DA S1E1: Introductions Around the Table

Posted on December 28, 2011

A drama about the upstairs lives and downstairs lives in a (just post-) Edwardian English country house isn’t exactly a new idea. If you have even the barest interest in the topic, you could probably rattle off a half-dozen films and TV series right off the top of your head that explored a world either exactly the same as the one depicted in this series or a world that differs from it only by a decade or two in either direction. When Downton Abbey was first recommended to us, we shrugged at the concept but settled in to watch the first episode because, well, there was nothing else on TV that night.

We were hooked within minutes. If you’re a fan of the show, you probably were too.

One of the really interesting things about this first episode of the show is that it quite confidently strolls through the mise-en-scene, recreating a world at the corner of your eyes as the actors speak and the camera moves smoothly from place to place. In other words, this first episode (and all the subsequent ones, but this first one was the most important) does an elegant job of setting the time and the place for the viewer. You inhabit it almost immediately. Part of the way the show does this is by reveling in certain scenes and actions that, at this point, could charitably be considered cliches: the ironing of the morning newspaper, the setting of fires in the first floor rooms, the whispered backstair conversations, the Lord and Lady of the house rising and being tended to like royalty by quiet, efficient people in black and white who know their place. We’ve seen it all many times and yet, it’s presented here with a rhythm and pacing that gently draws you into this world.

Of course, another way to set the scene in a period drama is to fall back on that other cliche of starting off with a famous historical event that all the characters can comment on. Certainly, the sinking of the Titanic serves that purpose nicely. It’s probably the single most famous 20th Century event predating World War I (and perhaps not coincidental to its appearance here, became one of the most popular period dramas of all time). Between the ironing of the newspapers and the sinking of the Titanic, one could come away with the early impression that the show’s creators are stacking the deck right in the beginning of the story. In other words, you could argue that the use of these cliches were a somewhat easy way to get the audience onboard right at the beginning.

But wisely, show creator Julian Fellowes used the Titanic sinking not just as a way to set time and place for the viewer, but also to set the entire story in motion. Everything now hinges on the fact that Lord Grantham’s sole male heir died in the tragedy and the future of the estate is now in jeopardy. Even if a 21st Century audience can’t wrap their head around the aristocratic lifestyle depicted here, they can understand quite easily something like inheritance drama, even if the entail is a concept completely foreign to most modern people (and certainly most modern Americans).

Better yet, the entail drama serves as an introduction to pretty much every single family member; Lady Mary, who as the eldest child (and the one betrothed to the now-dead heir) has the most skin in the game, but middle sister Edith is clearly suffering from Jan Brady-ism: the forgotten middle child, neither as marry-able as her older sister nor as precious as her younger sister, Sibyl, who serves as a peacekeeper among the three girls, mainly because she has removed herself completely from any marriage or inheritance drama. And finally, there is the Dowager Countess (and we would just like to say that a typing error left one of the preceding words without an “o” and we laughed at how appropriate itsounded), Lord Grantham’s mother, who is probably more invested than anyone in the inheritance drama as Downton Abbey represents her life’s work as much as it does her son’s. She is also, because Maggie Smith inhabits her skin, the most entertaining of any of the characters and gets the absolute best lines. “Are we to be friends, then?” asks her daughter–in-law. “We are allies, my dear,” responds the Dowager Countess, “Which can be a good deal more effective.”

Further complicating things is the fact that all the money tied up in the estate originally came from Cora, who was an American heiress when she married into the family. Interestingly, the show sometimes tends to walk briskly past the class issues on display here, but revels in the anti-American classism that both Cora’s mother–in-law and even daughters sometimes subject her to. Classism in Downton
Abbey isn’t about servants vs. masters; it’s about rich Americans vs. titled English.

So what purpose do the servants serve here, dramatically speaking? It’s not so obvious in this first episode, but in subsequent ones, the show takes a fairly ahistorical view of the relationship between employer and servant, depicting it in a far less rigid way than the historical norm allowed. In short, the servants here are quite often far too familiar with the family and the family seems to encourage it. It’s not a coincidence that the very first thing Lord Grantham commented on when news of the Titanic sank was “all those poor people in steerage,” and let’s face it: even if he was an uncommonly open-minded aristocrat, that’s just a little heavy-handed when the likelihood of him knowing non-steerage people who died in the sinking was very high. But it sets the tone: the masters of Downton Abbey are affectionate to the servants and allow them quite a bit off leeway in expressing – and even bettering – themselves. Nothing illustrates this better than the hiring of Mr. Bates as Lord Grantham’s personal valet.

