Film & Television

So Many Happy Endings at ‘Downton Abbey’

downton-christmas-special-finale-edith-weddingPBS/Masterpiece Theatre

All right, ladies. Please pour yourself a cup of tea, select a cucumber sandwich, take out an exquisite sheet of your most formal stationery and your favorite fountain pen. It’s time we all wrote a heartfelt “thank you” note to Julian Fellowes. He just gave us the loveliest Christmas gift (albeit a couple of months late, here in the U.S.): happy endings for virtually everyone — above and below stairs — at Downton Abbey.

Things haven’t always been so amiable at Downton. Yet, despite vicious rivalries, untimely deaths and reversals of fortune, the series has been an unprecedented success story since the beginning. According to a recent Forbes article, Downton is the “top PBS drama of all time,” providing the network with more financial security and international reach than it has ever enjoyed before. It has been recognized with top honors and awards on both sides of the pond. And Downton has attracted as many as 13.3 million viewers per week and given the Super Bowl (the Holy Grail of television viewership numbers) a run for its money.

Fellowes, who in addition to being a writer, director and actor, is a Conservative member of the House of Lords, who built Downton on the foundation of his own Oscar-winning Gosford Park. He clearly relishes English class distinction, aristocratic history and all the delicious scandal that comes with it. Lady Mary’s infamous liaison with the ill-fated Mr. Pamuk, for example, was based on a true story Fellowes heard from a friend. And, Lady Rose’s controversial marriage to Jewish Atticus Aldrich is drawn in part from Fellowes’ personal history. As he explained to TIME, “In my own youth I went out with a girl from a very prominent, grand Jewish family. It was one of the only times when I have been considered ineligible and not a desirable party.”

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The Fellowes family motto (yes, they have a motto and a crest and lots of other hereditary assets that we poor Yankees don’t) is “Post Proelia Praemia.” It means, “After battle comes reward.” I certainly wouldn’t describe the six years I spent with Downton Abbey a battle. But, oh my, what a reward! Read More »

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  • roz warren March 9, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    I’m with you, HillsMom. All of my favorite shows, from Dr. Who to Downton, are British.

  • hillsmom March 8, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    It’s over…sigh. While tying up most of the loose ends did seem a tiny bit rushed, I’m still sorry that it’s over. Why is it that the Brits are able to make marvelous television programs, and movies, too, while we in the USA have so few? I guess there’s a market for un-dead and blowing up invading robots, but I’m not part of it. Perhaps Mr. Fellowes will soon start another mini-series, after he rests from his labors (should one say “labours”?) which kept us all enthralled.
    P.S. Excellent review Ms MacAaron…