Friday, January 6, 2012

regarding downton abbey.

Listening To: Sugar Cane by Missy Higgans
This: is rocking my heart in a wonderful way. 

Happy Twenty/Twelve, beauties and beastlies! :) I hope this week has been a sweet one for you. I know I should probably try to make this first post of the year inspiring or pretty or riveting. I should make this post matter.

But I'd rather make this post about Downton Abbey.

Are you into Downton Abbey? Because I'm so hooked.

Obsessively, crazily, bespeckled-eyes-glued-to-the-telly hooked.

And I'm doing my part to hook other people. That's the beauty of Downton Abbey, in case you aren't watching it yet. Part of the joy in watching this program is driving your friends crazy until they watch it too passing the joy on to as many people as you possibly can. Even if you don't think Downton Abbey's your thing ... with the corsets, the period drama, and so on ... you should try it.

Because in the immortal words of Indigo Montoya from The Princess Bride: "I do not think him is what you think him is."

This show is probably not what you think. Or it may be everything you think. Regardless, you might be very surprised by how weirdly compelling it is.

Important Note: Some mature content. Would probably be PG-13 if it was a movie. I'm not policing what you watch or read - but we have some (awesome) younger readers on here. If this show had been on when I was in Middle School, I would have preferred Saved by the Bell reruns.

Please let me count the ways I love Downton Abbey:

1. The characters on this show are exceptionally written. I figured with a cast this big, I wouldn't care about individual stories. But I care about every single storyline on this show. I care so much that it's hard to even pick favorites. But if I had to pick ... like, if someone was going to take away my coffee unless I picked ... these are the Crawleys (and maid!) I'd vote for:

Lady Violet. 

As if there's any other choice. Dame Maggie could star as a tap-dancing tree and she'd still be the scene stealer. I have this theory that her presence elevates the performance on any set she's on. Maybe the cast is good before she gets to work. But I bet when Dame Maggie shows up, and she brings it, and then they have to bring it x100 just to try and elevate to her level of awesome. But that's just my theory. (Just some leftover love for Professor McGonagall, maybe.) In this show, she's Lady Violet - conniving and uppercrust and (often unintentionally) funny, too. And surprisingly tender-hearted. Even in her upper crustiness, you can't dislike her. It's impossible to dislike her. She's a wicked-wonderful gem of a character.

"Put that in your pipe and smoke it." - Lady Violet

Sybil. The Crawley girls are all great characters and I could get bloggy about each of them. (Mary has a very Jane Austen quality about her, right? Kinda prideful? Mostly prejudiced? ;-) But Sybil is the kind of girl I'm likely to root for in any book. Or movie. Or ... real life situation. She's got this wide-eyed approach to life - very innocent, maybe a little naive. She still sees the world, and all the people in it, as a very complex and wonderful thing. (Even the scary parts of the world seem wonderful.) But she's not just a day-dreamer. She's very world conscious, interested in politics and women's rights and current events. Mary and Edith, the older Crawleys, shoulder a bit more responsibility, and regret, and they're usually trying to one-up each other, or out-jealous each other (and it's so fun to watch). But Sybil has managed to stay clear of all that. Maybe because she's the youngest? I think she's one of the coolest teen characters I've seen on TV in a very long time. And I think Sybil's character will refine into something even more gritty in Season 2. She's getting older. The world's going to war. I'm interested to see how she processes it all. I also think she's going to make some big mistakes this season. I hope so. I'll like her even more if she does.

Anna. The neato burrito thing about Downton Abbey is that you see the inner workings of rich society family who owns the house and, also, the inner workings of their staff (a bevy of maids and butlers who take care of them). I like the staff. I adore William. I like Daisy, too. But Anna! Anna's big job is serving as maid to the girls - and, in my not so humble opinion, she's the quiet hero of Downton Abbey so far. She's sweet and kind and loyal. She's not necessarily inclined, not so far, to up her status (like lots of staffers at Downton), but she's fierce about what she loves. And who she loves. I think that's my favorite thing about her;  that she's sweet and driven. Sweet and driven aren't traits commonly paired together. I wish they were more often though. People don't have to be aggressive in order to be assertive and confident. Anna's a very modern woman, even though I don't think she'd classify herself as such.

Yes, I realize I'm talking about the characters like they're real. Just roll with it for today, please.

Also, Thomas and O'Brien:

Are the most dastardly villains on television since Murky and Lurky tried to suck all the color out of the world.