Re-watching these episodes with a far more critical eye, we can’t help thinking that there was definitely something to the complaints some of the other servants were making about the appropriateness of hiring Bates for a job that required so much of him physically. For all Bates’ assurances that it wouldn’t be a problem, the fact is, it WAS a problem, because he couldn’t fill in at the table the way a valet would be expected to from time to time, and it seems he often needed help with the luggage and the stairs. Yes, Thomas and O’Brien make deliciously evil antagonists and we do so love to hate them, but they weren’t totally in the wrong for voicing some concern (of course, they took it a lot further than that, straight into sabotage), but when Carson, the butler, voiced similar concerns, we found ourselves wondering if they all didn’t have a point. Even Cora pushed her husband about it, due mainly to the fact that she’s a bit distressingly eager to accept anything the sour O’Brien tells her. There’s a great scene between Robert and Cora that illustrates that of the two of them, it’s the American that suffers from class snobbery far greater than the titled Englishman. Lord Grantham’s stubbornness in the face of so much opposition (he eventually relents and allows Bates to continue on as valet, after originally sacking him) sets the tone for the rest of the series, as the family tends to go in and out of the downstairs drama, oftentimes injecting themselves right into the lives of their servants.

And speaking of the lives of servants, let’s hear it for Thomas, the evil, gay, blackmailing servant who has the steel balls to get himself involved in Lady Mary’s marrying prospects, only to have it blow up in his face, or at least go up in smoke. That little Duke was a slimeball from the word go (yet strangely hot in Boardwalk Empire). Thomas, you little status queen, you; we hope you learned a lesson: “One swallow does not a summer make.” Ouch.

But of all the servants, we fell in love with Anna, the sweet head housemaid who sees through Mr. Bates’ bluster and reaches out to the pained man underneath. Even better, she can sass O’Brien like no one else on the staff can. If Lord Grantham is the heart of Downton Abbey, then Anna is the heart of its downstairs inhabitants. Mrs. Hughes the Housekeeper and Carson the butler may be the parents of that downstairs family, but Anna is the one most in tune with what’s going on around her.

And with the very brief last-minute introduction of new heir presumptive Matthew Crawley and his mother Isobel, the cast and the plot are secured in place going forward. The family will be forced to welcome an unsuitable stranger into their house as the new heir, just as the servants have been forced to welcome an unsuitable stranger into their midst as the new valet. Will bitchy Lady Mary fall for her cousin or is she just too damaged and exhausted from being treated like a prize no one seems to want? Will Mr. Bates ever have it out with Thomas? Will Anna ever give the evil O’Brien the back of her hand? Will the Dowager Countess ever get used to electricity? Will sour Edith ever learn to hold her tongue? Will scatterbrained Daisy ever open her eyes and see that sweet William is the man for her and not scowling, gay, blackmailing Thomas?

Stay tuned! And please refrain from posting any spoilers.

Watch Downton Abbey, Season 1: Ep. 1 on PBS. See more from Masterpiece.

[Screencaps: tomandlorenzo.com - Video: pbs.org]

    • Anonymous

      If anyone in the NY viewing area needs to catch up on Season 1 before Season 2 starts next week, this Sunday, New Year’s Day, Channel 13 will be running a marathon of the entire Season 1.

      And if you’re outside the NY viewing area, you can watch it online, on 13’s website: http://watch.thirteen.org/video/1724131531/

      –GothamTomato

      • Anonymous

        Thank you! I’m watching it while I’m working.

      • MilaXX

        I still had the eps on my DVR and did a marathon yesterday.

      • Anonymous

        The PBS Stations in and around San Francisco are also running all 4 episodes back to back on Sunday. Can’t think of a better way to ring in a new year than snuggled up to the TV with Downton Abbey!

    • Anonymous

      Just getting into this and Cranford.  I am so behind.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=523566011 Dawn Grimes Stough

        cranford is wonderful :)

    • Anonymous

      Cora: “I might send her over to visit my aunt. She could get to know New York.”
      Lady Grantham: “Oh, I don’t think things are quite that desperate.”

