeuppance to the viewer’s delight; 3. Wilson believes the show can help viewers understand realism, as real life events are weaved into the often implausible plot lines, such as the sinking of the Titanic, the start of World War I and the Spanish Influenza Epidemic; 4. The show’s attention to detail has a transporting effect, which can make you feel like you’re actually there. I’ll admit that I have fallen asleep watching the show and woke up thinking I should summon the butler Mr. Carson to bring me a pot of Earl Grey tea. And finally, 5. You not only get to watch it, but you can also pursue your compulsion by watching shows about the show, reading about it and wasting a great deal of your time on various social media outlets dedicated to it. 

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