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Downton Abbey (DVD Review)

9 Dec, 2010 By: Angelique Flores

Prebook 12/14/10; Street 1/11/11
$34.99 three-DVD set
Not rated.
Stars Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Brendan Coyle, Rob James-Collier.

The miniseries Downton Abbey has all the titillating drama of a soap opera, with the high acting, lavish costumes and picturesque scenery of a proper British period piece.

It’s 1912 in England, just after the sinking of the Titanic, and Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, and his family are in a tizzy. Among the deceased are Robert’s cousin, James, who was also his heir, and his cousin’s son, Patrick, who was engaged to Robert’s daughter, Mary. The engagement was set up so the Crawleys could keep their titles, property and wealth in the family.

With both heirs gone, Robert must decide to either keep the inheritance line, which would give his wealth to a distant, unknown relative, or break it so that Mary can inherit both his estate and his wife’s ample dowry.

Assuming Robert will name Mary his heir, a Duke arrives to assess the situation. In an interesting twist, it turns out this Duke has had an affair with Thomas, one of the footmen on staff.

This quandary brings out interesting suitors and causes strange pairs to ally with each other.

Meanwhile, Downton’s staff is in its own quandary. Robert has hired a former army buddy as his new valet. The new hire, Bates, has an injured leg, which upsets the rest of the staff who feel he can’t carry his load of the work. Being Robert’s old friend makes the situation a sticky one, especially when Thomas wants the job.

There’s plenty of drama here among the rich, well-developed characters that come to life quickly in the first episode.

Downton Abbey also gives an interesting look at how a noble household such as this might have run during the time, with the politics, laws, lineage and inheritance issues coming into play, not to mention the division of classes and social propriety.

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