Hi, I’m Darin. And I’m addicted to Downton Abbey.
Now, the proper response for all of you would have been, “Hi, Darin,” and we all would have worked on our similar conflict together. However, I’m guessing that my initital statement elicited nothing more than eye rolls and shaking of heads — particularly from the male readers.
I admit that I resisted the show for its first couple seasons. I really didn’t have any interest in watching anything about an elite British family during the early parts of the 20th Century, and I figured I was safe with my usual slate of programming, which fluxuates between the Cartoon Network and television dramas featuring gratuitous violence and scantily-clad ladies.
Why would I mess up the perfect formula of entertainment by watching old British people drink tea with their pinkies pointing out and suffer through hearing them complain about not being able to find any good help these days?
Yeah, not really my cup of tea, so to speak.
But I kept hearing from others how good the show was, and then started getting bombed on the subject by our publisher, Susan Lyons, and decided to check it out. The first two seasons were on Hulu, and I already subscribe to the service, so I decided to take a look. Hey, it wouldn’t cost me anything.
I nearly didn’t finish the first episode. It was slow, and stodgy, and very British. I felt as if the characters were being forced down my throat, and I began looking around the living room for a magazine or something to leaf through until the show was over and done with. But I noticed I was paying a little more attention as the episode went on, and I ended up watching another as soon as that one was done.
And within about two days, I was on Season 2.
Actually, of the three seasons that have aired to this point (and, yes, I did pay to download the third season from iTunes), the second was my favorite. It took place during WWI, and it really showed through narrative how everyone was affected by the war. Servants of the mansion, as well as a few of the “proper gentlemen” were sent off to fight, the family dove into volunteerism by opening their doors to wounded soldiers as a respite, and cooks from various estates bonded together to serve food to servicemembers who had come home and were struggling.
I realized that we give a lot of lip service to supporting our troops nowadays, but what they depicted in the show was so sincere and genuine, it made me question my own efforts today. They all acted as if they were in the war together, and they each had their roles to play. Of course, it is a show, so I’ll take the education factor for what it is, but it was nice to see, and caused me to look into myself. And that’s often a good thing for all of us.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This is a soap opera. I’m not trying to hide that, or sugarcoat the fact that you have to sit through some odd moments of drama that don’t actually make sense when you look back at them mentally, but it is so well-written, and so superbly-acted, that it seems believable while you are watching it, and that’s what really matters in the end, right?
When I told Susan I was going to write this column, she was adamant that I not offer any spoilers for people who haven’t seen the show yet, or who are still catching up on watching it. I wondered for a second how I was going to justify my love for a soap opera without telling specifically what I like about it, and figured I’d just give general guidelines for viewing:
First, do not become attached to any characters on the show. Trust me on that.
Second, if you have an entire season at your disposal, do not start watching it late at night. Each episode ends with you wanting more, and the next thing you know you are turning up the volume because the early-morning birds are making a racket outside and you have to be at work in 12 minutes, and you realize that you still have to shower, shave and stuff something down your throat before you run out the door, but you want to see who’s wearing what to dinner and ...
But I digress.
Third, and this might be the most important of all, watch this show with an open mind. These are complex characters, and most of them will take you on a mental roller coaster if you try to pigeon-hole them as “good” or “bad.” Just enjoy the ride.
Though I pushed off watching this show for three years, and never felt as if I was really missing anything, I’m not sure how I’ll wait out the next season. Probably on the Cartoon Network.