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Last wekend I sat down, like millions of others in the country, to watch the final episode of the second series of Downton Abbey.
It was a fabulous 90 minute ‘season finale’ (as they say across the pond). It was full of everything we’ve come to expect from Downton: beautiful members of the aristocracy, gorgeous settings, tears-a-plenty, a quick wedding, an even quicker death and some blistering one-liners from the spectacular Maggie Smith. ‘Don’t be defeatist dear, it’s very middle-class’ had me roaring.
This second series has had 10 million completely hooked viewers tuning in for their fix every week, even though the plot lines have got a little sillier, the repressed emotions a little more aggravating and the will-they-won’t-they romance of Mathew and Lady Mary a little more frustrating.
And of course it’s not just a big hit here in the UK, Downton has completely won over the Americans too. The programme won four Emmys at this year’s awards and will be in the 2012 Guinness Book of Records as the first British programme to ever achieve the record for the most critically acclaimed television series of the year.
However, we are currently living in a period when the majority of the population is trying desperately to bridge the class gap and when people around the world are protesting against the vast difference between the haves and the have-nots. Yet still one of the most popular programmes on television is set in an era when the maintenance of class distinction was at the centre of everything and any thoughts of equality were dismissed as being nothing more than mere folly. Am I the only person to notice the irony in this?
Of course we’ve always loved a great drama series about the upper classes and their servants. Upstairs Downstairs, The Forsyte Saga and Brideshead Revisited have all enthralled and entertained different generations, and of course Downton Abbey has taken on that mantle. Maybe it’s just the escapism of the show which we love. Looking back with rose tinted glasses at a bygone era where men were men, women were women and servants knew their place (downstairs).
Last night, just as the Downton household was in mourning over the speedy and rather untimely death of poor Lavinia (I wonder if they had to give the wedding presents back?), the nation fell into mourning for the end of this second series. But fear not fellow Downtonians, there’s a Christmas day two-hour special promised. And frankly that’s a Christmas present that I’m not convinced will be surpassed by anything Santa might have in mind for me.
So what can we expect from the special and from Series 3? Will Lady Mary and Mathew actually get together or will the evil Sir Richard stand in their way? Will Lady Edith ever find love? Will Bates go down for murder? Will Anna’s lip tremble become even more pronounced? Will O’Brien tell the truth about the dreaded soap on the floor incident? All will be revealed and I for one can’t wait.
NOTE TO SELF: Forget politics about protest and class divide, and enjoy the gorgeous comforting escapism that a great Sunday drama is all about.