Television rarely gets interesting these days. The avalanche of reality shows and trash that focuses on the poor life choices of teenagers just doesn't hold my attention. I know I am the wrong demographic. What are you going to do?
PBS' Downton Abbey has to be one of the few exceptions. Clearly, I'm not the right demographic either, but I got hooked about three weeks ago. Friends had been saying what a great show it was, so one afternoon, my wife and I decided to jump into Season One, Episode One and see what the fuss was all about.
It was a better than average show, but there wasn't much to keep me involved, I thought. We decided to watch one more episode. Then something clicked. Hugh Bonneville's benevolent Robert instantly caught my attention. (And isn't this role for him the last thing you expected after seeing him as Bernie in Notting Hill?) His eldest daughter Mary, played wonderfully by Michelle Dockery, was the least likable lead I remember in a long time, but there was something there. With a large cast, it was difficult to pick a standout.
But there she was: Siobhan Finneran as O'Brien, the nastiest, most deceitful chamber maid ever. So evil that she makes other villains quiver. Every scene she enters rivets us to the screen, the perfect counterpoint to Mr. Bates, and we were hooked, catching up all the way to the finale of Season Three.
What about the now lost Matthew Crawley? He became quite the country gentleman in the hands of Dan Stevens, and we came to admire him a lot. His depth was based more of what he did not say than what he did, making him an intriguing character. During the war or when he stood up to Robert in remaking the estate was when his true strength of character come out. Seemed as if writer Julian Fellowes was starting to know what exactly to do with such a nice guy.
Now he's dead and gone, and Mary's left to find another man to tumble with. Will the storyline and the other characters be enough to keep us watching? Time will tell. We've dropped Grey's Anatomy from our list as its creator lost her way years ago. Perhaps Julian will learn from Shonda Rhimes' mistakes. Season Four better be good.