And we’re not the only ones who indulge.  After shooting
the third season, actor
Jim Carter, who plays the butler,
Carson, celebrated with a cycling trip in Cambodia.  As
he walked among the ancient temples of
Angkor Wat,
according to
Jeremy Egner of The New York Times, he
found himself surrounded by an enthusiastic group of
Asian tourists screaming, “Mr. Carson!”

The show is also popular in Sweden, Russia, the Middle
East, the Netherlands, Brazil, Australia and Iceland.  
Since it premiered on ITV in Britain in September of
2010, it has appeared in 200 countries or regions.  NBC
Universal estimates that more than 120 million viewers
worldwide have watched at least one episode.

Season 4, with its huge cast of colorful characters, both
downstairs and upstairs, returns to America beginning
January 5.  A version dubbed in Mandarin will begin on
CCTV in China this year.

“Nobody in their right mind could have predicted what
happened, when it sort of went viral,” according to
Julian
Fellowes, creator and writer of the show.  “You travel
thousands and thousands of miles, and you get off the
plane, and someone asks, ‘Is Mr. Carson going to marry
Mrs. Hughes?’”

“The dialogue, dubbed in so many languages, is altered,
inevitably, and maybe some of the gags don’t quite work
in another language,” Fellowes says, “but I’m terribly
pleased if people are enjoying it.”

What’s not to enjoy about a high-class soap opera that is
well written and beautifully filmed in a gloriously over-the-
top English country house?  As
Maureen Ryan points out
on huffingtonpost.com, “As the granddaughter of an Irish
housemaid, I’m . . . able to escape into the fantasy land
of earls and ladies without forgetting the elbow grease
and financial sacrifice required to make those frivolous
lives possible.”

Though Los Angeles Times critic
Mary McNamara points
out that “those who exist in the higher realms of the food
chain could not survive a day without the proletariat, . . . It
also acknowledges, albeit wistfully, that in many cases
the benefits were mutual.”

And, “It helps that the lord of the manor, the Earl of
Grantham (
Hugh Bonneville), is so modern he not only
sleeps in the same bed as his [American] wife, Cora
(
Elizabeth McGovern), he also, upon hearing the news of
the Titanic’s fate, mourns first the fate of the poor people
in steerage.”

The
Titanic is the first in a series of problems to face the
family, as the earl’s three daughters--Mary, Edith and
Sybil—are not allowed to inherit because they are women,
and the next two heirs died on the sinking ship.  That leaves
only a distant cousin, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), a
middle-class lawyer, in line, and what would a middle-class
lawyer do with a venerable estate?

The drama and intrigue of its constant veering from one
catastrophe to another is one of the complaints about
Downton Abbey.  But most of the real drama comes from the
sequence of actual events that changed England--including
World War I, the influenza epidemic (my grandfather, his
brother and a cousin died in that), the formation of the
Irish
Free State and the Teapot Dome scandal.  

Its large ensemble cast is outstanding.  
Dame Maggie Smith,
as Lady Violet Crowley, the dowager countess, stands for the
old aristocracy as opposed to the more modern attitudes of a
new generation--a change that only becomes more marked
as the Victorian era gradually gives way to the devastating
war and the 1920s.  Her one-liners are real zingers!  They
always make me laugh.

Downton Abbey received the
Golden Globe for Best
Miniseries and a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding
Miniseries.  Recognized by Guinness World Records as the
most critically acclaimed English-language television series
of 2011, by the third series it was the most
widely watched
television show in the world.

I’m eager for season 4.  How about you?

Other articles in this website include
Highclere Castle, where
Downton was filmed;
World War I, when both Downton and
Highclere became hospitals; and the treasure of
King Tut,
discovered through the support of Highclere's 5th Earl of
Carnarvon.

I hope you'll write me at
b.silvey@sbcglobal.net with your
response to Downton Abbey, World War I and the treasures
of King Tut's tomb.  Also, the whole idea of upper and lower
classes.
January 2014
An eclectic website about Women, Christianity, History, Culture and
the Arts--and anything else that comes to mind.
Downton Abbey
It’s a guilty pleasure—like a super rich chocolate dessert with nuts and berries and whipped cream.  And yet
it’s guaranteed not to add a pound, unless you nibble as you watch.  It’s
Downton Abbey, the British soap
opera about lords and ladies and maids and footmen all living together in a country house that looks like a
castle. It took America by storm last year.
Dame Maggie Smith, as Lady Violet Crowley, defends the old order.
The cast of Downton Abbey, with Jim Carter (far left) with the downstairs staff and Hugh Bonneville (forward right) with the family.
The cook, with kitchen staff,
talks with a footman.
Billie Silvey