Wednesday, January 27th, 2016, was a momentous day for me. You see, that night, my mother and I finished watching the last episode of Downton Abbey, a show I have been avidly consuming since my mother got me hooked on it in mid-December. In that short amount of time, I've watched every episode from every season, and I've gotten so invested in these characters that it was difficult to say goodbye to them.
For those of you who are rolling your eyes right now and saying to yourselves "oh, Caleb, how could you like this show? It's so melodramatic and girly and annoying," please hear me out. I can probably guess that you haven't actually taken the time to watch the show, or else you most likely wouldn't be saying that. You see, I think that Downton Abbey is one of the finest pieces of media that has been made in the twenty-first century so far, and I think everyone, if they gave it the proper chance, could learn to love the show.
And that's not because I think that everyone deep inside has a love of British period dramas that they're suppressing, but simply because I have watched this show from beginning to end and it's just a dang good work of storytelling. The characters are so well-characterized that you feel like you know them as well as you know you're own family, even after you've only spent an hour or so in their company. And yet they can still do things that surprise you, just like a family member. But when you think back on why they did it, you can see exactly why, because of the foreshadowing the writers masterfully put in the show to give you the right mix of surprising yet inevitable.
As a storyteller and a lover of art, this show blew me away with its lovable and heart-wrenching characters, its intensity in all things plot, and its attention to detail in every piece of its setting. I learned more about the way of life in a Great House of early twentieth century England in these five weeks that I have been watching the show front to back than I have ever learned about any time period ever in that amount of time. And the show did not do it by giving me loads of setting exposition force-fed through bad dialogue and voice-over. It did it by allowing me to watch lives in progress and pick up on the details simply by showing me them in action.
If this show does anything right, it does show vs. tell right. And if you struggle with that as a storyteller, watch Downton Abbey. It will be an education in and of itself. This show knows how to show you a story and not tell one to you.
I have bawled watching this show. I have felt so much emotion through almost every episode of Downton Abbey, and that is the sign of great writing. I have become extremely critical of the media I consume as I get older, and I have gotten to the point where I simply won't settle for half-baked stories or bad characterization. I won't do it. And so the way this show has spoken to me, as a writer, proves to me that it is worth watching. Because I loved every minute of it, and there was almost never a moment when I felt like I had been cheated by the narrative. I never felt let-down. Of course, there were times when I felt a sick sense of "oh, I wish that wouldn't have happened, but it simply had to..." but those only made the experience more enjoyable, because it felt real.
Well, now that I've rambled on about how much I love this show, I suppose I should wrap this review up. The purpose of this post is not to talk about Downton Abbey and specific characters or episodes, but to give you a general sense of why I loved this show so much and why I think you would enjoy it too. You can learn a lot. About twentieth century England. About human nature. And about how to tell a darn good story.
Oh, and if you ever want to geek out with me about Downton Abbey, I will always be up for that. Because I love this show and I want everyone else to as well.