|The Cast of Downton Abbey, Series Six|
Yes, I admit it. I am a Downton Abbey addict.
This post merely lays out who's who as the series begins and will not contain spoilers beyond the basics revealed in Episode One of Series (Season) One.
Elizabeth and I watched the first season, which we checked out from the library, in the week before the second season started on PBS. And we've both been glued to the joys and tragedies and loves of the Crawley family and their servants ever since.
It's been quite the rollercoaster of a ride, after all. We start with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 in the first episode and the death of the Earl of Grantham's heir--yes, the heir to the Earl's title and to Downton Abbey, a ginormous estate in Yorkshire. The present Earl, who married a wealthy American socialite to keep Downton in the black, is father to three young women, but only a male heir may succeed to the title and the lands. Mary, the eldest, is quite put-out that she cannot inherit, and thus she is unofficially engaged to the male cousin who is Lord Grantham's heir so that she can assume the title and the lands through marriage. However, tragedy (the first of many!) strikes when the heir apparently perishes at sea during the Titanic's maiden voyage.
It doesn't help that the second daughter, Edith, is truly in love with the heir apparent, and she resents Mary for needing to marry the man she loves in order to gain her birthright. Mary really could not care less about her sister, and they are always at each other's throats. (It doesn't help that Mary is beautiful--and she knows it--while Edith is the rather plain middle child.) The youngest daughter, Sybil, is "a darling" who has a bit of a rebellious streak when it comes to politics. She sees all people as equal...and as fundamentally good, and everyone adores the gentle and kind-hearted Sybil.
And all of the events at Downton are surveyed by the Dowager Countess of Grantham, portrayed by the incomparable Dame Maggie Smith, who zings one-liners as if she were constantly in a duel...and often is. Fortunately, she usually wins the decision with a single deadly thrust, delivered with great aplomb and often with wisdom, despite her snark. We can see immediately that Mary is definitely her grandmother's protege.
And now a new heir must be traced through the family tree...and we meet Matthew Crawley, a rather middle-class lawyer, who lives with his widowed mother, Isobel. Matthew's father had been a doctor, and Isobel a nurse, so the family is of the professional class, not of the nobility.
Of course, if Mary wants to assume her "rightful" title of the Countess of Grantham, she will have to marry this rather abrupt stranger. He quite likes her at first sight, but she takes an instant dislike to him. Needless to say, sparks fly.
Meanwhile, downstairs we have the butler, Mr. Carson, the housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, and the cook, Mrs. Patmore, all of whom keep the great house running smoothly. There are several footmen, namely Thomas and William, along with several housemaids, including Anna and Gwen, plus the scullery maid, Daisy, who is ruthlessly ordered about by Mrs. Patmore. Miss O'Brien serves as lady's maid to the Countess. As the first episode opens, a new valet for the Earl arrives, a man with a cane named Mr. Bates who served with His Lordship in the military. Doubts regarding the new valet's ability to do his work properly start circulating immediately. Oh, and a chauffeur is also hired for the first time at Downton, a handsome young Irishman with decidedly socialist political leanings.
And now as tonight's episode takes us to the halfway point of the sixth and final series/season, I applauded with tears in my eyes as the cast of Downton Abbey won a Screen Actor's Guild Award for Best Ensemble Cast in a Television Drama. I really don't want to see this amazing show end, but end it must. Julian Fellowes, the creator and writer of the series, is simply brilliant, and the $1 million cost of producing each episode (usually 8-9 per series/season) is worth it.
Truly, Downton Abbey is one of the best television shows ever produced; it's high-class all the way from the filming at Highclere Castle, to the fine ensemble of actors portraying interesting and intriguing characters, to the incredible twists and turns of the storyline, to the incredible detail invested into costumes and historical accuracy--all of these elements come together to create a drama of the highest integrity, quality, and brilliance.
And our television will once again be tuned to PBS at nine o'clock tonight to watch yet another episode in the lives and loves of the Crawley family and their servants.
And if you haven't yet experienced the magic that is Downton Abbey (which means that you must be living beneath a rock!!), my advice is to pop yourself some popcorn and get settled in front of the fire as you insert the first series/season DVD into your player. And then sigh with contentment as the lovely theme music begins....
Oh, and you should see my Pinterest Board of Downton Drama...with nearly 500 images. (But beware because those images reveal most, if not all, of the show's spoilers, so I advise that all perusing of this board be done by only devoted Downton fans who have watched the entire series until now and also have a pretty good idea how Series Six will end....)
Watching with you,