It took me a while to watch Downton Abbey. The idea of lords and ladies sitting around discussing their worries over a cup of tea didn’t sound like my cup of tea. The pilot quickly changed my mind. The show is gorgeous: sumptuous sets and picturesque period trappings filmed with brilliant camerawork. It’s much warmer than I’d expected, imbued with gentle good humour.
The pilot promised a show with subtle, cerebral character drama, but that promise wasn’t necessarily realised. The show doesn’t get worse, per se, but it consistently refuses to challenge itself. Too many characters remain one-dimensional: people are good-hearted and honourable, or sneaky and untrustworthy, and rarely is there a glimmer of something deeper. There are exceptions, but not enough of them.
Downton Abbey continues to put the same characters together episode after episode: the same plot where a pair of ambitious but weaselly servants scheme to get the crippled valet fired happens in essentially every episode; ditto for the youngest proto-feminist sister of the family, who seems to interact with the same two servants every episode and rarely anybody else. It’s a good show, but I wished it made more of an effort to push its own boundaries.