      Lady Grantham: “Why would you want to go to a real school? You’re not a doctor’s daughter.”
      Sybil: “Nobody learns anything from a governess, apart from French and how to curtsy.”
      Lady Grantham: “What else do you need? Are you thinking of a career in banking?
      Cora: “Things are different in America.”
      Lady Grantham: “I know. They live in wigwams.”

      Lady Grantham: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for
      improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”

      Mrs. Crawley: “I take that as a compliment.”

      Lady Grantham: “I must’ve said it wrong.”

      I would love to have Lady Grantham and Kerr Avon as my guests at a dinner party. :)

    • Anonymous

      The first time I watched the 1. episode all the cliché was a bit much for me. But when everyone kept watching and telling the tale of how good it is I started again and now just watch it for the fun that it is.
      It took me a couple of episodes though not to expect Isobel introducing herself with “Harriet Jones – MP for Flydale North/Prime Minister/Former Prime Minister”

      • http://profiles.google.com/padawansguide Maggie *

        Re: Harriet Jones, THIS!

      • Anonymous

        Totally me too with the Harriot Jones thing. 

        • MilaXX

          wasn’t Sybil also on Misfits?

          • Anonymous

            Think so. She’s tipped for the next DW assistant.

      • Anonymous

        Now when I rewatch, that’s all I’m going to see! (I just started to get caught up with Doctor Who)

      • Anonymous

        And dont forget Hugh Bonneville as the captain on The Curse of the Black Spot episode!

    • Addicted2Glamour

      I got the book this weekend ( The World Of..) it’s fantastic!

      • Anonymous

        Me too! Thanks so much for mentioning it, TLo! It’s really interesting and the pictures are gorgeous!

      • Anonymous

        My copy of the book arrived today! It looks gorgeous. I am so excited!

    • Anonymous

      How I am loving this show!  I can’t wait for the second series.  Maggie Smith is playing a role she’s played many times before (she’s playing exactly the same role she played in Gosford Park), but she does it so well that I just don’t care.  I can’t quite wrap my head around Elizabeth McGovern’s performance, but it doesn’t really matter.  Brits in period costumes in a great house?  I’m so watching.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=523566011 Dawn Grimes Stough

      i absolutely love the storylines with the servants way more than the crawleys…  anna is definitely my favorite character.  i find it really hard to care about mary, even though i do feel sorry for her.  i have loved hugh bonneville since notting hill and penelope wilton since her days as harriet jones (and of course in shaun of the dead!!)  :)  so many great characters and actors to love in this show!  i’m so glad you guys are doing recaps!

    • Anonymous

      I have watched this show so many times I can recite their lines with them, yet it’s new and exciting every time. I’ll never get tired of it. The writing, the casting, the acting, the relationships, the sets, the costumes, the food – everything is perfect. I am so excited about Season 2.

    • Sister Artemis

      All seven episodes are available from Netflix, streaming or on DVD. Just re-watched them in prep for January Eighth. I liked it even better the second time around, and had more attention for dress, decor, sets, lighting and of course nuances of interaction, because I already had the basic story line in mind.  Nice, then, to tune into this blogs recap and analysis, with it fresh in mind.

      As to the “entail” (I keep having to remind myself that this is not the same as “entrails”) I poked around the web for info on this confusing piece of law, and up popped this: “A settlement of the inheritance of property over a number of generations so that it remains within a family or other group.”  The current heir holds, but does not so much own, the estate. 

    • Anonymous

      I am feverishly watching S1 on Netflix so I can stay ahead of TLo’s recaps. 

    • Anonymous

      I got series one on DVD as a Christmas present so I’ve been watching this week and waiting on these posts starting :) However I won’t say much as I’d frame my views in the context of series 2 and the Christmas Day episode.

      I’ve had a bit of a costume drama-fest today! The 95 Pride & Prejudice was on TV back to back. I watched some Downton on DVD and the new Great Expectations adaptation is on at the moment.

    • Modern Belle

      I got hooked on the show this weekend. Downton Abbey has filled the void that Mad Men left. There aren’t any other well-written shoes on TV.

