Ian and I have different approaches to media. When I find a series of anything I like – books, television, webcomics, whatever – I develop an insatiable appetite for them. When I first started watching the TV show “Weeds,” I made it through four seasons in about three weeks (then the show started to suck and I stopped watching). I didn’t sleep from the time I got the 7th Harry Potter book to the time I finished it. I read The Hunger Games in under a week (and it only took as long as it did because I exercised all my available willpower).
The Hunger Games was the first real obsession I’ve had in a while (although “My Drunk Kitchen” was an embarrassing, if hilarious, interlude). And I actually felt bereft when it was over, the way you do when you’ve finished an all-consuming project.
And THAT is where Downton Abbey comes in. It’s a BBC show – with the third season in the works – and (as usual) I’m a little late to the game. It aired in the UK ages ago but aired in the US in December, so when I was home for the holidays people kept talking about it. The fourth episode of the second season airs this week in the US; I’m mostly through the first season.
Apparently the series was drastically edited for US consumption: the plot hinges on the question of whether Mary Crawley will be able to inherit the titular house, which is entailed to her (gasp!) middle-class cousin Matthew Crawley (an entail means that property always passes to the closest male heir, even, as in this case, a third cousin, rather than to a daughter or wife). To add insult to injury, Mary’s mother Cora is an American heiress whose family money has been tied to the estate. And though they don’t know it, World War I looms.
Apparently PBS execs felt that the concept of an entail (which I just described in two sentences) was too complicated for an American audience. Its unclear to me what is left when you cut out the entail plotline, but the series is very popular in America so I must not be giving them enough credit, and there is plenty of drama among the servants and between the family members without the pressure of the entail… If you, like me, are behind the curve, I would recommend watching the British version. Its so good. I cannot get enough of this show.
*** Please note: apparently the Daily Mail grossly exaggerated the difference between the American and UK versions of the show. This blog post details the ways in which the article waxed hyperbolic about the differences. Thanks!
*** Please also note: the link to the blog post is now fixed.