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Downton Abbey

Maija Gustin | Monday, March 5, 2012

Almost everyone who knows me knows that right now, I probably love one thing more than anything else in my life — “Downton Abbey.” Several of my friends are currently rolling their eyes or calling it “Downtown” while a few others are cheering me on.

Most of you have probably at least heard of this hit British import (which airs on PBS here in the states) by now. You may have seen the “Downton Abbey” as done by Spike TV sketch on “Saturday Night Live” or perhaps you’ve even ventured into the world of Edwardian England yourself.

Regardless of how you’ve come across it, let’s make something clear — “Downton Abbey” is one of the best shows in recent television history. However, a lot of you won’t like it. If your typical TV fare rests more in “100 Ways to Die” than in “Boardwalk Empire,” you probably won’t like “Downton Abbey.” The PBS drama follows the lives of an aristocratic family upstairs and their group of servants downstairs. The series begins in 1912 immediately after the sinking of the Titanic and has, over the course of two seasons, taken us to the beginning of the 1920s.

It may not sound like your cup of tea, but don’t be so quick to shirk it off as just another archaic costume drama — because that, it is not. “Downton Abbey” is a fresh and intensely compelling look into the lives of people of different classes in the days before and during World War I.

First and foremost, this means good drama, only rather than doctors and 1950s ad executives, this story focuses on people with accents and beautiful costumes. If you give “Downton Abbey” a chance, you are sure to be sucked in by the love, lust and intrigue found in every episode. The characters are compelling and while the British series has fewer episodes than a typical American season of television, this means that every episode is packed full of action. The quality of writing, acting and storylines rarely falters.

“Downton Abbey” might just be the most engrossing show on television right now, despite the fact that it is set a century ago in another country. What seems most interesting is the way it deals with issues of class at a time when that issue is at the forefront of the American consciousness. This PBS costume drama has swept across the country, winning fans like Patton Oswalt, who live-Tweeted the episodes as he watched.

Sadly, the second season of “Downton Abbey” just ended and America will now be waiting almost a year for the third to come along. So now is your chance to catch up.

And boys, this is not just a girl’s show. While its audience is primarily female, there are enough male characters and storylines that can win over even the toughest guys. You can claim you’re just watching it for your girlfriend, anyway.

“Downton Abbey” is simply a joy to watch. Despite its sometimes harshly real storylines, including those about the ravages of war, it possesses an optimistic and positive attitude often missing from our increasingly cynical television landscape. “Downton Abbey” celebrates life more than anything, so put away the attitude and just enjoy the ride.

Contact Maija Gustin at mgustin@nd.edu

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.