End of an era
Why Downton Abbey will be gone, but not forgotten
IT MADE STUFFY COSTUME DRAMA COOL AGAIN
Downton Abbey took a format often only seen on networks such as the BBC in the UK, and the ABC in Australia, and made it accessible to everyone. “I think one of the things
Downton has done is explode the myth that period drama has to be highbrow or in the literary genre,” executive producer Liz Trubridge says.
Even though the storylines are set in a bygone age, viewers can relate to what the characters are going through – and having gorgeous sets and costumes makes it all the more fun.
Says executive producer Gareth Neame: “I don’t think it’s overstating it to say Downton has taken a much-loved British genre – the period countryhouse drama – and given it a complete overhaul for the 21st century, borrowing from the compelling story lines of soap opera and the quality writing and production values of contemporary US television shows.”
Shows such as Mr Selfridge and Ripper Street – both successful series that have premiered in the past few years – owe much to their predecessor.
IT SHOWED THE YANKS HOW IT’S DONE
Downton is a British format that found an audience in the US – not the other way around. In the process, it was a gamechanger for US networks and producers, who realised there was an audience for this type of drama.
Creator Julian Fellowes admits the show’s success took him by surprise.
“That was a rather extraordinary moment: to realise you’d written a show that was reaching parts [of popular culture] other shows don’t reach,” he says.
The series finale was watched by 9.9 million viewers in the US and was nominated for an Emmy every year it aired.
IT’S EPIC IN SCALE
Downton is on a grand scale, from the setting – beautiful Highclere Castle, where it is filmed – to the costumes, set dressing and even the storylines.
Downton’s six series span one of the most tumultuous decades in modern history. Everything from the introduction of electricity and the automobile, to World War I and the Spanish flu is covered – and that’s just for starters.
Producers never shied away from tackling political and social issues, talking about everything from the rise of fascism in the 1920s, to the establishment of the women’s suffragette movement.
DAME MAGGIE SMITH
Let’s face it, the Dowager
Countess’ pithy asides and biting insults are the sole reason many of us tune in.
There are far too many to list here – but a quick Google search will yield her best humdingers.
THE WAY IT TALKS ABOUT CLASS AND STATUS
It should be really easy to hate the Crowley family – after all, they’re obscenely rich, privileged and have a legion of servants attending their every whim – but the way Fellowes has written them means we’re barracking for all the “upstairs” characters from the start, flaws and all.
Similarly, the servants were equally complex and three-dimensional, and we’re just as invested in seeing them get their happy endings as well.