      Of course, I LOVED Gosford Park (and the yummy Clive Owen), so following the characters was a lot easier. There’s also a lot of elements from Remains of the Days with Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins.

      I expect Downton Abbey to be the next big thing in America (complete with themed parties, perhaps?) Netflix has season 1 online.

      There are only 7 or 8 episodes, so it goes quickly. I got caught up on Christmas night when Masterpiece Theater showed almost all of them, and then downloaded the final two from iTunes.

    • Anonymous

      My favorite Lady Grantham line in episode 1:  “I’m tougher than I look”  Bwah!

      Obviously part of these recaps is going to be the recitation of Favorite Lady Grantham Lines.

    • Anonymous

      Anyone who has read Pride and Prejudice knows all about entails – in fact i found it a bit heavy-handed how many times they had to explain it in the first few episodes. “Don’t you understand, Mary can’t inherit!” Duh.

      But I love it anyway – juicy soap opera with characters you love to root for, characters you love to hate, and great costumes!

      • Anonymous

        Can you imagine Pride and Prejudice without  Mr. Collins??

        • Anonymous

          Of course I can’t – the entail created the pressure on Elizabeth, which in turn illustrated her character. By turning down Mr. Collins and turning up her nose at the rich Mr. Darcy, we see what she is really made of. Mary is not equivalent to Lizzy nor is she meant to be. She’s a more modern heroine – confused and conflicted, tied to her background and training as a lady but longing to break free. Austen heroines were aware that they weren’t free, and there was some gentle irony around the restrictions they felt, but they never really wanted to overthrow the system the way Mary does.

      • Anonymous

        I agree with you about the entail explanations. Since everyone would have known the law (it had been around for centuries), it seemed silly.
        But! I am really enjoying this series, especially Maggi Smith.  She would have been an excellent Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

        • Anonymous

          Since everyone would have known the law (it had been around for centuries), it seemed silly.

          Entails had been, but the manner in which they could be broken had changed less than 100 years earlier.

    • http://profiles.google.com/eviedear Laura Noble

      love it, can’t wait for more!

    • Anonymous

      Even my husband is now hooked!

      • Anonymous

        I wish I could get my husband to watch it–I think he’d love it. He’s a complete Anglophile and has always enjoyed this sort of program if I can get him to sit still for one hour. Plus, it would be a bit of a contrast to our current TV obsession, Breaking Bad. ;)

        • Anonymous

          I only got him hooked the second time around when I was watching it on PBS. Then last night I found him watching the last episode on Netflix because he couldn’t wait for Sunday to come around. He keeps asking me when the next episodes are airing!

          • Anonymous

            Maybe I’ll try again. :) 

    • Anonymous

      OK, trying not to be spoilery but…..when my dvr DA recorded when it originally aired, I had 4 episodes of about 90 minutes each. I see people here saying “6 or 7 episodes” Have I missed something??? Do I need to perform an emergency NetFlix download???

      • Anonymous

        No, you’re not missing anything. People keep getting confused about this but PBS showed ALL of it. When it airs on ITV in the UK, it has commercials in it. PBS shows it without the commercials, and combines the episodes together to fill the 90 minute time slots. Nothing is edited out.

        And no need to get it from Netflix when you can get it from PBS for free, on their website: http://watch.thirteen.org/video/1724131531/We really have the advantage, watching it on PBS: In the UK, they see it sooner, but it’s full of commercials. We have a wait, but we get it without the commercial interruption (which I prefer – it helps you get absorbed into the fantasy.)And btw, if you don’t want to see spoilers, stay away from UK news sites which all have news about the big Christmas day TV ratings showdown between Downton, EastEnders, AbFab and Dr. Who. Most of the articles I’ve sen give away the big storyline conclusions (which I now wish I didn’t know!)

        –GothamTomato

        • Anonymous

          Thanks for the clarification, GT. I thought I had seen it all. I hear you on the UK news sites, been avoiding them like the plague….but I couldn’t help myself and did cheat and watch the new AbFab ep when it went up on Videodrome…..

        • Anonymous

          I read the Telegraph most days. The website was BLARING the Christmas episode storyline. Really sucks to know how the whole series 2 ends.

