One of the Christmas gifts I received is the set of Downton Abbey DVDs. I am really delighted because I’ve found it to be an extraordinary series for a number of reasons. The storyline itself is interesting (more on that in a moment), the writing is true craftsmanship, there is real development of sixteen characters, the casting and acting are in perfect harmony with the story and the setting. It is a rare achievement which (forgive my snobbery) would probably be impossible in America with our withered creativity and attention spans.
It’s the story itself which makes Downton Abbey more than mere entertainment. Like Fiddler on the Roof, it is the story of cultural change. In this case, as the story unfolds from the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, through the tumultuous years of World War I, and not many years after, we see English culture, with its patterns of nobility and peasantry and rising middle class, make an unbelievably rapid transition from the old ways to an entirely new culture. One would have to read a great number of books to be able to envision that change and its shocking pace as well as this series shows it.