Sunday, December 4, 2011

British Television FTW Part 2

       I hope you enjoyed Misfits.  Today, I bring you another British television show at the opposite end of the edgy-ness spectrum.   Downton Abbey is a mini-series about a Lord Crawley, a British earl, and his family and multitude of servants in the years leading up to World War 1.  99% of the show takes place in or on the grounds of Downton Abbey, the gilded estate of the Earl of Grantham.   
        One thing that I really enjoyed about this show is the setting.  The 1910's are rarely portrayed in television, movies, and books.  There are countless WW2 stories out there, but very few about WW1.  The early twentieth century was an exciting and dynamic time.  Because the show is set in an estate in the English countryside it seems at first to be very isolated and removed from wider world.  One of the most interesting themes is how the outside world makes its way into Downton Abbey.  For example, one daughter gets involved in women's suffrage movement and is further politicized by the handsome, socialist chauffeur.  
       Sometimes it is easy to forget that England has long entrenched class system with titles and heirs and estates.  In the U.S., the divide between the ruling class and everybody else is huge, as the Occupy Wall Street Movement will attest.  But in England there is a tradition of a landed aristocracy.  Social stratification was seen as static.  In this context, the show explores the relationship between the servants and the Crawleys.  It also spends time exploring the dynamics between the servants.  
        The first season of Downton Abbey is currently on Netflix Instant.  The second season can be found on streaming sites like  Downton Abbey spins a complex web in a time and place that seems entirely foreign, and yet eerily familiar.  Class inequality and war remain all too contemporary themes.  

4 out of 5 ipods

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