Downton Abbey… an Addiction

I have an somewhat addictive personality.

Don’t worry… I’m not about to become addicted to drugs or alcohol or porn. I’ve made the choice to become addicted to much sillier things, like LOTR, coffee and of course… TV.

This is why I’m very selective on what TV I allow myself to watch. Who else has seen every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Gilmore Girls? The Office? Skins? Friends? …You get the idea. For me, starting a new show is dangerous… because I could really love the show. So it’ll either break my heart when it’s canceled (Freaks and Geeks & My So Called Life were just the beginning) or it could run for 7 seasons and ruin my life.

I watch a lot of comedy because comedy is light, fluffy and yet even oddball comedy can tug at your heartstrings and have you tuning in for more (Jim & Pam, Ross & Rachel, Luke & Lorelai). But sometimes shows that everyone else seems to love and have become addicted to leave me lukewarm. Mad Men bores me to tears, Arrested Development doesn’t even get a chuckle from me and Breaking Bad gives me panic attacks. Even so, there are shows that I know I will love… and I had a sneaking suspicion that I would become addicted to Downton Abbey. So, of course, I did.

There is no other explanation for my binge watching the first two seasons within a week and writhing with impatience for the each episode of Season 3 to air!

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I love anything British. I love their dry humor and haughty looks. As an added bonus, I love the era of change that the show takes place in. (She’s wearing pants? Oh no!) The romance is straight out of a Jane Austen novel and yet the issues are more pressing and the drama more intense. The cast is ridiculously huge and it takes a few episodes before you can get the names straight, but once you do they feel as familiar as everyday people. They’re hopelessly flawed, full of quirks and have a beautiful depth. Each episode covers time in leaps and bounds, building a believably that though this household endures a lot of drama, there’s no soap opera timing involved. The stories feel real and deeply ingrained  The characters are just as unique and authentic as everyday people. The sets are extravagant, everything is crisply filmed and the costumes are lavish and sensitive to the times.

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Downton Abbey is the king of “well this could become a really terrible situation” and then “oh, that was easily resolved!” Many massive issues seem to dissolve over time or magically resolve themselves. There’s no soap opera timing or rush to the finish, everything is paced within very realistic time frames. Some people could perceive the show as moving maybe too slow, but I disagree entirely. Downton Abbey knows how to have you sobbing without shame one episode and chuckling the whole way through in the next. The light is carefully balanced with the dark and the characters grow and change, just as you and I do. And though I think the entire cast and crew deserves to take home every award, Maggie Smith’s snobby humor really does keep me laughing the whole way through.

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Lady Mary is by far my favorite character. From the very first episode where she groans about having to wear black in order to mourn her fiancees death, I knew I was going to like this woman. She doesn’t give a damn what people think about her. She’s all bite, sass and behind it all is a tentative sweetness. If she’s going to get married, it will be on her terms. If she’s going to like someone, it will be in her own time. I like that she’s an unlikable sort of character and that she reminds me of… me. Her relationship with Matthew (“oh Matthew!” I cry in a dramatic  British accent) had me on my toes at all times, praying that they would finally figure things out and be together at last. Their snarky exchange before their marriage vows was the perfect summary of their passionate but tumultuous relationship.

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I think Downton Abbey is a fantastic show. Maybe the best show on TV. (I don’t want to get carried away here…) I think you should start with the first episode. I promise that you’ll love Mr. Bates and Lady Mary as much as I do!

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