COLUMN: 'Downton Abbey' delights viewers on both sides of the pond
Period costumes, British accents and the ever-witty Maggie Smith have helped to make “Downton Abbey” one of the most popular television dramas in the U.S., as well as across the pond. The show that just won a Screen Actor’s Guild award for best drama ensemble is not only liked by lovers of history, but has amassed a huge following among America’s youth.
Many people did not catch onto the craze until after it began to air in the U.S., but thankfully there are large gaps of time between the short seasons, so people have time to catch up on the series. Part of the popularity of “Downton Abbey” stems from the show’s originality and difference from American television. “Downton Abbey” is full of drama, for sure, but it does not feel the need to include raunchy or trashy content to bring in viewers.
“The show brings with it many aspects that other current television shows seem to lack,” said Brett Borchardt, University College freshman.
“Downton Abbey” offers a different perspective for Americans, said Jason Troy, biology junior.
“The thing that brings both generations together in this show is the fact that the issues that ‘Downton Abbey’ brings to the forefront of our minds are universal,” Troy said.
Perhaps another reason for the show’s popularity is royal couple William and Kate’s celebrity-status.
“As the tabloids were fascinated by Will and Kate, the public was beginning to love Downton Abbey,” said Claire Malaby, University College freshman. “They both kept each other’s popularity rolling.”
“Downton Abbey” is written and created by Julian Fellowes, who has written and acted in many period pieces, including “The Young Victoria” and “Vanity Fair.” His sharp and witty writing certainly adds to the show’s popularity.
“The little witty comebacks they say to each other make the show,” Borchardt said. “It makes it human and hilarious.”
And who doesn’t like it when people with British accents deliver those witty lines? Many Americans are fascinated with the British way of life, especially since they grew up with the “Harry Potter” franchise. Dame Maggie Smith, who played the beloved Professor McGonagall in the “Harry Potter” movie series, amazes viewers week after week with her spitfire wit and love of all things British.
“The contrast between the British characters and American characters provides an interesting view to how differently the two cultures interact with each other,” Malaby said.
There is also a huge contrast between the early-1900s way of life and American culture today. They did not have the distractions of advanced technology during that era — they just had each other. It’s interesting that the viewership extends to those who watch shows like “The Bachelor” and those who want nothing to do with reality TV. That exemplifies how good “Downton Abbey” really is.
“I think at one point or another, we all want to be a king or queen and live in fine house supported by loyal butlers,” Borchardt said. “We, as viewers, can connect to at least one of the characters and I think, just momentarily, we can put ourselves in their shoes.”
Courtney Stephens is a public relations sophomore.