Splendid Thing: Downton Abbey


It was all Steve Carrell's fault, really. The Office was a repeat on Thursday, and so we were trying to find something else to watch. "I have two ideas," I told Sean. "There's this reality show called The Only Way Is Essex, which is basically like Jersey Shore set in England. Or I've been hearing good things about Downton Abbey, which is a British period drama set right before the First World War."

Could I have chosen two more wildly varying shows? As it turned out, The Only Way Is Essex was taking forever to download on Hulu, so we went with Downton Abbey, which was available immediately on Netflix Streaming. And this is where it became a real "two roads diverged in a yellow wood" type situation, because choosing Downton Abbey did indeed make all the difference: it meant we watched our first episode on Thursday night and then did not come up for air the entire weekend, gorging ourselves on three more episodes on Friday, then another three on Saturday.

"It's happened," I told Sean during a brief interlude when we weren't transfixed to the screen, probably a quick bathroom break or something, for those were the only breaks we took. "We are at home, on a Friday night, watching PBS."

"And," said Sean. "WE ARE LIKING IT." 

To be honest, I did not think Downton Abbey would really be my jam. I am not, historically, the biggest fan of period dramas—ha! See what I did there? Historically? I didn't even mean to do that!—and I was never the kind of gal who got all excited about Mr. Darcy or whatever. But Downton Abbey is different. It is wonderful. I could not get enough of it, and I cried out in anguish—I am not even kidding, I LITERALLY CRIED OUT IN ANGUISH, ON MORE THAN ONE OCCASION—at the closing credits of each hour-long episode. There are only seven in the first series (which is the only one available in the U.S. right now) and we gobbled them up like the crazy Masterpiece-Theater-loving crazypeople that we are. And now we have to wait until January 8th, 2012 to get another fix.

(Unless..........unless we bought plane tickets to England, where season two is currently showing on ITV. But no, that would be crazy, right? Totally crazy. That would be totally insane. No, you have the British Airways website open on your computer! No, you!)

So what do I like about it? Man, just everything. It has everything. There is romance, for instance. There is scandal and drama and intrigue. There are impeccable, cut-glass accents, gorgeous wide-angle shots of the rolling English countryside, and several different people to whom the term "eye candy" could be applied. There are costumes to drool over, hilariously scornful asides about why electricity would ever be necessary in a kitchen—as a Person In The Future, you get to feel very smug snickering over this, just like you do in Mad Men when someone who is nine months pregnant lights up a cigarette and no-one so much as flinches—and, most of all, a plot that grabs you by the throat from the very first episode and doesn't let up until the last line of the seventh.

Have you seen Downton Abbey? What do you think? If you haven't, I implore you to rent it immediately. Hurry up! We need to discuss.

(PS: The Wikipedia page, which I have recently discovered, boasts the seven most beautiful words in the English language: "There will also be a Christmas special.")


Oct 23, 2011

If you promise to re-watch it on netflix etc....it's probably not bad karma to stream it on certain unofficial places. At least that's what I tell myself because I can't wait.

And I noticed that Jersey Shore UK-edition (aka TOWIE) was your first choice over Downton Abbey....I'm not sure if I'm judging you or not for that.

Oct 24, 2011

Oh, Holly, I just have one link for you: http://bit.ly/pvDgzq.

Kiss a whole 6 hours of your life goodbye, as I did one night at 10pm. That would have been last night, as I am writing this comment at 3:40am the next morning. The same morning that I have to go to work.

Oct 24, 2011

Ahhh... the glory of season 1. Don't worry, Holly, you're not missing anything with season 2. It is seriously bad. Every other line is either "War changes everything," or "I feel the world is changing". And the plot line is becoming a bit Sunset Beach - not in a good way, like with Mr Pamuk (Mr Pamuk!), just in a bad way. xx

Oct 24, 2011

I have to respectfully disagree with Tilly! Season 2 is AMAZING!

Oct 24, 2011

I must be the only Brit in the UK who is NOT watching TOWIE or Downton Abbey.

I can't stand that those talentless , vapid, shallow celebrity wannabes get any public air time at all. It's rubbish. I hate most reality shows.

