A Latter-day Bluestocking

For the love of reading

Tag: Costume drama

The cast of Downton Abbey visit New York and I was there

Highclere Castle

I was one of 25 lucky facebook winners to attend a very special PBS hosted, season 2 screening of Downton Abbey and cast Q&A.  I was shocked that I had won (I never win anything) and was excited, very excited.  On December 15th I attended with my 10 year old son, Edward.  I was slightly worried that he wouldn’t have fun, that this would be one of those things that children get dragged to and are miserable the entire time.  I have brought him with me to Jane Austen events and he’s always behaved admirably but lacked a certain enthusiasm, understandably so.

We have watched several costume dramas together with middling success.  He has seen a few episodes of season 1 of Downton Abbey with me but I never noticed any great enthusiasm for the show.  He usually played with his Legos at the same time and I found it hard to discern if he paid any attention.

Apparently he was!  He was excited, to say the least to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event.  His favorite character is the Dowager Countess of Grantham, deliciously played by Maggie Smith.  He thinks her witty and sarcastic one-liners incredibly funny.  He despises all the wrong sort (Thomas and Mrs. Bates) and loves all the right sort (Anna and Matthew Crawley).

The event, itself, generated a lot of excitement and anticipation and my son enjoyed himself immensely.  While partaking of the hors d’oeuvres and beverages he very comfortably discussed with two very nice young ladies his interest in science.  Upon hearing this, they stated that they worked for GE and that perhaps if he worked very hard and did well in school he could work for GE as an R&D scientist one day.  My son was being recruited at the age of 10!

Once seated in the auditorium, the room darkened and the familiar theme music announced the start of the screening my son began applauding enthusiastically.  And as the view of Downton Abbey came up on the screen my son leaned into me and asked, “Mom, wouldn’t it be fun to live in that house?”  I smiled and had to agree with him that it undoubtedly would be very fun.  I believe he enjoyed the screening as much as I did.  Afterwards, he remained engaged during the Q&A, clapped and chortled and shivered with excitement.  All I could think was how watching costume dramas when I was his age on Masterpiece Theatre fueled my obsession with all things English and how funny that these kinds of things can be passed to younger generations just through exposure.

Afterwards, we patiently waited in line to meet the stars of our favorite show, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Dan Stevens, and Joanne Froggatt.  They were gracious and generous with their time and were genuinely impressed that Edward was a fan.  While waiting on the line, PBS cameras asked if they could interview him (he was the only kid present).  He handled it like a champ!  He answered their questions intelligently and with the unaffected enthusiasm of a 10 year old.  I was amazed by his poise (I certainly never had his self-confidence when I was his age).  Afterwards, he told me how nervous he was; I told him he handled it like a pro.

All in all, this was an amazing experience on so many levels.  It was nostalgic because PBS has always been a favorite television station of mine, I was overwhelmed with feelings of infectious joy and camaraderie, and the connection with my son over a mutual interest is incomparable.

Here he is in the edited footage from that evening:

Downton Abbey

Ah, if there’s a cure for this, I don’t want it.  If there’s a remedy for this, I’ll run from it.  Think about it all the time; never let it out of my mind.  Cause I love Downton Abbey.

For those not familiar with it (have you been under a rock?) it is an English costume drama set on an aristocratic estate and follows the trials and tribulations of the fictitious Grantham family and their servants in the early 20th century.  Season 1 begins in 1912, April 15, 1912, to be precise and the family is shocked to have learned that the male heir to the entailed (all Jane Austen fans will know what this is) estate has died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic.  This throws the household into a dither because the next in line to inherit is in “trade”.  This is very hard to stomach by the three unmarried daughters who are not entitled to inherit.  The season ends as war is declared against Germany on August 4, 1914.  It has a stellar cast, beautiful clothes, exquisite manners, and a stunning country house.  It spotlights the last hurrah of the British upper classes before the devastation of war.  Right from the start, I was hooked.  I’ve always been a sucker for this type of entertainment and no one does this form of drama like the Brits.

Poor little rich girls

So now I’ve been watching Season 2 on my laptop.  It is not something I do normally and usually am against watching anything on such an inadequate screen.  But for this I made an exception.  It could not be helped; it simply had to be done.  And I have not been disappointed.  Season 2 takes place during the years 1914–1918 when Britain is torn apart  by the brutality of trench warfare and English society, class structure, and way of life changed forever.  I cannot wait for the PBS airing in January so I can watch it properly.

Maggie Smith (a real scene stealer) as the Dowager Duchess, Lady Grantham is delicious!

 It is a soap opera and a well done one despite a few too convenient and shoddy plot lines.  So no, I do not want a cure for this obsession with Downton Abbey.  There are few pleasures in life and this is an extraordinary one. 

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