Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The End of Downton Abbey? by Syndi Powell



"Downton Abbey" has come to an end, much to the disappointment of its millions of fans. Combining fantastic writing, brilliant acting and a sumptuous location, this was a series that raised the bar of what makes good television programming.

As a fan of the show, I was in awe of Julian Fellowes' gift for creating multiple plot lines and keeping them straight through six seasons. He made us root for the heroes and heroines, but also feel empathy towards some of the villains as well. He peeled back the various layers of personality to discover that no matter what station of life you're born into, we all want the same things: acceptance, love and purpose. His characters lived beyond the realm of our televisions on Sunday nights to populate not only fan fiction but inspire books, fashion and a resurgence of "old-fashioned" names.

Some of us writers hope to have such a success with a series. So my question is, what made "Downton Abbey" so popular when even the programming directors had their doubts? Here's my opinion of some of those factors:
1. History was made relevant by putting characters of that time in situations that we the audience deal with too. We also worry about the future of our children, the finance of the family, and the state of our country as it goes to war or faces challenges. While we may have been watching a world that no longer exists, we could understand what they were facing.
2. The attention to the smallest detail created a desire to know more about the time period. Thus the series expanded the audience's attention beyond the one hour it aired on Sunday nights. They wanted to know more and sought out more information.
3. The writing, the writing, the writing. While the acting on the show was superb, they would not have succeeded so well without the words by Julian Fellowes. He had a grasp on the worlds both upstairs and down that you could tell who was who by the words they spoke. We could tell when Lady Violet spoke as compared to Mrs. Crawley or Mrs. Padmore. Each characters' speech rang true with who they were. Fellowes also juggled multiple storylines and was able to tie things up in a tidy bow by the end (while leaving room for future movies).

I loved this series and will miss it dearly.

22 comments:

  1. I loved it too Syndi Powell for all of the reasons you mentioned. I also thought the casting was perfect. Each actor owned their role and I was hooked from the very first episode. I have the entire series on DVD so I can continue to watch it. And guess what? I sent a message to Jessica Fellowes, Julian Fellowes niece, asking if they could continue the series in book form. She actually responded with "Dear Laurie....what a nice idea. You never know!!" That reply made me hopeful. ( :

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  2. I loved what I saw of it, too, for the reasons you listed and also because I'm just a Maggie Smith groupie.

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    1. Liz, Maggie Smith played the Dowager Countess to perfection!

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  3. I'm embarrassed to say, I've never seen the show. I know, I know...I've heard it all. :) One day, I hope to check it out. My downtime is so limited, I typically read instead of watch TV.

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    1. Jill, I understand reading more than watching TV since I do the same thing! But if you get a chance, check it out.

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  4. I hadn't seen Downton Abbey for two seasons, when people on Facebook were signing off Sunday night to go watch it. So I spent a day watching the first two season back to back, then I was hooked.

    I still say it's a soap opera, but it elevated the soap opera to literary levels. I loved all the storylines and the I loved the characters. Of course, I felt manipulated when Mary's first husband dies on the same day she has their child. And I so wanted Edith to find love.

    At the end of the season, Edith became my favorite character. She was the one who change (grew) most. I would love to have it continue. But Julian Fellowes knows how to go out on top.

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    1. Shirley, I didn't care for Edith either the first season, but I think she became my favorite as we watched her grow from a spoiled middle child to an independent woman who wanted to live life on her terms, not society's. She truly represented the modern woman of that time.

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  5. Hi, Syndi! I haven't seen it, either, but our circle of friends is filled with groupies. The man who was the lead (don't even know his name - so sorry!) was a favorite of mine in Notting Hill, and who doesn't love Maggie Smith? I'm hoping to catch it in reruns. I grew up on soap operas because my mom watched them while ironing. We were all so invested in those characters for all the reasons you describe - good writing is captivating and even life-altering, wherever you find it. Good to hear your 'voice!'

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    1. Muriel, it's definitely worth a watch. I learned about how to develop characters and plot lines by analyzing things as I watched the second time. Good to "see" you too!

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  6. Syndi, I never saw it, but listened to friends who loved every episode and rearranged their lives so they could watch it. I did hear Julian Fellowes on a morning news show. He said he loved juggling the lives of the characters. For sure he did it masterfully.

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    1. Roz, Julian Fellowes is truly a master. I'd love to chat with him for ten minutes and soak up his wisdom.

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  7. Hi, Syndi! Also haven't seen it, but your post is very convincing! Excellent job of breaking it down. Sounds like the show has all the elements that are important to me. Congratulations on your latest release, The Sweetheart Deal! The cover is one of my all-time favorite Heartwarming covers so far. Looking forward to reading it!

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    1. Carol, thank you! I love the cover too and really evokes the feeling I was working towards.

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  8. A recent convert, I've made it about halfway through the series so far. It's interesting contrasting the behaviors that are so different in the past with the ones that never change. I feel both sympathy and impatience for Robert, as the world he inherited is changing so quickly, and no matter how hard he tries, he can't stop it.

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    1. Beth, welcome to the club! As the series goes on, Robert's way of life (and Carson's insistence on keeping with tradition) definitely get tested. I enjoyed the actor in that role.

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  9. I'll have to join the others here who haven't seen the program. Is it because we're too busy writing our own stuff? Don't know, but I was tempted because some of my friends were raving about it. Maybe I'll catch the reruns. Looking forward to reading your book, Syndi.

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    1. Linda, it is definitely worth finding it. I was a late convert to the show and checked out the first three seasons from the library to watch with my parents. Not only did it make a fan of me, but the both of them too!

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  10. I didn't realize so many writers hadn't seen the series, me included. But I hope to rectify that one day.

    I loved what you said about the writer: He peeled back the various layers of personality to discover that no matter what station of life you're born into, we all want the same things: acceptance, love and purpose. So true!!

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    1. Patricia, I was turned on to the series by a group of writers who raved about the writing and acting. They kept asking me if I watched it until I checked out the DVDs from the library so I could tell them that yes, I had. It's worth checking it out!

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    1. Amy, yay another convert! It's definitely worth your time.

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