          • Anonymous

            LOL  you just have to steer clear or live with it. I knew exactly what was going to happen in Torchwood before every episode. Spoilers don’t bother me too much to be honest, but it’s hard to avoid reading something somewhere.

        • Anonymous

          I’m sorry but you are incorrect, GT. I watched both the US version and the UK version and notably in the US version, it is missing the whole “Bates stole a snuffbox” plot set up by Thomas and O’Brien.

          • MilaXX

            no it isn’t. I just rewatched off my DVR and I’m pretty sure it was there. I don’t want to go into details since TLo asked that we not spoil things. Is this a Netflix difference or a Masterpiece Theater issue?

            • Anonymous

              It is indeed in the PBS version!

            • Anonymous

              I haven’t compared the Netflix and PBS versions of this, but with earlier masterpiece shows, Netflix had the whole thing where PBS did NOT.  When they did Emma a couple of years ago (with Jonny Lee Miller and Romola Garai) key scenes were cut for time from the PBS version but restored in the Netflix and Itunes versions.

            • Anonymous

              I believe just a few minutes were cut out of various storylines.  The main plot of the snuffbox storyline is in the PBS version, but if you download the BBC version (7 episodes) you get a few more details.  I prefer the BBC version, but the PBS version covers everything.

      • Anonymous

        You should be fine. Netflix – I’m sure there’s a good reason but I don’t know what it is – kept episode 1 the same but chopped the original episodes 2-4 into new episodes 2-7. I don’t think there’s a difference otherwise but you might get spoilers if you’re not on the same schedule as TLo’s recaps.

    • Anonymous

      Hooray! I am so glad that you are covering Downton Abbey and just in time for Season 2! I too joined the bandwagon relatively late and only watched the entire series for the first time this past August. And I am soooo jealous that you got to meet the cast in person!

    • Anonymous

      Watching this for the third time, this time with my daughter, I’m rethinking Thomas (based on her input). Is he really gay? or just an amoral opportunist who will use whatever devices he can employ to get what he wants?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1344922354 Eric Scheirer Stott

        He’s gay, and (spoilerish) some of the other servants are aware of it,  though he probably thinks he’s fooling them all.

      • MilaXX

        I’m thinking a gay AND opportunistic.

    • Anne Slovin

      Have you guys seen the hilarious Dollhouse Downton?  These two girls recreate Downton Abbey with a dollhouse and Beatrix Potter dolls, and they do the bit where Mrs. Patmore is trying to make Daisy understand that Thomas is just not the boy for her.  Finally, in frustration, the Mrs. Patmore doll goes, “DAAAAAAAISY.  He’s GAYYYYYY.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGXam5nv7rw

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the link.  Dollshouse Downton was great.

    • Anonymous

      Have you seen Uptown Downstairs Abbey? Oh, the hilarity!!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5dMlXentLw

      • Anonymous

        And there’s a part 2, too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3YYo_5rxFE&feature=relmfu

        My favorite line is the bit about O’Brien’s hair being knitting.

        • Anne Slovin

          That’s totally brilliant.  My roommate and I periodically start saying, “I want to help, but I can’t reach!  I can’t reach!!”, like the knitted character.

          • Anonymous

            The Home Maid!!

            • Anonymous

              The Maid in China! (Not here, obviously.)

        • Anonymous

          And Kim Cattrell worried about her Sex and the City money!!

        • Anonymous

          The ending is the best, with Kim from How Clean is Your House showing up to take over as Housekeeper.

    • http://profiles.google.com/lauralaylin Laura Kovacs

      Who is Thomas in Boardwalk Empire?  IMDb comes up with nothing, and I don’t recall him being on that show too.  

      • http://www.tomandorenzo.com Tom and Lorenzo

        Thomas isn’t in Boardwalk Empire, the Duke is. He played Nucky’s Irish enforcer.

