Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Jessica Brown Findlay, Maggie Smith, Dan Stevens, Penelope Wilton, Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan, Brendan Coyle, Joanne Froggatt, Siobhan Finneran, Rob James-Collier, Leslie Nicol, Sophie McShera
Director: Julian Fellowes
Release Date: October 12, 2012
Rating: Not Rated for (adult themes)
Run Time: 15h:03m:00s
ďI couldnít have electricity in the house. I couldnítí sleep a wink. All those vapours seeping about.Ē - The Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith)
It is rare when something lives up to the hype. Downton Abbey is Golden Globe winning, Emmy winning and everybody is talking about it and making fun of it. It is a phenomenon that is found on public television. It is simply great fun to watch. Highly recommended.
Movie Grade: A
DVD Grade: B+
Downton Abbey, which follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants during the reign of King George V, took the world by storm and became one of those rare phenomenons in being a worldwide critical and cultural success. It has achieved awards, acclaim and is one of the most watched programs in the world with over 100 countries contracting for broadcast. Chris Matthews of MSNBC Cable News is a noted fan and even comedian Colin Quinn mentioned the show when he appeared on Jerry Seinfeld's web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The show was created by Julian Fellowes, known for the popular Robert Altman film, Gosford Park, and premiered in the US in the Masterpiece Classic anthology show.
Beginning with the news that the sinking of the Titanic has killed the heir to the fictional estate of Downton Abbey, a Yorkshire country house and seat of the Earl and Countess of Grantham. The family must come to grips with the way the inheritance is handled in England and a new heir who is part of a distant branch. A legal aspect of the inheritance restricts the title and estate to be passed to a male heir, including the considerable fortune contributed by Lady Grantham that enables the rescue of the estate from bankruptcy in the past.
Hugh Bonneville is steady by unexceptional Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham and his American wife Cora is portrayed by Elizabeth McGovern. Their three daughters mary, Edith and Sybil are played by Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael and Jessica Brown Findlay. Dan Stevens is the new presumptive heir, Matthew Crawley and his mother Isobel is played by Penelope Wilton. Maggie Smith is featured as Violet Crawley, the piquant Dowager Countess of Grantham and Robert's mother. Her bravura turn in the role, especially her bon mots have garnered a significant amount of the publicity. Hopefully the generation that will only know Smith in the role will look past to her incredible career on film.
The servants are headed up by Jim Carter as butler Charles Carson, who commands the platoon of servants who work on the estate, and his second in command and confidant Mrs. Hughes the housekeeper played by Phyllis Logan. Brendan Coyle iss John Bates, Lord Grantham's valet and Joanne Froggatt is Anna Smith Bates his wife and lady's maid. They fall in love but find tribulations in their relationship due to his vengeful ex-wife. Siobhan Finneran is the manipulative Miss O'Brien, lady's maid to Lady Grantham. Rob James-Collier is the cynical and cunning Thomas Barrow, who starts as a footman and later becomes a valet. Leslie Nicol is the charming, earthy cook Mrs. Patmore and Sophie McShera plays the flighty naive scullery maid, Daisy Robinson.
The shows revolves around the storyline of family interactions against the historical background of a changing England. There are many prominent aspects of the production to point to as absolutely satisfying drama. The story begins in April of 1912. Robert, Earl of Grantham, and his American-born wife Cora live with their three daughters and numerous servants in Downton Abbey. Though their way of life has existed for generations, news arrives that threatens the future of the title and estate. Lord Grantham's cousin James Crawley, who is heir presumptive to the earldom, and his son, Patrick, have both died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Since Robert and Cora have no sons, a distant cousin becomes heir. Matthew Crawley, a young solicitor and the new heir to the Grantham earldom and estate, arrives at Downton Abbey with his mother, Isobel. He is reluctant to adapt to his new mode of life but his mother feels that they should avoid satisfying the family's assumptions about their class and behaviour. From this springboard begins the parallel lives of the upstairs Crawley family and the servants who perform the work on the estate. The whole tapestry is a unique peek into a bygone way of life in the throes of change. When World War I crashes into the story, the fabric of the genteel English aristocracy is shaken to its foundation.
There is a magnetic charm as the story unfolds slowly and with great attention to detail. The dialogue is almost always crisp and full of humorous or ominous subtext. The anticipation of what is ahead in season three is great fun.
The DVD Box set of Downton Abbey Season One & Two Limited Edition contains two cases with three discs in each. Both complete seasons are included along with the acclaimed special Christmas episode. Extras include Downton Abbey: The Making Of, Downton Abbey: A House in History, Fashion & Uniforms, Romance in Time of War, and House to Hospital. The quality of the video is a bit soft, but this may be a stylistic choice as some of the scenes are simply beautiful like carefully composed oil paintings. The sound is serviceable TV stereo without any particularly outstanding stereo effects. There are English subtitles.
Posted by: Jesse Shanks - April 7, 2013, 9:58 am - DVD Review