posted by Matt W on January 9th, 2013

Every Christmas, my side of the family picks a theme for gift giving. This year it was “Favorite Things.” So everyone in the family picked out something they had enjoyed over the past year and sent it to the member of the family they were randomly given. My sister had my wife and gave her a copy of the first two seasons of Downton Abbeyon DVD.
Now, being a guy, and living in Tennessee (apparently rednecks aren’t their target audience), I had only heard about this show from my sister (I’m not sure what my wife’s excuse is). Like what now seems like most of the female population, my sister had been watching it religiously, and even signed up for some British TV station online so she and her husband could watch season 3 before it was available in the states. They are totally hooked. As this is currently a slow season for TV, the other night, my wife and I popped the DVD in and now can’t wait to get home every night to watch another episode.
For the most part, TV is over the top and no one even notices any more. I can’t tell you how many cadavers I’ve seen opened up on the autopsy table, people’s heads shot off, sexual innuendos that really aren’t even innuendos; the list of things goes on forever. We are desensitized. The fact that my daughter sits next to me during many of these shows and she says, “Oh, don’t worry, I’ve seen worse than that,” doesn’t make me feel better; it makes me feel awful. The main reason behind this feeling is not that I feel emotion about what’s happening on the screen, but that I don’t (and maybe even more importantly my daughter doesn’t). I’ve recently thought I need to watch dramatically less TV because I really don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. Enter Downton Abbey.

For anyone who has been living under a rock (or apparently in Tennessee) lately or is a guy and would instantly tune out sentences containing the words “PBS series” or “costume drama”, the show is set in England in the early 1900’s and follows the lives of British aristocrats and their servants. I’ve only watched a handful of episodes, but I can already tell we will be watching all the episodes together. The characters seem real. There is an instant emotional attachment to each one. You feel for the character that is passed over for advancement, you wish you could help the Earl make a tough decision, you rank which sister you like the best. It’s called character development and acting and other shows should try it. It is just a far more attached feeling than I’ve had with TV in a long time. While I was watching, I actually thought of West Wing and thought it was very similar, just set 80 years earlier. And while I can sit and watch someone get shot on a different show and not have any emotional response what-so-ever, when one of the main characters just pushed another character to the ground to make him look bad my response was, “YOU HIDEOUS BITCH, I HATE YOU!” She is already moving up my list of most hated characters, although she still has a ways to go for number one in my book as Nurse Rached has had that title for years. But the mere fact that she entered that conversation in my head is cool in-and-of itself; she’s evil. During one scene that was a bit smaltzy for me, I knew that if I looked my wife and daughter would have huge grins on their faces, and sure enough they were ear to ear. One of my favorite parts of the show is just watching the two of them.  My daughter is especially entertaining.

So there you have it, three thumbs up. One a middle aged man, one a middle aged woman, and one teenage girl. No spoilers to ruin it for you (Can it be a spoiler three years late?), just a whole hearted endorsement for people of all ages. Hopefully thanks to its popularity, other TV shows will follow suit and character and plot development will come back in vogue.

File Under Mr. Cool