    • CQAussie

      I freaking LOVE this show!!!  That is all.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1046681022 Paula Berman

      Just wanted to say that you all turned me on to this show, and thank you for that!  It’s wonderful, and I have in turn gotten several friends to watch it also.  I have a big crush on Bates… can’t wait for S2 to air in America in just a week and a half.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for the posting.  I rewatched Season 1 over the holiday and enjoyed possibly more in retrospect (I’ve already seen Season 2 – but no spoilers…).  I look forward to you notes about the rest of the season.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=818790248 Andrea Grenadier

      Readers of Jane Austen, of which there must be many on this thread, are quite familiar with the concept of the entail. It returned several times in Austen’s novels, and was one of the central points of “Pride and Prejudice,” “Sense and Sensibility,” and “Persuasion.” Young women couldn’t inherit property, so if a gentleman did not have a son, then a close relative or even an adopted young man would then be chosen as the heir. There were some exceptions to the entail, of course.For those of you who haven’t yet seen series 1, I won’t spoil the heartbreak regarding the entail towards the end of the series!  After working in public TV for many of its best years, I thought I had seen the best. But “Downton Abbey” stands up to some of the finest “Masterpiece Theatre” series, as well as Great Performances’ “Brideshead” in 1981. 

    • Anonymous

      This series is so much fun. I especially like the way McGovern & Smith’s characters maneuver in and out of charity with each other.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mary-Stone/100001328135240 Mary Stone

      BRA-vo!  Looking forward to your recaps and analysis. Cannot wait to see season 2.  Best birthday present ever.

    • Anonymous

      The problem with the basic premise of the show is that Cora’s money would never have been tied up in the entail. The entail would have been set centuries previously, probably by the first Earl Grantham, and would specify exactly what properties and other assets were entailed. Cora’s money, coming into the family thru marriage, would be unentailed and Lord Grantham could leave it to whoever he pleased. Or, more likely, when Cora’s family negotiated the marriage contract, it would spell out who the money would be left to.

      So assuming Lord Grantham hadn’t spent all Cora’s money on the estate, even if the family would lose Grantham Manor to a new heir, they wouldn’t be left penniless. 

      That being said, the show is fabulous and I can’t wait for series two.

      • Anonymous

        Cora’s money, coming into the family thru marriage, would be unentailed and Lord Grantham could leave it to whoever he pleased. Or, more likely, when Cora’s family negotiated the marriage contract, it would spell out who the money would be left to.

        It was made clear during the first episode that Cora’s money was made part of the entailed estate when she married Grantham.   The Dowager Countess asks Matthew to determine whether the entail can be broken, but it is found not to be possible, probably because there was no adult heir to join in a deed of disentailment.

        • Anonymous

          That’s the part that never made sense. Her family would never have let their money be entailed. With entailed money if Cora didn’t have a son who would inherit and if she died and the Earl remarried and had a son, her children would be completely disinherited of their family’s money. American gilded age plutocrats were smarther than that; they would have specified that their family money went only to Cora’s children. 

          • Anonymous

            It’s said that the estate was nearly bankrupt before he married Cora. Presumably her money went into repairs/improvements on the property or land which ensured it’s survival. So it was quite literally absorbed into the estate.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=818790248 Andrea Grenadier

        In most cases, the woman’s money would have indeed been apportioned in the entail. There are many cases in 18th-19th century feudal law that states this as such. Normally, I wouldn’t know so many details of such an intricate subject, except for a doctoral dissertation about the subject of feudal law that I edited several years ago. ; ) Men could make their fortunes by finding a wealthy American woman as well as a woman could in finding a man. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=818790248 Andrea Grenadier

          Another point to make is that this also appears to be a rare love match between Cora and Grantham. That much was made clear in the first episode. Not knowing the circumstances of her life in America (were her parents still alive? was the money, then, her own?) it can be assumed, as Corsetmaker says, that she her money would go towards the estate, and folded into the entail. 

          • Anonymous

            On Grantham’s part, the match was a business deal.  He needed Cora’s money to keep the estate alive.  And she (or her family, actually–I wish we knew more about her background) bought into it so she could marry into a noble family. 

            They did end up falling in love.  Then, at the beginning of the series–with no acceptable male heir at the ready–Cora seems ready to go back on that agreement. Oh, no, what will happen?  (Well, I know. I saw all of the first series as it ran on PBS & then on Netflix streaming.  Which does include a few more small scenes that we didn’t see on PBS but is essentially the same thing.)

