The basic story is that the titular grand house belongs to Lord Grantham, who has the misfortune to have three daughters instead of a son who can inherit Downton Abbey (see Pride and Prejudice for a further discussion on entitled estates). The heir, a cousin one of the daughters is set to marry, dies on the Titanic. The next heir is discovered to be a young lawyer named Matthew, who seems rather embarrassed that he's meant to be the next Lord Grantham. As the family learns to deal with Matthew, there's also all sorts of shenanigans with the servants, some directly dealing with the family and some not.
In case you didn't know, Downton Abbey is the brainchild of Julian Fellowes, the writer of the brilliant Gosford Park. Downton Abbey stars a bevy of British actors with posh accents and stiff upper lips, including the indomitable Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess (fun fact: Dowager is the term given to a widow after her titled husband dies).
But don't let the fancy-schmancy pedigree scare you off. This is soap opera at its best. It's great storytelling about characters you care about put in impossible situations. There might not be a cat fight in a fountain, but having the Dowager Countess give another character verbal beat-down can be just as over-the-top.
Sh!t the Dowager Countess Says
Yes, the parodies have started! I can't wait to see what the interwebs come up with next. For now, there's this:
Downton Abbey, the Musical
Saturday Night Live did an excellent spoof, but those killjoys at Universal have pulled it. I did find it still available at Gawker, if you want to take a look.
And now there are even Downton Abbey paper dolls. Yes, they are awesome.
|Lady Sybil paper doll|