Also, after watching yet another particularly badly written ITV drama (Bouquet of Barbed Wire - Trevor Eve) awhile ago, I made a rather silly promise to not watch any more drama on ITV! I know, silly wide sweeping generalisation, but I was on a rant at the time!

I am coming round to the idea that I might need to rent Downton Abbey of Love Film.

Oct 24, 2011

GUILTY!!! I watched Downton Abbey AND TOWIE last night..and last w/e I watched 4 episodes of Downton Abbey straight on SKYplus after having been away and missed some. I hunkered down with a duvet and some comfort food: bliss!! So glad you have discovered Downton and are enjoying it! TOWIE is pure compulsive viewing hilarity, can't work out how it is possibly to trowel that much make up and keep their eyes open with all those fake lashes! and the VENEERS, oh the veneers...

(PS you must have also heard of Made in Chelsea (www.e4.com/chelsea/)? the toffs version of TOWIE - very staged but also compulsive trash tv viewing).

Oct 24, 2011

Oh I LOVE Downton, it's perfect post roast dinner Sunday sloth viewing. I missed series one so spent the first few episodes a tad confused by the relationships and almost switched off in frustration.
TOWIE, Downton, Made In Chelsea: hurrah for cold old England making me stay inside and indulge in guilty TV pleasure.

Oct 24, 2011

You can watch itv in the US. All you need is a VPN connection that re-routes your IP address to the UK and you can watch ITV player, iPlayer and 4OD. I think they are going to crack down on it soon but for the moment it works fine. There are lots of ip services, I use ace VPN but there are others. It costs about 15 dollars a month to subscribe but it is a lot cheaper than a trip to the uk!

Oct 24, 2011

Being British I have instant access to both TOWIE and Downton Abbey and I watch BOTH of them. Although to be fair I would definitely be quicker to admit to the Downton part... and it is utterly fabulous!

Oct 24, 2011

The first few episodes of Series 2 were not as good as Series 1 but last weeks episode had me sobbing aloud!

Anna K
Oct 24, 2011

I tell all my international friends that life in England is like Downton. We all speak like that, dress like that, and steal smouldering glances across the heavily laden table with the one we lust after. If only!

Oct 24, 2011

HUGE fan of Downton Abbey and can't wait for the next season.
You might appreciate this from this years comic relief UK after watching all those episodes - so funny!

Oct 24, 2011

I was in London last month for a quick trip and happened to stumble upon The Only Way is Essex. OMG. I LOVE that show!! I hate the Jersey Shore but somehow the English accents just make it wonderful! I've heard good things about Downtown Abbey but I have too much on my 'to watch' list!

Oct 24, 2011

I am so glad you made the choice for Downton Abbey. I love the pants off that show. I had a similar Netflix experience. Started off with, hmm, I'll give this a try. Looks interesting. Turned into me banishing my boyfriend from the apartment because he couldn't stop mocking the accents and I refused to let him distract me from my personal marathon Downton session. I cannot wait for season 2 to be available on Netflix. I'm thrilled you're spreading the word!

Oct 24, 2011

You ABSOLUTELY made the right choice. Downton Abbey is incredible. Though this is coming from the girl who has woken up with Yazz's "The Only Way Is Up" in her head every day this weekend thanks to her own viewing choices...

All Is Optional
Oct 24, 2011

I just finished the first season last night. I came upon it on my roommate's recommendation since I'd finished Mad Men and knew not what to do with myself until March.

Well, now I have to wait until January for Downtown Abbey. But what to do until then?

Oct 24, 2011

I absolutely love this show! I've been streaming the second season off the interwebs (sneakily) and have to say that it's even better than the first! You are going to love it!

Jaime Thomas
Oct 24, 2011

Love, love, LOVE this show. LOVE IT. And I can't wait for the second season. Did I mention that I love it? Because I LOVE IT.

Anna Louisa
Oct 24, 2011

My whole family has been telling me that I need to watch this for months...but apparently it takes an endorsement from Holly to actually make it happen! I'm watching the first episode tonight :)


Oct 24, 2011

Oh yes! I watched the first season two episodes at a time. Love it.