    • Anonymous

      We watched the Christmas evening DA marathon.  I’ve seen each episode at least twice before (thanks, pbs.org!) and I’m amazed how much more I get from each viewing.  There are so many nuances and so many of the lines are fabulous.  Maggie Smith gets some great ones and her physical comedy with the swivel chair is a delight.  But some of the other characters also have some memorable lines.  I’m waiting for the right real-life situation where I can pull myself up straight and indignantly say “I’ve given my life to Downton!”  

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=643312238 Marti Phillips

      Just be sure to watch the BBC version and not the PBS version. PBS cut it down from 7 eps to 4 eps! 3 hours of cuts! We first watched the PBS version, then this past fall got the BBC version on blu-ray. The additional 3 hours makes a WORLD of difference in the storyline and the acting.

      • http://www.tomandorenzo.com Tom and Lorenzo

        PBS did not make 3 hours of cuts. Any cuts they made amounted to a few minutes. If you saw so much additional material on the Blu-Ray, you must have missed an episode when it aired on PBS.

        • Anonymous

          The Daily News (founded by a guy amazingly familiar to one who shows up in Series II) ran an article that claimed huge swathes of the show had been cut for the idiot Americans. In fact, ITV edited it to run in the Masterpiece Theatre time slots–without commercials.  Only a few bits ended up being omitted.  But PBS will get the whole version this time because even small bits can be precious….

    • Anonymous

      I just started watching the first season and was so drawn in that I dowloaded the rest of the episodes for my flight to Los Angeles. The costumes are incredible, the actors on point and the story line enthralling. a must see!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Megan-Mackay/711323409 Megan Mackay

      My parents hooked me on this show. They told me to watch the first five minutes, and then I was hooked, and stayed up until 3 AM to finish it.

    • http://twitter.com/lenabena_ Elena

      I’m so glad that I started watching (and finished within a few days!) this show, and I’m happy to see that I chose a great time as you are blogging it! Woop. Can’t wait for more of your DA posts.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=558631967 Ivona Foster

      Our PBS has been airing Season 1 for the last three Sundays and I simply cannot wait for the last installment and Season 2. I don’t mind the cliches at all, I could watch Maggie Smith any day. Yeay for TLo posts!

    • MilaXX

      I have to admit when this came out last year, I was reluctant to watch until a friend encouraged me. Even then, the first episode didn’t grab me, but by the second ep I was hooked.  So glad you guys are recapping.

    • Anonymous

      I loved the first series… but after watching the second series on youtube… I fear that Fellowes has way too many balls in the air!  Just watched the Christmas special, and still feel that he simply has introduced way too many story lines.
      This show is watchable for so many reasons.. but it’s Anna and Bates that has me coming back for more, more and more!!

    • Anonymous

      Honestly I think this is the most addicting show I’ve ever seen, bar none. Come for the costumes, stay for the bitchery. For the record, I’m throwing the favorite character gauntlet for Lady Mary. Much as I love Anna, the show wouldn’t be the same without Mary and her diva eyebrows (come on Emmys, how could you nominate Elizabeth McGovern over Michelle Dockery? Quel crime.)

    • Anonymous

      took me a while to get used to the evil Thomas after years of seeing the actor play the delectable and quite heterosexual Liam in Corrie Street. 

      • Anonymous

        Yes, me too :D Liam was lovely!

    • gmair

      Gotta watch season 1 again. Maybe this weekend. The one irritation/annoyance was the mini-story line ripped off straight out of Mrs. Miniver. If they had to go that route, they should at least have done something clever with it. Which they didn’t, did they?

      –gpm

    • http://twitter.com/wednesdaydreams Natalie

      I WANT TO CRY I LOVE THAT YOU GUYS ARE COVERING THIS SERIES. Because as all over the place as Season Two was, Season One was absolutely GOLDEN, all the characters are amazing, the costumes are sublime, and Michelle Dockery is absolute perfection as Lady Mary. Also, the Christmas special that aired recently was brilliant too. 

    • Anonymous

      I just finished watching the first three episodes on pbs.org for free– am hoping they post number four soon.  I watched it last year and am soaking it in again– the beautiful, beautiful costumes, the vivid characters.  After trying (and failing) to suffer through the most recent Glee, it was a pleasure to meet these characters again and imagine what might lie in the future of season two… I particularly enjoy William’s piano interludes– lovely, and so nicely suited to his character.

