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New Masterpiece Series - Downton Abbey

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  • Julie Irby
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A stately country house, a noble family, and a succession crisis caused by the sinking of the Titanic are the backdrop for 'Downton Abbey', an Edwardian spellbinder by Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park).  Following the lives of aristocrats and servants in the years before World War I, Downton Abbey chronicles the hunts, garden parties and sexual intrigues on the estate. The series that took the UK by storm, Downton Abbey stars Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, and a house full of revered actors in a production that brings a glittering bygone era to life.

The era may be significantly different, but this new Masterpiece four-part series could be mistaken for a story of today....all the exceptional stuff that makes a good story - dirty looks, man vs. woman, fashionistas, mystery, game-playing, dress-up and drama is all included in 'Downton Abbey' that starts Jan. 9 at 9 p.m. and continues every Sunday in January at the same time.  Watching this was like curling up with a Jane Austen novel on a rainy day that has trapped you into staying up well past what you know is right when you have to work the next day.  The writer's ability to capture you and entrap you into the Crawley family is just can't wait to see what will happen next.....and the setting in the English countryside is just lovely.  As a woman, one moment I love it and one moment I'm hacked off about the way women had no standing or say so back then...can't vote...can't choose a husband...can't inherit the estate....but OOOH! what a pretty dress.  Rats.  Bad feminist.

A truly brilliant and captivating part of this series is the way you can see into the life of this family though their eyes AND through the eyes of the several servants.  When I mean several I mean that they have a 'valet' whose job it is JUST to look after the Master's who opens for each person in the house just 'in case' they need something....a main cook of course with multiple helpers....a footman (huh?).....and the list goes on.  Two classes, each with their own challenges and suffering.  Much like the book 'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett (now on my top 5 best books EVER list....each chapter told by either a member of Southern society or by an African-American servant before Civil Rights era) you get two stories rolled into one.  

"Downton Abbey" airs Sundays, January 9th through January 30th at 9 p.m.