2. I love the clothes. I know it's girly point to add to this conversation, but ... I'm pretty sure it's just girls reading the post at this point :). So, full confession: I pause the DVD just so I can freak out a little bit over what the girls are wearing.

There's a show that came on several years ago that people (women my age, especially) were always freaking out over, mostly because of the threads. And I never felt cool because 1.) I never figured out why the show was so compelling and edgy and 2.) I didn't particularly see what was so cool about the clothes. Maybe it was the constant Manolo Blahnik references. I might be the only girl in the world who doesn't give a french toast about expensive high heels. (I prefer Converse to Manolos. For the sake of poetry, I also prefer Rolos to Manolos.) (Tangent: I also can't understand the cuteness factor of high heels with the built in platforms. You know what I'm talking about? I know they're hot and fashionable and everybody else gets their intrinsic style factor ... but I think they look kinda costume-ish. Like something you'd see at a pop-up Halloween store in a bag labeled "Sexy Minnie Mouse". But I'm not fashion forward.) Alas. *turns in cool girl card*

I wouldn't want to wear the clothes on Downton Abbey, because those gorgeous dresses would look most wretched on my body type,* but I'm nuts over the costuming on this show. These silhouettes are so gorgeous, aren't they? I've never liked big puffy ballgowns as much as graceful silhouettes, like these. Sometimes the clothes on the girls are elegant, feminine and flowy. I like that. But my favorite is when they pair a dress with a very structured jacket. Mary wore this sick (sick = awesome) black jacket for the fox hunt. She was looking all elegant, edgy, House of McQueen; fitted black coat, long black skirt, black top hat and a whisper of a black veil. And she was riding her horse in stride with all the boys ... it was too much cool for one TV screen.
I haven't squealed this hard over clothes since Project Runway. I cannot even imagine how wretched a corset must be, but the dresses make the characters look like moving paintings. Whoever does costuming on Downton deserves ten thousand tons of ice cream. Or some fancy award. They'd probably prefer the fancy award. I'd prefer the ice cream.

3. I love the time skip. Downtown Abbey's Season 2 will start with some significant time skippage between the episodes. I think that's a pretty cool jump to make. I've succeeded in not reading anything about Season 2 (which is already airing for you lucky Englanders). But I'm seeing lots of pictures. And they're making me very excited ....

4. I love the way this house functions a funky little microcosm of society; a small (but accurate) infrastructure of people who are trying to survive in a rapidly mad-madder world. I get that there's a town outside the gabled walls of the house; and a world beyond the tiny town ...  but the house is a society in itself. Downton is big, so teeming with life and gossip and change, that it pretty much has its own hierarchy and governing system (for the family and the staff). And it's interesting to see who falls into place, who bucks against the system. Who plots and schemes. Who falls in love ...

My favorite line from the show so far is this:"She doesn't wish to keep it secret. She wishes to keep it private. There's a difference."

That quote doesn't reference what you might think, if you aren't watching the show yet. But it still sums up everything I love about Downton Abbey - the difference between what stays secret and what stays private. The pressure to fall in love (and the motive for falling in love). The snapshot of a society that was about to shift in a major way (the life you were born into vs. the life you make for yourself). The strange frazzled ties that bind families, friends, and co-workers (do we unite over what we love or what, and who, we hate?). There are lots of secrets in the house but, in the end, everybody kind of knows everybody's business, too.

Mostly, I love the show because it's darn fun to watch. 

You can watch all of Season 1 on PBS (I watched it all on Netflix for free ... not sure if that's still an option?) (And then I got Season 1 for Christmas and I'm watching it again don't judge me.)

And here's a peak at Season 2:

I'll be DVR'ing that this weekend. As if I won't be planted on the couch, with my dog, watching the show as it airs ... (Biscuit loves it too. Especially when they go on fox hunts. She barks at the TV and wiggles her tail so fast it's a blur.)

(And for the record - my parents are also into it. Like I said, weirdly compelling.)

So ... are you a Downton Abbey watcher, too? I'd love to hear what you like about it! And if you want, maybe we could come back to this post after Sunday's episode and talk it up? Thanks for indulging me this week! I promise not to pester you with television talk too often. This blog will return to regular programming next time. 