Jan Ross
Oct 24, 2011

My mom was raving about the show and now that you like it too, I'll have to make room in my viewing schedule. I adore Netflix instant view and spend lots of time watching whatever I want on my iPad, often while reclining on the couch and eating bon-bons. OK, not the bon-bons, but the rest.

Oct 24, 2011

At least you just watched season 1. We saw it in January and loved it. Can't wait to see season 2.

Chris C.
Oct 24, 2011

We are OBSESSED with Downton Abbey! And I think Season 2 is even better than Season 1. And don't tell anyone I told you, but you can totally watch it in the US right now. :-) We're watching it via Project Free TV. Normally, I don't use the slightly sketchy streaming video sites like this, but with Downton, it really doesn't seem that sketchy. I mean, it's a PBS program, which means that it's free and without ads anyway, so it's not like they're losing any money by me watching it now instead of waiting till January.

(Also, does it drive anyone else crazy that every time they talk about the show on NPR, they call it down-TOWN Abbey instead of Daunton?)

Oct 24, 2011

I am so glad you wrote this!! I've been debating watching it for a few months with strong encouragement from my sister and mother. However both of them are major period-piece lovers, my sister named her do Lizzy after Miss Bennet, but they are typically not something I get very excited about. You have bumped it up my queue.

Oct 24, 2011

I, too, was late to the Downton Abbey party, but I did the same thing and watched the entire first season in 48 hours. Maggie Smith is the highlight, as far as I'm concerned.


Oct 24, 2011

How do you watch shows from ITV over here? I just got back from filming this show Sorority Girls and I don't know how to watch it over here :( I also got hooked on Made in Chelsea and TOWIE and want to finish the seasons but can't figure out how!

Oct 24, 2011

Big mistake. TOWIE is the best! It's so amazingly bad! Where else will you learn about glamping and reem?? I'm so gutted that the third season has started and yet I can't watch it anywhere. I watched the first two seasons on YouTube (someone was posting the episodes a day or two after they aired) but the third season isn't available yet anywhere. Not even Hulu, which I just rushed to in a haze of hope after reading the first paragraph of your post. As for routing VPNs or whatever, I'm afraid I'm not that technologically advanced.

Oct 24, 2011

Amen and amen. I stumbled onto it via the PBS app for iPad, and ohmygoodness. Can't wait for series 2.

Oct 24, 2011

Downton is just fabulous! My London-based friend says the second series is wonderful. I can't wait for it to be available in the US. Did you cry at the end of the episode with the flower show? I sure did.

Nothing But Bonfires
Oct 24, 2011

Hannah, I just watched it on Netflix -- they have lots of British shows on streaming, and regular old discs for some of the others. There's also Hulu, and if you read some of the comments, people are talking about ways to watch other stuff online. (There's also BBC America if you want to branch out to BBC stuff, instead of ITV!)

Carlin, I'm pretty sure I cried at the end of EVERY EPISODE. But yes, definitely the flower show one.

Oct 24, 2011

Series 2 is bad. Season 1 was that sort of so bad its good but season 2 is just bad - bad. It has jumped that shark. And this upsets me greatly. It's as if the writer has forgotten the point of the story as well as Mary's character and personality. Bring bang season one Lady Mary.

Oct 24, 2011

I also fell into the Dowton Abbey Netflix trap this weekend, and what a glorious trap it is! I loved it and can't wait for season two. After I finished the last episode last night, I spent a good two hours online trying to learn all there was to learn about the cast & behind the scenes info. Anything for one last drop of Dowton!

Oct 24, 2011

We watched Downton Abbey a couple months ago after I read about it in a couple blogs and we were looking for a show to stream on Netflix. Looooove! We were also super bummed about having to wait until January for season 2. Although I'm not sure how I feel about it jumping forward so far. I always get frustrated having to piece together what's happened with everyone in the interim.

Oct 24, 2011

I loved it until the almost the end and I felt like none of the characters were likable except Elizabeth McGovern who was almost one dimensional and the rest were jerks. I'm a HUGE PBS BBC period drama junkie, so my let down was a huge shock to me.

Oct 24, 2011

it is fantastic! i just said that in my head with a true british accent.

it's the historical english version of perfection as is friday night lights.

Oct 24, 2011

Oh yes, I think I am going to watch this soon! I need a good series to occupy my nights now that it's dark at 7 PM!

