By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Jan 25, 2012
Americans loved the first season of “Downton Abbey” so much you would have thought it was on HBO.
Seriously. The four episodes of Season 1 drew, on average, 4.9 million viewers; PBS usually attracts 1.9 million nightly viewers. Women, as you might expect, were the core audience; “Downton Abbey” attracted 56% more women than the average show on “Masterpiece.” And the secondary viewership also rocked; more than a million viewers streamed “Downton Abbey.”
So, although a second season had not been planned, it was thrown together in a hurry.
But why I am telling you this? You already know. Indeed, readers of Head Butler are probably among the hardest core of the hard core “Downton” addicts --- if I could look into your windows these Sunday nights, I might see you holding a tea cup or brandy snifter as you watch in rapt silence.
‘Downton’serves up a steaming, silvered tureen of snobbery. It’s a servile soap opera that an American public desperate for something, anything, to take its mind off the perplexities of the present seems only too happy to down in great, grateful gulps.
The twilight of the British Empire was a shameless throwback to ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ and ‘The Forsyte Saga.’ Season 2 is in many ways as captivating and addictive as the first, but this time around, the series comes off as a shameless throwback to itself.
And at least one dedicated viewer is pissed:
I am mad for ‘Downton Abbey,’ but I’m angry about the intrusive, distracting and pointless questions that appear from time to time in a red band at the bottom of the screen, inviting its audience to vote on how one character or another ought to behave to affect the outcome of the plot. It is disheartening that PBS has stooped so low to conquer the interactive compulsions of its younger viewers.
Sunday night is a homework time for me; I use the evening to catch up on the writing I’ve avoided over the weekend. And I am not, as many are, nostalgic for the trials of the Upper Class and their Help --- reading The Perfect Summer: England 1911 was quite enough for me. Julian Fellowes, who created the show, speaks of the appeal of "the shadows of what used to be.” Me, I’ll take tomorrow --- so I’ve never seen a second of “Downton.”
But because I am a Butler who aims to say, some day, “millions and millions served,” I acquired a copy of “The World of Downton Abbey.” It’s a beautifully produced book that will take “Downton” addicts out of the gloomy winter of 2012 into the glitter and intrigue of the long-gone world of English country houses. (The Great War intrudes at the end, but only in a tasteful, suitable-for-television incarnation.) It’s all very, very appealing. [To buy the book from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]
But why stop there? You can also get Season 1 on DVD or rental. And if you can wait until February 7 to take delivery, you can have Season 2 as well.
How far will Downtonmania go?
Not as far as some would like.
Jewelry, f’instance. Won’t be any. News flash: “The Brits made PBS remove all direct or named references to the show and its characters from a line of jewelry being sold online because of copyright infringement.” Looks like you’ll have to make do with the jewels rattling around in the drawer of your make-up table.