    • Anonymous

      Not wanting to spoil, but I think there is an explanation sometime that if they try to separate Cora’s money from the estate, they will ruin the estate– i.e., the property would have to be sold to retrieve the money.  It’s not so much that the money is sitting there separately;  it’s that it probably went to pay off debts and set the estate back on its feet again.  The money has become inextricably embedded in the physical estate itself.  

    • RyzandShyn

      Thanks! I do need to play catch up as I haven’t watched any episodes yet. I set the recorder to catch the marathon on Sunday.
      I’m excited, I love a good story.

    • Anonymous

      Loved the first episode!

    • Emily Myers

      I don’t really have more time in my schedule for another TV show, but you haven’t steered me wrong yet with your recaps.  I’m definitely going to check this out!

    • glennethph

      This is fun but so hard since I’ve watched everything and ship a lot of pairings that aren’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye at this point.

    • Leslie Streeter

      I am watching on my streaming Netflix right now! Thanks for suggesting this, guys! It’s amazing. And that Thomas…me loves an evil schemer.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XB3NPLH2RSP65WQGQP4WFLLTEA Rachel

      Just to make you insanely jealous, my sister works for the public television station in Kansas City and has possession of the entire second season (minus finale) and we intend on a marathon for New Year’s Eve. Hardy har har;);) Love your posts by the way and check religiously…10 times a day! HA XOXO

    • Anonymous

      Very good recap TLo.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching S1 when it first aired, enjoyed it equally again, if not more, the second time around…picking up on subtleties initially overshadowed by the main storyline, scenery, etc. 

      I’m so looking forward to S2…and to TLo recaps of it.  :)

    • Anonymous

      I’ve just been to PBS website and I see S1E1 and S1E2; I thought there were four episodes? Or is this the full first season? Could someone tell me where I might find S1E3 and E4? I’ve got a DVR, but no DVD player.

      • Anonymous

        S1E3 is also on there….I just watched it online yesterday.  I assume they’ll be loading S1E4 either this coming weekend or next week since they haven’t aired the rebroadcast of it yet…which is Sunday 1st.  Usually online vids are posted after it airs. 

        “what is a weekend?”  lol!

    • Sara__B

      I spent several happy hours last night watching the first two episodes, and I am well and truly hooked. I would never have watched if it weren’t for you, T Lo. Thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/SparklyCasanova UglyCasanova

      Thomas and O’Brien do make a delicious evil pair.

      Also, the Duke says, “One swallow does not (not sure if he contracted that) make a summer.”  Of course it sounds much better as, “One swallow does not a summer make.”  So poo-poo on you, Duke.

      Great stuff, this show.  And much thanks to TLo, wonderful recap.  

      And I’ve tried watching Boardwalk Empire, sorry, I just cannot watch it; Pitt’s face is just too vexing, I keep getting fixated on it — handsome, he is not.

    • http://twitter.com/TMamBo Therese Bohn

      Greatest line of dialogue ever — “What is a…Week-end?”

    • http://twitter.com/TheRealSandraOh Sandra Oh

      So happy you are recapping this gem.  I have loved it for so long and am so excited that you two love it too.

    • http://twitter.com/LOfficielEbony TheVeryLivingEND

      OMG – I am so loving your commentary on this programme (I had to give a bit of British flair, there)! I can’t wait for Series 2 to begin in Jan 2012.

    • Emily Giovanni

      Just getting started with the show. Loved the first episode! But I was a little bit confused about the rules of mourning. It seemed like they switched between black and colors too much.

    • Toto Maya

      Hahaha, the old lady I look after was watching this and I thought it was Masterpiece Theater. Whoops! Only saw the first few minutes but it was interesting, might have to catch it later.

    • Anonymous

      I just rewatched this episode (Netflix streaming version). I forgot how much was crammed into it. Hoping to be able to carve out the time to watch the rest of the episodes over the weekend. They are such a lovely respite from regular life.

    • Anonymous

      I think my single favorite line of any show all year was the Dowager Countess’s, “Wot is a WEEK END?” 

    • Anonymous

      Been meaning to catch DA for months and finally caught up online before Season 2 began.  I am officially, irrevocably addicted.

    • tylka5

      I have just started watching season one and as you said I was hooked just minutes in.  And of course, I have all of your recaps to savor as I go.  What a delicious treat!