End of an era

Why Down­ton Abbey will be gone, but not for­got­ten

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

1 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.

2 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.

3 IT’S EPIC IN SCALE

Ev­ery­thing about

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.

4 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.

5 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.

DOWN­TON ABBEY SEVEN, MON­DAY, 9PM

End in sight: Michelle Dock­ery and Matthew Goode are near­ing the end of Down­tonAbbey.

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