PBS’ Downton Abbey a feast for the eyes, heart, and mind

At first glance, Downton Abbey is your typical period drama, portraying the quiet country life of an English aristocrat, his family, and servants, in the early 20th century. Appearances are most definitely deceiving in this case. Creator Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) weaves a complex tale of gossip and betrayal, love and honor.

Viewers familiar with the works of Jane Austen will understand the primary conflict all too well. The Crawley family faces an uncertain future when Lord Crawley’s closest male relatives–and, thereby, the heirs to his estate–perish on the Titanic. Because of British laws of entailment from that time, his home, his fortune, and his title, will pass to a distant cousin upon his death, regardless of his three daughters.

While the family is preoccupied with the entailment and prospects of marriage for the Crawley sisters, the servants of the household seem to exist in a world entirely separate from its inhabitants. Although matters of inheritance never enter their thoughts, they are not so different from those they serve. Amongst themselves, they deal with lies and manipulation, romantic complications, etc.

With a brilliant cast that includes Hugh Bonneville (as Lord Crawley) and Dame Maggie Smith (as the Dowager Countess of Grantham), this is one of those series that cannot be missed. The story masterfully unfolds over the course of six hours and leaves you wanting so much more.

Downton Abbey airs in four 90-minute parts, Sundays on PBS at 9pm from January 9 to January 30.

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