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I have downloaded and subsequently watched 5 series of Downton Abbey, including the Christmas specials.

It was my wife who decided she wanted to watch them. Nothing unusual in that you may think, but she is Belgian and therefore not necessarily attracted to English costume soap operas.

I agreed to watch a couple, give my verdict, then leave her alone with the rest. If you read my mini bio on the “About the Author” page, you will understand my reluctance to watch more than two episodes.

In all honesty, I was pleasantly surprised. Living in Spain, as I do, meant that Downton Abbey was not a regular topic of conversation in the village, so we had no recommendations, just what we had read in our TV and film bible, IMDB.

I must also admit that I expected a high definition version of Upstairs, Downstairs which I suppose is what I got really.

The actual programme is very well produced and directed, but then again, that is to be expected when made by either ITV or the BBC. I found it a little strange that, although set in North Yorkshire, the show was filmed in Berkshire. My old fashioned logic seems to think that, if something is set in Yorkshire, then it should be filmed in Yorkshire. It is also very well cast and I must admit to an element of surprise upon seeing world renowned actresses such as Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine mixing it with the ex Coronation Street and Benidorm players. Rob James Collier is particularly good as the scheming Thomas.

Also worth a mention were the performances of two of the cast of the 1980’s comedy Ever Decreasing Circles, notably Penelope Wilton and Peter Egan. Penelope Wilton’s dialogues with Maggie Smith are some of the most entertaining on TV. It is a pity Richard Briers didn’t hang around long enough to take part, he would have made an excellent Gamekeeper.

Hugh Bonneville is very convincing in the role of Lord Crawley and even had me disliking him for most of the series, with his upper class ways and values, such as wearing uniform during the war when not a serving soldier and distinguishing between when to spill food over your white tie as opposed to your black tie. Elizabeth McGovern is excellent as his American wife, although I don’t think they are very well matched and would be surprised that a woman like her would fall for a man like him if there were no money or power involved.

The rest of the roles are also excellently played and the story lines, although a little exaggerated sometimes, are mainly believable with a lot of attention paid to detail.

The only character I think brings nothing to the programme is Tom, the Irish chauffeur who marries Cybil and becomes a member of the family. Apart from being an unrealistic scenario, the character is supposed to define the difference in class and upbringing between a working class Irish loyalist and the landed gentry of England. He does this to an extent but I still wonder what the point of it is. Downton Abbey would have been just as good, if not better, without this character. It would have been far more realistic, upon the death of Cybil, if Tom had been thrown out by the family and allowed to see his daughter by arrangement with one of the nannies.

Anyway, congratulations to ITV on making a soap opera whereby I have actually watched every episode and am looking forward to the next series. Apparently the next series is the last one, which is probably a good thing as standards tend to start dropping if an idea is taken too far, and that is something that should not happen to Downton Abbey.

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