If you do, you already know why it's great.
If you don't, get with the program, old chap! It's snobby and stuffy and more delicious than English muffins with melted butter in every nook and cranny.
The 3rd season started a few weeks ago and there are only a handful of episodes in each, so I think you should call in sick one day, slap on a fancy hat, and fire them up on Netflix.
No time to spare? Ok. Here's what you need to know:
[SPOILERS ABOUND BELOW - YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED]
It all starts when the Titanic sinks. Lost at sea was the heir to Downton Abbey, a massive English castle owned by Lord Robert Grantham. He lives there with his American wife, Cora, and his three grown daughters: Mary, Edith, and Sybil. (Would YOU move out? It's a castle!) Since he only makes girls, and these are the Dark Ages, none of them can inherit the home that he dumped his wife's entire fortune into keeping afloat. Bummer. His elderly mother, the dignified Dowager (aka widow) Countess, lives nearby and pops into every episode to bemoan the invention of electricity and evolution of any kind. They quickly track down a distant cousin, Matthew Crawley, who works as a lawyer. Ewww. They are horrified he has a job. And a nosy mother. Begrudgingly he becomes their new heir, and falls in love with their oldest daughter, Mary -- his COUSIN. Mary wants nothing to do with Creepy Crawley -- until he wants nothing to do with her. Isn't that always the way? Then everything goes to hell in a handbasket because World War I begins. He joins the Army as an officer and this gentleman gets engaged to a sweet girl named Livinia, who nurses him back to health after being paralyzed from the waist down (including the naughty bits). Thankfully, right before their wedding, he walks again and she dies of consumption, leaving the cousins free to marry and procreate -- even though Mary is damaged goods from an unfortunate incident that involved a Turk dying in bed. On top of her. Sister Edith is invisible because she wears a pasty-face and cannot catch a break in the man department. It's almost as if everyone is conspiring against her (because they are). And baby Sybil's a rebel because she wears pants AND married the chauffer, Branson, who is a belligerent political activist in his spare time. Nobody likes him.
While inequality is alive and well in the 1920s, downstairs in the servant's quarters, things are just as dramatic. Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes run a tight castle. They tolerate NO funny business, which is unfortunate for Mrs. O'Brien who looks after the lady of the house so well she slid her right into a miscarriage on a well-placed bar of soap. It was a boy. That's a secret she'll take to the grave. Thomas, the footman, is a schemer who got his own hand shot off so he could quit fighting in the war. He would be a ladies man if he wasn't always hitting on unsuspecting male houseguests. Mrs. Pattmore, the cook, is going blind and can't tell the salt from the sugar. Daisy, the kitchen maid, isn't allowed upstairs except to sit vigil for her devoted husband, William, another footman and wounded warrior who she was peer-pressured into marrying on his deathbed. She's naïve like that. Anna looks after the girls when she's not busy visiting John Bates, her new husband and fellow servant, in PRISON. He's a mysterious guy who fought with Lord Grantham in some ancient war that left his leg all janky. Bates took the fall for a crime his former wife, Vera, committed long ago and he nobly went to jail an innocent man. Now, he's is doing a life sentence for killing her with poison -- as it turns out, she was a mean man of a woman who had it coming. She learned of Mary's tryst with the dead Turk and threatened to expose the secret and bring shame to Downton. Uh oh. He claims he didn't do it, and Anna believes him, but she's blinded by love. A recent burst of anger towards his cellmate kinda makes you wonder...
Whew! All caught up? Jolly good.
Now, here's 5 reasons I love this show:
The Dowager Countess
Maggie Smith steals every scene she is in. That's a fact. She spouts zingers like a fountain in the garden. On death: "No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else's house." On electricity: "Oh dear, such a glare!" On swivel chairs: "Good heavens, what am I sitting on?" On weekends: "What precisely is a week-end?"
She's the spinster middle sister -- a hunk of baloney sandwiched between two beautiful slices of sourdough. A turn of the century Jan Brady, if you will. She even inspired this wide-eyed Tumblr, which made me laugh -- until last week, when my heart broke for her as she was left at the altar. Now she's my favorite sis. We spinsters must stick together.
This is the most interesting character at Downton, and he's not even home. Free John Bates! Can you get better looking in prison? If so, he has. I especially like how his hair is all tousled from wrestling with the inmates. He never had that 'do as a valet. His love story with Anna is sweet, makes you wonder how he ever got saddled with that old hag, Vera. Did I mention she had it coming?
Women fall at his feet. Money falls in his lap. A castle practically falls on his head. Who's got it better than this guy? Nobody. Good thing he tries to turn down the ladies, the inheritance, and the mansion in favor of his "principles." Matthew's got a moral compass that would make Jesus look like a jerk. Ugh. Damn that dashing man!
Isn't she pretty? Whether it's the dining room or the drawing room, the ladies' salon or servant's quarters I can't get enough of this castle. If only Lord Grantham wasn't running her into the ground with his lousy investments, general mismanagement, and blubbering. (PS: This is a real place, called Highclere Castle, and you can marry like a Crawley for a mere $24K.)
So, do YOU love sinking your teeth into the fruitcake that is Downton Abbey on Sunday nights? Or do you think all the hype is just plain nuts? Mix it up below...