Oct 24, 2011

I LOVE Downton Abbey! Love it! So much so, in fact, that I watched all seven episodes via Netflix instant in about a day and a half. The "what's a weekend" by Dame Maggie Smith just about killed me. I thought I couldn't love her any more after Harry Potter but yes, yes I can.

Oct 24, 2011

The moment I knew I married the right man was when we were sitting at home on a Friday night (high five), watching Downton Abbey and my husband yelled "OH SNAP!" at the TV in response to something Maggie Smith had said, and then turned to me in all serious and said "Oh no she DI'INT"

Thug life, indeed. That show rocks.

Rachel Lynne
Oct 24, 2011

okay, i moved from texas to england just so i could watch downton abbey on itv. i aspire to speak in maggie smith one liners.

Cathy W.
Oct 24, 2011

watched it streaming (in two sittings). LOVED it. am counting the days until January 8!

Oct 24, 2011

Yes!! I, too, consumed it in a weekend after having it recommended by multiple people around the same time.

Your enthusiasm is making me want to watch it again, just to carry me through until January...

Oct 24, 2011

Oh I LOVED it! I can't wait until the second season! My husband and I had a similarly exciting Friday evening :) I always end up loving shows that I cannot continue to watch. There was another brilliant British show that was a lot like Lipstick Jungle here in the states and it was cancelled after a season or two and left me hanging on for dear life.

Oct 24, 2011

I love it.
I somehow didn't realize it was such a small first season before I started watching, and so I naively didn't know I was watching the season finale as I was blissfully unawarely watching the season finale. I thought, "wow! so exciting! almost like a cliffhanger, but I still have 6 more episodes to go! what luck!"
You don't know pain until you think you have more Downton Abbey left, and then it turns out that actually you don't have any more Downton Abbey left at all.

Oct 24, 2011

i am also not much of a period drama darcy-lover, but i totally got into downton abbey this summer and, like you, watched the whole thing in a weekend. a good friend of mine just moved to london and the fact that it's on there is just one more thing added to the pile of Things I am Jealous About.

Oct 24, 2011

My mum and I LOVE Downton Abbey! (I am a huge Anglophile; I watched Mr. Bean while growing up abroad; furthermore, I've recently finished The Vicar of Dibley and just started on Doc Martin!!!) Anyways, we caught up with Season 2 by watching 3 episodes a day; we were literally glued to our computer screen, and like you and Sean only left for bathroom breaks and such!! Afterwards we both were experiencing some withdrawal lol, until we realized that there were still 2 episodes left in the current season. We are looking forward to Season 2's finale this Sunday! Although, the sad part is that we will have to wait till next September for Season 3 =( A long wait indeed!

By the way, Season 2 episodes are available on the following website:

Oct 24, 2011

Love it! Love it! Can't wait to check out the links to the second series!

Oct 25, 2011

erm, download it online? the 1st season was fantastic. season 2 is finding its legs. finally.

E's Mommy
Oct 25, 2011

I just finished watching it on Netflix a couple days ago and loved it. I googled around looking for info about the 2nd season and found some comments that the 1st season was edited way down when it showed on PBS. I am hoping that is all lies since I don't want to wait past January, but I don't want to watch hacked up episodes of season 2 either!

Oct 25, 2011

I love Downton Abbey and Season 2 is fabulous. I'd catch the plane if I were you.

Savvy in San Francisco
Oct 25, 2011

I can't believe that you just introduced me to another trashy reality show that I can't HELP but watch! I will have to check out Downtown Abbey too!

Oct 25, 2011

My boyfriend and I had the same reaction to downtown abbey that you had. I heard about it from my parents, and I am one of those who had many many Mr. Darcy moments but I never thought that my boyfriend would be converted! We watched so many in a row I don't think we moved for six hours. I am so excited for the next season to come out! Our family in England is watching it and we won't let them tell us what is happening but I do really like the idea of just hopping over there and checking for ourselves...

Oct 25, 2011

I can't wait for season 2, and if Anna and Mr. Bates can't find a way to be together I'll be gutted!