* Sometimes, when people talk about period dramas like this one, or Pride and Prejudice, they lament about how they were born in the wrong century. But I have no doubt I was born in the right century. First off, I like showers and indoor plumbing. Second, I like to wear jeans. Third, I'm guessing glasses at the strength I wear them weren't so cute back then. These days, glasses are hipster but back then, I'm guessing they were more spinster, you savvy? There are also hygiene issues I'm not sure people take into account when they wish they could live in ye olden days. But most of all, I'm confident I wouldn't have been a cool girl at the regency dance with the Crawleys. I probably would have been a maid dumping out chamber pots or something. So I'm quite happy in my own century. 


  1. I have heard so much about this show, and I think I am going to check out an episode asap because of what you've said. Also, I love your postscript at the end. I wouldn't make it in another century - as picturesque and ideal it may seem. And the hispter/spinster comparison? Literary gold, Natalie. I loved it.

  2. *hipster. ahh. my mind moves faster than my fingers.

  3. My friend keeps talking about this show and I keep reading about it all over the Internet so maybe I should watch it. It sounds interesting!

  4. Ahh! AHH! I adore Downton Abbey--just adore it. Everything you said about it is oh-so-true. I'm not even sure that I went in with expectations, but it was not what I expected. It was SO much more! (:
    One thing I really love is the time setting. A lot of period dramas are waaay back in the 1800s. Don't get me wrong--I love those too, but after awhile they're all the same. This, in the early 1900s, with the excitement of the first World War [I love added historical context]'s perfect. And plus, it makes for epic costuming. Agreed.
    I cannot wait to feast my eyes upon the second season. I've been waiting for this all year!

  5. You know I'm beyond excited about this, don't you? Sunday night is gonna be AWESOME!!!

  6. It's really handy BTW, you posting these Downton pictures on the day I discover pinterest and create a Downton board. :)

  7. Downton Abbey DOES matter so this is the perfect post to kick off 2012. Oh, how I adore this show! Loved reading your thoughts. I will totally be watching Sunday night. My birthday is next week so I feel like DA will properly usher in my 32nd year of life.

    I wish you were on Twitter so we could chat whilst watching!

  8. I don't think I'm was born in the wrong century either. The glasses thing alone would drive me crazy.

    Love Downton Abbey, can't wait for the new season.

  9. so. i have never heard of this show, though it seems intriguing and beautiful. i'm more into detective dramadies and junk like that. saved by the bell reruns, oh yeah. the clothes ARE STUNNING. wow.

  10. Oh my word, I am so glad you posted about this. I have been talking incessantly about the upcoming season since I found out it was coming back for season 2! I love everything about it; the time period, the gossip, the dynamics, all of it. I read the Vogue article over the Crawley girls (btw, is that in print somewhere?) and I loved what Michelle Dockerery said about how restrictive and repressed expressing (or lack thereof) your feelings was. How very secretive and private most people were about their true feelings and emotions. It is so different and intriguing to me. And oh the clothes. I love how simple they keep the hair and make up but how beautiful the dresses are. Sigh. I cannot wait for Sunday! I am totally up for a D.A discussion :)

    Btw, I am a total Sybil fan, (I hope her and Branson end up together :) She's the kind of girl you would want as a best friend, mom, sister, etc. I also do love how complicated Lady Mary is. So proper, snobby, and restricted. I can't wait to see how her situation plays out.

  11. I *love* this post! :)

    Because I love Downton Abbey. I'm obsessed with period dramas, anyway, and this one is amazing (though I'm not too crazy about the two scenes they threw in to make things a little edgier than they generally are in period dramas).

    Maggie Smith is my hero in this show. Every time she comes on screen I just focus in on her, because I know she's going to do or say something hilarious. And Sybil is definitely my favorite sister. The conflict between the other two drives me crazy (though it does make for great viewing :).

    The clothes are ridiculously gorgeous. I don't think I was born in the wrong century (because my ancestors were definitely not in the class that these people are- we would have been more like the villagers in Lark Rise to Candleford, which is another amazing series I recommend). But if I didn't know better, I would say I was born in the wrong decade. :) I should have been twenty in the 1940s instead of in the 2010s.

    I have to rewatch my first season DVD this weekend, and I'm watching the new episode as soon as it's available online, which I think is Monday. I'll definitely be back here to discuss it. :)


  12. Agree with everything you said here! I can't wait for season 2. I'v avoided spoilers as well and I'm so excited to have this show back!:) I'm addicted as well and like you said, all the characters are sooo good!

  13. I haven't heard of this show before, but I love the dresses and I love Pride and Prejudice (kind of a family favorite) so I think I am going to love it too(: