Thursday, March 22, 2012

You Can Always Go Down-ton.

I'm halfway through The World of Downton Abbey, written by Jessica Fellowes; it's a companion book to the wildly successful show -- and my true new obsession -- Downton Abbey. I don't think I've shown this level of fervor for anything since I cried myself to sleep because I couldn't watch Westlife on TV, back in 1999. Granted, nowadays I won't cry if I don't get to see DA, but that's probably because I watch a DA-related clip almost every night since I saw the Christmas episode. The people at Netflix must be wondering who this crazy woman is who keeps watching episodes of Downton Abbey over and over again; I am seriously paying $8 a month to stream episodes of a season that I have a DVD copy of.

Why am I so obsessed with this show? Why do I feel like I need a support group to help me from DA withdrawals until the next season which doesn't air in the US until January 2013 (hold me)? I guess the crazy's gone down a little bit; after you've turned your ringtone into the show's theme song and bought the DVDs and book, I don't know how further I can go...oh wait, never mind, here's a few ideas. I could probably hawk this to my friends and family that I've turned on to this show. Seriously, when I got my mom addicted to this show, I knew this show was IT.

I've read several articles that offer several explanations why people are so in love with this show (my favorite one here); I agree with a lot of those points, but the ones that stick out to me the most are:

1) Matthew + Mary - I cannot tell you how invested I can get in fictional characters, and the actors who play their parts. That's usually how I develop my intense Hollywood crushes...and I'm kinda having a mad girl-crush on Michelle Dockery right now, who plays the vulnerable yet headstrong Lady Mary. I am so mesmerized with how she can tell a story with the slightest lift of an eyebrow or crush of her forehead. As the Comic Relief send-up of DA pointed out, a lot of the show's narrative is told through people's non-verbal communication, and no one does this better than Lady Mary. I am also beyond tickled to see Dan Steven's face every chance I can get. His character - Matthew Crawley (who I would like to marry now that we know he can live a "happy, married life") - is a strong character to partner with Lady Mary. I've never been more satisfied with a "will they, won't they" story arc than that of Matthew and Mary's; it's frustrating, it's conflicted, it's nuanced, it's heartrending, it's romantic, it's exciting, it's true.

2) Strong, equivalent cast of characters - Yes, there are a LOT of characters in this show. But I'm so amazed at how well the show develops each and every one of them. In my mind, the first two series focused more on M&M (or maybe that's because I have the youtube videos of Matthew and Mary on constant replay every day). After all, a major story line of the first season was trying to break the binds of the wretchedly unfair entail (whatever the hell that was) for Mary. But, I am also incredibly fascinated/fixated on the lives of the Grantham family and the servants downstairs. True, there were a couple times in season 2 when some characters pursued rather incredulous plots (seriously, Jane?). But, you still let them get away with it because you want to see them through whatever situation, whether it be ridiculous -- e.g. Edith and farmer -- or tragic, like Thomas and Daisy.

3) The most gorgeous set on earth, Highclere Castle -- AKA Downton Abbey. I am seriously considering saving up to go to England and visit this place. This place is, rightfully, another main character in the show. It is so grand, that I couldn't imagine anyone being comfortable calling it home. But the Crawley family makes it feel that way, as they invite you into their lives every Sunday night (or over a DA marathon, which I've done many a times). I love the grand hall in particular because so many pivotal moments in the show happen in that place (well that, and the library). How many times have I watched those Home and Gardens feature on this castle and the Carnarvons? Too many to mention.

4) Lady Violet - I mean, seriously, the woman's a talking catchphrase. But, in all seriousness, Lady Violet's strong and quiet transformation from the 1st to the 2nd season was so refreshing and impressive for its subtlety. I love how, underneath all that old-world conformity she espouses, Cousin V's actually a bit of a progressive.

5) The relationship between up/downstairs - I'm not a period drama watcher. I'm sure I'll be turned on to watch some other BBC/Masterpiece Classic shows now that I am a DA fan. But, what I think makes this show unique (or, again, maybe I just haven't seen enough classics), is the relationship between the Crawley family members and their servants. The family is a friendly employer, who treats their employees well and genuinely cares for their welfare (you're welcome, Mrs. Patmore). It's interesting, because I sometimes think of our family and our housekeepers/helpers in the Philippines when I think of this relationship. Obviously, we're nowhere near the Crawley family's wealth and status (actually, that's just to throw you off the scent of my big pile of money), but we had a couple of helpers in the house. At our apartment in Manila we had our housekeeper/the awesomest person ever who took care of us kids until we left for the States. We always thought we could be friends with our helpers, and we did like to gossip with some of the younger ladies while watching an episode of the latest Tagalog soap opera in the helpers' quarters. And whenever I see Lady Mary and Anna chatting, or Mr. Bates engaging in a serious conversation with Lord Grantham, I can't help but refer back to those memories once in a while.

6) Everything - I mean, everything.

I cannot wait for the next season of Downton Abbey to start airing on PBS; until then, I'm going to soothe my hunger pains with episode reruns and the blissful mantra of "8 more months, 8 more month." After all, I can't act defeatist...that's very middle class.

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