Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Top five reasons to get into 'Downton Abbey'

With the start of season two "Downton Abbey" mania is sweeping the country. While it may seem like its too late to get seriously invested in the exquisite British period drama, it's not. Season one is available on Netflix and season two is only two episodes in.

With that in mind, these are the top five reason why "Downton Abbey" should become required viewing.

1. Dowager Countess Violet Grantham - Dame Maggie Smith has played many notable roles and is perhaps best recognized as Hogwarts Professor McGonagall. However, as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham she steals every scene she's in, with her best lines often quoted the next day. These laugh out loud moments are one of the main reasons for the show's increasing popularity as fans tune in just to see what she will say and do next.

2. The ensemble cast - With a cast as large and distinguished as "Downton Abbey's" it would be easy for characters to become lost in the shuffle. However, the series somehow manages to give everyone an equal time to shine. The result is that the heartache of cook Mrs. Patmore is given just as much time as the adventures of Lady Edith. The ensemble storytelling keeps all the plots fresh and makes the series insanely addictive.

3. Mary and Matthew - Lady Mary and Crawley heir Matthew are perhaps the most star-crossed lovers since Romeo and Juliet. Their story began with dislike but quickly developed into love. However, Mary's one indiscretion kept her from committing to Matthew and now he has moved on with new fiancee Lavinia. The real kicker is that Lavinia is a perfectly sweet and supportive girl who is easy to like, making it the most polite love triangle ever.

The off the charts chemistry between Michelle Dockery and Dan Stevens jumps off the screen whether they are sharing an emotional goodbye or a whispered dinner conversation. When they are together they must be watched.

4. The servants - If "Downton Abbey" only followed the upstairs lords and ladies it would still be good, but the fact that all the downstairs drama is just as interesting makes it great. The doomed romance of Anna and Mr. Bates, the endless scheming of Thomas and O'Brien, the young rebel Branson's yearn for more and Mr. Carson's determination to rise above war and its repercussions are what make Downton Abbey feel real.

5. Historical context - The series began with the sinking of the Titanic, season one dropped hints about the coming war and season two unfolds against the backdrop of WWI. The Grantham's and their servants are often tasked with mastering new technology like telephones, driving and the ever changing fashions of the times. This attention to detail adds to the show's authenticity and credibility, while helping viewers feel a stronger connection to the stories the series tells.

"Downton Abbey" is currently airing on PBS as apart of "Masterpiece Classic." Check local listings.

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