So love it or hate it, it’s back. Downton Abbey, the big hit of last year, returned with a vengeance to our screens last night. Pitched against the BBC’s final series of Spooks, it won the ratings war. What does this say for our viewing habits? We love costume dramas? We love the Upstairs/Downstairs concept? We are obsessed with class, still, in 2011?
The cast is impressive with Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Penelope Wilton, Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan to name a few. There are some good one-liners (mainly from Dame Maggie aka the Dowager Countess of Grantham). Lots of sexual tension. Posh frocks. The magnificent house itself (which almost rivals Castle Howard in Brideshead Revisited). And now, this time round, there is an added magic ingredient: the First World War and all the issues that will throw up – the end of the class system, female emancipation, a generation of lost boys…
Julian Fellowes, creator and writer, apparently says he doesn’t mind Downton Abbey being labelled a ‘posh soap’. And it is a soap opera as good as Coronation Street or Dallas – just with its own specific time and place – and lots of money thrown at its high production. All those good-looking young things but with more self-respect than those of Hollyoaks. Not as highbrow as BBC costume dramas (not that Larkrise to Candleford and Cranford are highbrow), but much more accessible, especially with its spattering of anachronistic dialogue. Brilliant.
And if my recommendation isn’t enough, just remember that Jennifer Saunders treated us to a Comic Relief parody – so if it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me.
So will I carry on watching next week? Oh, yes, indeedy.