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Downton Abbey: Discussion Thread

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<span style="font-size:120%;">ITV has ordered up eight more episodes of its lavish hit period drama "Downton Abbey," the Julian Fellowes-scripted co-production between Carnival Films and PBS Masterpiece that has wowed Sunday night audiences.

"Abbey" the pre-World War I drama which follows the adventures of the upper class Grantham family as well as their below-stairs servants, is a "Gosford Park" style country house drama with a cast including Hugh Bonneville, Dame Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, and Brendan Coyle,

The drama has picked up audience share since its debut Sept. 26th, when it debuted with a total audience exceeding 11.6 million including repeats and catch-up viewing and an audience share of 32% on transmission.

Episode two totaled 11.8 million in ratings.

Gareth Neame, managing director of the NBC Universal-owned Carnival Productions, said the show had "captured the imagination" of viewers.

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I know the show has dipped a bit in ratings this past week but I'm glad that ITV finally seems to have found a drama series which has some success. It's also nice to see Rob James Collier on TV again.

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I get that in a way, some of it is "period drama porn" but I *love* this show--I checked it out immediately cuz Julian Fellowes was writing it. It seems like the kinda show PBS woulda snapped up in a heartbeat back in the day--I wonder if they'll try (or can afford it...)

I admit I only first heard about it because of a friend of mine who lives in Bristol told me how excited he was that one of his tv crushes, Rob James-Collier was playing gay. :lol:

Edited by EricMontreal22

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A term I picked up somewhere--I think some grumpy UK critic. It means something they know will get a certain audience merely because the period details--design, manners, etc--are so well done and appealing, no matter if there's any actual quality otherwise. (Similarly I've heard fashion porn used a lot). A lot of the lesser UK remakes of classics would prob fall into this category--there's a built in audience no matter the actual quality of the adaptation.

Edited by EricMontreal22

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Enjoyable show. We are just three episodes in so it is still early days but ITV have clearly invested a lot in it, so there is much biting witticism (thanks, dame Maggie Smith -- worth the price of admission alone), sumptuous decor, butler rivalry, moments of tenderness, repressed passion (including gay passion) and whatnot. And because it is set in 1913, you know that mega-tragedy is looming.

If it continues in its current vein then I will be glad that ITV ordered more episodes. :)

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Yes they're still doing that.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1297362/Upstairs-Downstairs-new-cast.html

I was surprised that Downton Abbey had a gay storyline, and even had a kiss between gay men (apparently Rob James Collier asked the show to let them kiss, for realism -- he did a good job too...).

Edited by CarlD2

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I dunno, for some reason I wasn't too surprised... I think the UK realizes that these kinds of shows are watched by a lot of gay men (and perhaps even more to the point that a lot of the female fans watching like such storylines). I wonder if it would affect PBS trying to pick up the show in this day and age--I'm sure they've shown gay kisses in their dramas more recently, but the last one I can remember was in the mid 90s with Tales of the City and we all know how they were pressured by various groups not to air the followup series (partly due to the light nudity as well)--and that was back when American tv was experimenting with pushing more boundaries than they do now.

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The BBC and Channel 4, yes, but it seems to be much less common on ITV. Some of their soaps became almost notorious for that -- a gay wedding on Emmerdale in 2008 ended with the grooms shaking hands.

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Ha, I did hear about that. But I think ITV primetime is quite different--I identify the channels more from the Summer I spent in London and then Autumn in Dublin--which was '99, so ages back. But ITV back then showed FAR more risque programming than the BBC it seemed (BBC2, which showed This Life earlier, and the other BBCs were edgier). Of course 4 had already screened the first season of Queer as Folk. At any rate I do think ITV feels this show ahs to compete.

Thanks for the link BTW. I was a massive Upstairs/Downstairs fan when it was rerun on W here in Canada when I was a teen--even tracked down the spin off series. But I really don't have much hope for this new one for some reason.

