Downton Abbey is a British television series coproduced by Carnival Films in the UK and WGBH Boston in the U.S. It is set on the fictional estate of Downton Abbey in the North Riding of Yorkshire, England, and follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants during the reign of King George V.
Guinness World Records awarded Downton Abbey the "Highest critical review ratings for a TV show", snatching the honor from previous record holders Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, and Modern Family.
Fellowes, meawhile, took umbrage when someone once again brought up the subject of period mistakes people have claimed were made on “Downton” — particularly mistakes of language...But, he insisted this “constant surprising of the audience,” language-wise, was deliberate and is intended to make us all realize “that these people are much more like us, are much more normal, and there isn’t a sort of place called Period, where these strange people live in funny clothes.”
PBS’s “Downton Abbey" is so very popular because while “it looks like a classical period TV drama from the ‘70s, and everyone’s in bustles and ringing for lunch,” it’s written more along the lines of “The West Wing” and “ER” creator Julian Fellowes told TV critics attending the tour. By that he explained he meant, “with lots of plots going on – big plots, little plots, funny plots, sad plots — so it’s all sort of plotted together. Seems to be right for the energy of now. Seems to meet what the audience wants.”
"Downton" has often been compared to the 1970s BBC drama "Upstairs, Downstairs," which, like "Downton," equally divided its attention between the members of a wealthy family and their downstairs servants. But the similarities are largely confined to format and its similar early 20th century setting. "Downton" is bigger, brasher and bolder than its polite predecessor, quickly cutting among multiple stories in a manner designed to appeal to modern viewers' shorter attention spans.
Washington Post television critic Lisa de Moraes believes Downton Abbey has come along at exactly the right time for Americans craving stability and order during "tough economic times and cultural upheaval"... The series depicts an era that has only just slipped from living memory, and the events which form its backdrop, such as the sinking of the Titanic and World War I, make it feel less remote than other "crunchy gravel shows", as De Moraes has dubbed British period dramas.
Downton Abbey is packed with "fairly gorgeous-looking people in their twenties, both upstairs and downstairs," says Eaton. "It is a world and a group of people that you look at and you want to be part of." But for many young fans of the show, the real star is 77-year-old Maggie Smith, who plays the imperious Countess of Grantham, queen of the withering putdown and raised eyebrow.
At the forefront of everything at Downton is family, whether this stands for the blood ties of the Crawleys or the relationships between the servants below stairs. All of us can recognize a familiar character amongst them.
Still beaming Saturday with an Emmy glow — the show took up residence in the drama category, receiving 16 nominations — a few of the actors from the popular British series took the stage and reflected on the show's somewhat surprising new fame... "We're gobsmacked," said Hugh Bonneville, who plays Lord Grantham. "To have the show embraced so wholeheartedly from America is a great thrill for all of us."
"Downton" had become a pop culture phenomenon transcending its public television niche. "You know something's going on when you become an adjective," says Elizabeth McGovern, who plays the American-born Countess Cora. "I remember the first time reading something described as 'very "Downton Abbey." ' When it becomes a point of reference outside the show itself, that's when you know there's some magic working."
Longstanding friend of the Carnarvon family, Julian Fellowes had Highclere Castle in mind as he wrote Downton Abbey. He often commented he wanted a house which spectacularly testified to the confidence and soaring optimism of the Edwardian period.