Oct 25, 2011

Yes! Several months ago I did the same kind of marathon session sacrificing sleep and giving my children whatever then wanted so that I could finish one more episode, wait- make that just one more, wait, ok, seriously, this is the last one for tonight oh it's actually tomorrow now...

Oct 25, 2011

Thanks, commenters, for the links where I can OD on Season 2.

Oct 25, 2011

Um, I may be your biggest groupie yet. Signed up for Birchbox last week and downloaded Downton Abbey last night. Its fantastic! Thanks.

Oct 25, 2011

75 days to season 2.. the waiting is killing me!!! Best.show ever.. and I'm totally eyeing TOWIE, specially after all the mentions on your reader's comments....

Oct 25, 2011

You might like Downton Abbey because it has the period setting but modern writing. It's nice to have the pretty dresses and beautiful homes, but with modern class consciousness. It's so much more interesting to have more than one side of the story!

Thanks to other commenters for the links to watch DA online!

Oct 25, 2011

Yeah, I call that effect the Robert Jordans-because when I was in undergrad I got sucked into the Neverending Wheel of Endless Time vortex and did not come up for air for something like 2 weeks. And when my flatmate finally saw me she asked in a very concerned way whether or not I'd lapsed into drugs. Not drugs, just terrible terrible fantasy lit.

Anyway! I have another recommendation for you. BBC's Sherlock. Have you seen it yet? It is so so so splendid. Benedict Cumberbatch is absolutely brilliant in it. Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffat write it.

Oct 27, 2011

Oh, the second series is fanastic! I cannot emphasise enough how well you chose in watching Downton over The Only Way is Essex. NEVER watch this, if you value your eyeballs.

Oct 27, 2011

I had to check out The Only Way is Essex. I'm now in desperate need of someone to assure me that these people are thought of in the UK as we think of Jersey Shore in the US. Please tell me that this show is not indicative of a larger cultural shift. Please.

Oct 31, 2011

Firstly, I LOVE Downton Abbey as well. But that's no surprise as I'm a sucker for period dramas AND Mr. Darcy and all that stuff.

Secondly, the *actual* British equivalent of the Jersey Shore is the Geordie Shore which, well, I think the only way to trulyappreciate it is to watch the trailer:


Oct 31, 2011

My fiance and I started watching Downton Abbey this weekend and we're hooked! I'm going crazy because he works night shift and I'm trying to be good and wait until Wednesday when he's home to watch it again. Thanks for the recommendation!

Nov 02, 2011

The hubs and I watched the entire first season over two school nights. LOVE IT! Thanks for the recommendation. Now I'm going to try and memorize all of Granny's lines for future use. She's hilarious!

Nov 06, 2011

You might enjoy Lark Rise to Candleford.



Talk to me about TV on the computer and I drop what I'm doing and watch for hours. Especially if it's good and obscure so that I've never heard of it.

Nov 10, 2011

Just finished season two. Thanks for introducing the best show ever! Can hardly wait til season 3!

Jan 24, 2012

Thanks so much for the recommendation! I started watching it streaming from Amazon and I'm hooked. Even made me workout longer so I could watch more this morning.

May 07, 2012

Where is that 2nd season and CHRISTmas special? We watched the 1st season on NETFLIX and had the same experience as you.

May 29, 2012

I remember reading this post a few months ago and since have heard people talk about Downton Abbey. I decided to jump on the bandwagon and had it playing in the background while doing other things around the house. Needless to say, I wasn't hooked. After some convincing from a co-worker, I gave it another shot last Thursday and by Saturday morning, I was overly emotional at the thought that season 2 was not available on Netflix. As I type, I'm waiting for season 2 to download from iTunes. Knowing that I can celebrate Christmas with the Crawley family after season 2 is just icing on the cupcake!

Angie Orth
Sep 22, 2012

I did the exact same thing. Thought, "Hey, I heard this is a good show, I'll give it a chance." Watched Season 1 in one day. Finished Season 2 by the next week. Now I'm illegally downloading (shhh) Season 3. Let me know if you want in on that ;)

May 19, 2016

Rosetta, scommetto che le cosine che hai preso da me si siano già ambientate nella tua bella casetta, in compagnia di tutte le tue altre chveehc...ehcheLoie Susy x

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