SUMMARY (from IMDB): Lord Crawley sees his family heritage, especially the grand country home Downton Abbey, as his mission in life. The death of his heir aboard the Titanic means distant cousin Matthew Crawley, a Manchester lawyer, suddenly is next in line and accepts moving onto the vast estate with his even more modernist, socially engaged mother, who clashes with his lordship's domineering, conservative ma the dowager. Marrying off the daughters is another concern. Meanwile the butler presides over a staff which serves the family but also lead most of their entire lives in the servants’ quarters, intriguing amongst themselves.
Downton Abbey is a period drama, set in England in the beginning of the twentieth century. The years before WW I were an era of the world starting to change into a semblance of the world we know today.
For the people living at that time the change was difficult for both the young and the old, the rich and the poor. The rich and the old, settled in their ways, found change unwelcome, whereas for the young and the poor, striving to make the best of their lives, the change was not happening fast enough.
Downton Abbey deals with a wide spectre of social, family, and personal issues. It brings a lot of things we are taking for granted at present, such as women’s rights to inherit and vote, to the viewers' attention. It also tackles ambition, making one’s own fortune, crossing social class differences, sibling rivalry, gossip, revenge, and much more.
Unfortunately, the show deals with all the above mentioned things somewhat superficially. Often, it does not use well the potential of certain premises and/or characters. The characters do develop, they grow and change, but I miss something I cannot quite put my finger on. It is not that there is no depth, because there certainly is. Perhaps, everything is just dealt with too fast, leaving too many gaps the viewers has to fill in by themselves.
Still, the show is delightful to watch. There are some characters that are easy to connect and sympathise with. I love how the villains are multi-dimensional, so I cannot just hate them but have to understand them and feel for them on several occasions.
Also, I like how the Crawleys are basically good employers, kind to their employees, allowing them time off and rest when they need it, and how they care about their well-being. Even though this kind of presentation might be slightly unrealistic, it is within the limits of possibility, and it is one of the show’s strong points.
Rounding up the whole picture, there is a stunning setting and beautiful costumes. The acting is very good. These things combined make the viewer forget it is all an illusion and enable a smooth transfer into another kind of world for a while.
RECOMMENDATION: Lovers of period drama would certainly enjoy this genuine insight into the life of an aristocrat’s family and their servants a century ago.