It's true, I have avoided the siren lure of Downton Abbey. It premiered right in the middle of the very dark days of R Man's death and, oddly, I was not up to the thrills of Edwardian Yorkshire society. Of course that couldn't last; how could a man who's read and re-read all of E.F. Benson resist the Dowager Countess?
Over the last couple of nights I have given myself over to a marathon of all 16 episodes, sort of an orgy of tea and turbans. I love it, just like everyone said, but I think that may have been part of my reluctance to dive in after missing it originally. Could it really be as archly amusing as reports had it? Turns out, it is.
Even before watching it, I had a clear image of the whole thing being a sort of mash-up between Upstairs, Downstairs and Gosford Park, especially since Maggie Smith is pretty much the same character in both the Park and the Abbey. And aren't we all glad of it? I know she can border on scenery chewing, but also, when she decides to crank up her guns, the old girl can be astonishingly devastating and effective. It was the upcoming cage match between her and Shirley MacLaine that finally convinced me to get on board the Abbey train.
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