Downton Abbey: A Simple Joy
By Ramona Flightner/ @ramonaflightner
Please Note: If you haven’t watched the last episode of Downton Abbey, and you are going to, please don’t read any further. I have no wish to spoil your enjoyment of the show.
I woke up yesterday morning, eager to call my family about the last episode of Downton Abbey. Had one of the main characters, Matthew, really died? I was in a mild state of shock as I hadn’t read any Downton news on the internet and couldn’t imagine another beloved character dying. As I talked with my family, this and other questions were bantered about as we dissected the episode across the miles, sharing our favorite lines, and moaning the need to wait 11 months until we can see any more. My favorite response was my mum’s where she said in a hopeful voice that perhaps Matthew could be resuscitated.
When my PBS station here in Boston offered the opportunity to own Series 3 of Downton Abby in mid January, so that you could know what happened before all of your friends, I wasn’t even tempted. I love getting caught up in the serial nature of the show, wondering what will happen next week, and sharing it with my family, friends, and co-workers. If I were to watch it early, I would have no one to share it with and to wonder about the “what if’s.”
This is what I love about a good series, whether it be a TV show or a book. It’s the sharing of it with others that I love. I caught onto the Harry Potter craze late, and my upstairs neighbor fed my “addiction” as I gobbled up the books. I would come home from work to find the next book in the series on my doorstep, with a note from her saying, “Keep reading!” I would discuss the books with her, not knowing the ending as I railed against this or that character, and she would smile a sphinx- like smile and imply my opinion of Snape would change. I loved watching my dad and friends become engrossed in the Outlander world of Diana Gabaldon and discussing the characters, what we enjoyed, didn’t like, what we wished had happened, etc.
The ability to be drawn into a world, feel a connection with the characters, and feel a vested interest in their lives, occurs more readily in a series. I found this to be true partway through the third series of Downton when Sybil, one of my favorite characters, died. I called my aunt right after the episode ended, bawling. We shared our grief over this imaginary character we had come to care for.
There are members of my family who don’t watch Downton, and they are excluded from some of our jokes. When I laughed hysterically at a t-shirt my aunt gave me for Christmas, my brother didn’t understand. It had a picture of the Dowager on it that said, “I am a woman. I can be as contrary as I choose.”
My mom introduced me to “Masterpiece Theater” (that was what it was called until they rebranded it to “Masterpiece Classic” a few years ago) when I was a teenager and I was hooked on the slow burning romances and the subtle, superb acting where, more often than not, no words were needed. I knew that every Sunday night in the late winter and spring, there would be something interesting to watch. I am hopeful that the upcoming series “Selfridges” will be entertaining, but I am waiting for January 2014 when I can again enter the world of Downton Abbey.