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Here I was all excited to tell friends (well and my Grandma :P ) who I knew would love Downton Abbey about it's premier on Masterpiece Theater on PBS this weekend, only to find out that--even though not mentione din any reviews I've read yet) it's been cut down by over an hour to make it more understandable to American viewers and faster paced. OY. The irony to me is that it's already one of the quicker paced costume series I can think of, and this is PBS, isn't it meant to be home to people who don't like what they usually find on network tv? They've also been advertising it for fans of Upstairs/Downstairs (partly to tie into the premier of the new Upstairs/Downstairs coming in April to PBS), and it certainly moves MUCH faster than that. I also wonder if, being PBS and their squeamishness about a lot of gay content ever since they got in so much trouble mid 90s for Tales of the City, this means they'll easily cut away the few gay scenes?

Anyway, I'm pretty disappointed, and feel far less guilty about downloading it and watching it online instead of waiting for PBS. A good article on this:

Its intricately detailed plot and sumptuous production values, with lingering shots of the magnificent stately home, made Downton Abbey the TV hit of last year.

Unsurprisingly, the lavish period drama has now been snapped up by an American network - although it seems the beautifully nuanced portrait of pre-First World War upper-class life could prove just a little too complex for the trans­atlantic audience.

For in the land of the notoriously short attention span, TV executives have taken a knife to the artfully crafted series, slashing its running time and simplifying the plotline for fear viewers will be left baffled.

Rebecca Eaton, an executive producer for the PBS network - which will be airing it from next week - admits that American audiences demand a 'different speed' to their shows.

As a result, Downton, which ran for eight hours on ITV, has been slashed to six for the States, while the story­line about the inheritance of the Abbey has been downplayed.

The show's ten million British viewers will be well aware that much of the drama revolves around challenges to the 'entail' - the legal device which determines how the estate should be divided up - after Lord Grantham's heirs perish on the Titanic.

But Ms Eaton said: 'We thought there might be too many references to the entail and they have been cut. It is not a concept people in the US are very familiar with.'

However, that did not seem to faze British viewers, who would have been similarly unaware of the term before watching the series.

PBS also believes its audiences will need an American to outline the key themes of the show.

So before the first episode, actress Laura Linney will explain the inheritance principle.

She will also inform viewers that the idea of a wealthy American heiress such as the fictional Cora Countess of Grantham coming to the rescue of a hard-up aristocratic British family is rooted in fact.

On ITV, the series, which starred Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern, ran with advertisements, while PBS - the Public Broadcasting Service - is free of commercials.

Nonethe­less, Ms Eaton admitted cuts had been made to fit Downton Abbey into four 90-minute episodes.

'American audiences are used to a different speed when it comes to television drama and you need to get into a story very quickly,' she said.

'We also wanted to get to the point where Matthew Crawley [the family's middle-class cousin and unlikely heir] arrives on the scene much faster than in the British version. He is a pivotal character and his arrival brings with it drama and conflict.

'In the British version he doesn't arrive until episode two. In our version he is there in episode one.'

Ms Eaton insisted that any changes were minor and did not affect the quality of the programme. It will, however, be released in its entirety in the States on DVD, billed as the British original.

That may not be enough to please some viewers, who have taken to the internet to register their displeasure. One wrote: 'Americans are getting the short end of the stick and PBS doesn't seem to care.'

Another said: 'It is not complete... I fear for the reputation of this [version] over in the States.'

Julian Fellowes, the show's Oscar-winning writer, refused to be drawn into the debate. 'This is not one for me,' he said last night.

He also declined to speculate about the show's likely reception in America, saying: 'I have been in this business long enough to know you should never try to predict the fate of anything.

'I do know Americans are very responsive to new drama and they have a powerful television drama tradition.'

The image of formal, refined English life has already won some fans in the States, with one website describing it as 'transcendent television, extraordinary and intoxicating'.

http://community.livejournal.com/ohnotheydidnt/54752776.html

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