Downton Abbey was a surprise hit for ITV and uncharacteristically well-produced. Securing a thesp like Julian Fellowes was quite a coup for the also-ran of terrestrial broadcasting. It’s great to see a recurring role for the lovely Joanne Froggatt too, quietly upholding the British end in quality one-off drama for as long as I can remember. She last appeared on the channel in the short-lived and ill-executed, though well-conceived and densely cast Identity. Her episode, in which she was on chilling form, also featured Keeley Hawes, Kelly Harrison and the much-missed [by me at any rate] Laura Aikman. It was like a Who’s Who of blonde British televisual talent. She’s only been on Casualty once though.
Michelle Dockery is finally becoming a household name, after a quiet few years. Her powerhouse performance in Waking the Dead brought her to the attention of talent spotters but she failed to capitalise on it.
Really strong, and hopefully coming more to the forefront this year is Jessica Brown-Findlay as the youngest Crawley sister, the socio-political voice of the series. You might recognise her as the absinence girl from Misfits who makes Nathan come a cropper at the end of S1.
The older cast members don’t really need further praising (Though I was championing Hugh Bonneville for the next Doctor Who, before Matt Smith and his cheekbones were cast. My friend Katie wanted Sandi Toksvig for the part.), they are all well regarded already.
I can recall very little, especially on the small screen, which focuses specifically on this era of history. Recent enough to be recognisable: the language and fashions quite reasonable and familiar, yet the horribly unfair, seemingly unshakeable class system is firmly in place. There is no NHS, Europe as we know it is yet to be shaped. This soapy and very Society above/below stairs drama has begun to touch upon politics, but rather superficially. They rather rely upon us to know our history, but honestly, it isn’t much taught in school. We do the Wars [boy, do we do the Wars. And the Tudors.] but nothing on either side. Suffragettes abounded so I hear and flapper types were soon to make an appearance, and conservative values were still very much at the fore, but I’d really like to get deeper into the culture and (small ‘s’) society. A second series, airing imminently will present Downton in the midst of war, possibly even serving as a military hospital [or is that a WW2 thing?]. The ‘Who-will-Lady-Mary-marry-and-what-will-it-do-for-her-position’ rigmarole is a little wearying- the other characters’ interactions are far more engaging. Her jealousy and sniping however, delicious.
Some complain about anachronism, especially in speech, but as long as it isn’t clunking I feel those little modernisms can add to the immediacy of the drama. It’s still more Vile Bodies than Servants. Anyone remember Servants? The BBC’s raunchy, foul-mouthed below stairs drama starring pretty, young Joe Absolom (off Personal Affairs with Laura Aikman! It’s 6 Degrees…] and Felicity Jones. I think they were trying to cash in on the Gosford Park vogue, but it’s only just really caught on. I don’t think a rich tapestry like Downton Abbey would bear that coarse contemporism of speech; the inconsistencies in behaviour however (the master waltzing into the servants’ hall. Not done, apparently) are less excusable. Surely they have researchers, fact checkers and the like?
Anyway, I’ll keep my eyes open for more Drama Connections and Degrees of Separation and update the post as and when I spot them. I actually wrote this one last November when my laptop was being trashed by the fucktards at PC World, so it’s high time it got posted really. SX