Downton Abbey vs. the Soaps
Soap operas should have left the screen years ago. Not because the times were changing but because they were really getting very stupid, there was no sense of fashion and it had to end at some point. I do confess to having watched them to the end but only because of Erica, Dorian and Alan Spaulding. These characters made those shows because of their level of sophistication, sense of fashion, wisdom, cunning, and manners. Even the bad ones do it with a sense of class. Had those three characters been taken off either of the three shows, it would have ended years ago anyway. Who wants to watch a show about a bunch of entitled young brats?
We have had period pieces since the 70′s (?) thanks to Masterpiece Theater. However, these were usually two-hour episodes that we saw on two Sunday evenings. There were vast periods of time before we saw another and you usually did not know about it until you accidentally flipped the channel and realized it for yourself.
Downton Abbey is a little different from the norm. It is created by Julian Fellowes who was such a fun person to watch in Monarch of the Glen. You know you’d enjoy a cup of tea with him, if he felt you were decent enough to sit in his parlor. I like this type of snobbery. Especially when it is done with ease and witty remarks. DA is a well-developed novella and hopefully it will end before it gets ridiculous too. Which means we need about one more season and that is it. Especially since several of the main characters are being killed off anyway. We certainly don’t need soap opera antics where people come back from the dead or are cloned. This is what happens when stories go too far. American TV shows are often like soap operas. They never know when to shut up and close the door. So that is my tip for Julian. Quit while you’re ahead. Next season, last season.
DA came at the end of soap operas. It gave us what soaps originally had. Phoebe Wallingford is back in the face of Maggie Smith. Mary is the young Erica. Dorian is Shirley MacClaine. Alan Spaulding is the newspaper editor who Mary jilted. Edith is Brooke English. Sybil is Jenny (1980′s AMC). Since it is British style it is elegant and has more rules than you can ever imagine. Estates that are older than America and look like they were built yesterday. This is rich for writers who want some interesting story lines. As an Anglophile I never cease to be entertained by a classic from the UK. Whether it is comedy or suspense, drama or well that is my limit as I don’t do Sci-fi (sorry Dr. Who).
What is also nice about DA vs. soaps is that not everyone ends up rich. This isn’t reality anyway. There are classes in the period pieces, because that is the way things were then and now. If you were downstairs, you kept your place. If you were upstairs you knew your authority and responsibility toward society. As Maggie Smith’s character mentioned recently, the importance of the upper crust was to keep the lower classes employed so they could feed their families.
We have no rigid rules in today’s society as we did back then. Sometimes it makes sense and other times it is too loose. When I watch a period piece I am often thinking to myself – I wish it were like that now. One thing that I think is nice is the way a woman’s honor were carefully protected. Obviously mistakes were made because of financial desperation and bad families in general. However, women were treated like ladies, respected, looked up to in some respects and we have lost any sense of this in our feminist world. There is a way to find a common ground, to merge the past with the present – I am sure of it. For now though it seems we are doomed to be lost in our fantasy worlds. Continuing to fight for survival in the workplace or job market, dealing with competitive back stabbing jerks who are now much younger and ignorant of life (not to mention poor work ethics and attire). And finally, dealing with men who (generally speaking) in today’s society, lack style, grace, sophistication, a sense of responsibility and integrity. The only men who seem to be comfortable with these attributes are defined as gay or now metro sexual – that new buzz kill word. This seems very sad to me.
- Aristo-Soap or Not, *Downton Abbey* is Just Lovely (mutterschwester.wordpress.com)
- Downton Abbey: my Favorite Soap Opera (collingarbarino.com)
- “I Must Have Said It Wrong”: Decoding Downton Abbey’s Television DNA (entertainment.time.com)
- Welcome Back, Downton Abbey! We Analyze the Fashion in the First Episode (fashionista.com)
- Ostrow: PBS’ British hit “Downton Abbey” begins addicting season 3 on Jan. 6 (denverpost.com)