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One of the best shows on broadcast TV out there is the British Import, Downton Abby.
(PBS Sunday nights). It takes place as a period piece in a British Castle in the early 1920's. Downton Abby is centered in an old traditional world changing rapidly after World War One. The old British traditions and aristocracy are being challenged at every turn.  It this time the old aristocracy itself is in a deep period of fade.

I came across the show by accident, and after 4 episodes, I am hooked.  I have to admit that Sunday nights have become a date night with my wife watching Downton Abby. The show is edited with rapid fire transitions from one story line to another.
It is similar in its editing to the show E.R.  

Downton Abby is a soap opera pure and simply,  with weddings, deaths, deceipt, love, murder, and a subplot of a fading culture. Last night was the Season 3 premier.

Recent episodes are available for free here at
http://www.pbs.org/...

Additional episodes are available at Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Itunes.

Each episode is two hours with no commercial breaks.

I remember when this Mitt Romney fellow wanted to get rid of PBS.

Below the fold I have a brief discussion about an ongoing theme within the show.

Warning major spoiler for Season 3 Episode 1.

In the Season 3 premier, we find out that the Lord Grantham- Robert Crawley, the patriarch of the family,  has lost most of his and his Lady's inherited fortune due to a single bad investment. The plot line is that the family is in danger of losing the castle and having to live a "simpler life" in a simple cottage, with no servants. This would cause Lord Grantham to live out the rest of his life in humiliation. (boo hoo)

The desire to maintain the lifestyle with servants and for every need, and opulent parties, causes some members of the family to literally beg Lady Grantham's American born
mother (played by Shirley McClain) for money to maintain the castle.

Among the arguments floated to justify begging for money, is that they are obliged to keep the castle for historical reasons. Also and most importantly, Downton Abby is one of the largest employers in the village. What would happen if they let go of all the employees?  Now keep in mind, all servants work at Downton Abby through their free will and their work pays them a living. In other words, there is an obligation to others to keep Downton Abby available for the family's pleasure- Noblesse Oblige

However, one must note the social gap between the aristocrats and the servants is very large. About the only way to penetrate the aristocracy in the show is to seduce and marry a daughter. Even then, you are treated as second class.

Today, as economic inequality increases, another aristocracy has emerged. Within this new world (one  inhabitant is Mitt Romney), allows the super rich to make their own rules, to referee their own financial dealings. When a member of the aristocracy makes a mistake and looses money, others are there to loot the US treasuries to bailout that loser.

We have to always keep in mind the rising inequality over the last 30 years since Reagan.  Although the American dream is still very possible for many people. Chances to rise to the top have faded with the gutting of the middle class. Policies favored by Republicans and corporate billionaires such as the Koch Brothers are gutting the middle class, through the use of corporate media and the gutting of unions.
This is producing a huge gap between the the Haves and Have Not.

Sadly, The ideal world for Republicans lies somewhere close to the early 1920's and is symbolized by the popular show Downton Abby. You have the Walton brothers and their hundreds of thousands of employees getting close to minimum wage and having the government pay health coverage as an example.

In the end we all know how the roaring 1920's turned out...... (hint  Great Depression).

Think about the world of Downton Abby next time we work on crafting legislation on Wall Street, corporate welfare, tax breaks for the wealthy, or Citizens United.

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Comment Preferences

  •  heh. Lady Mary bascially is a Koch brother (14+ / 0-)

    I have no idea why I love this show so much, since the values are abhorrent to me. But, I do.

    just a little bit bored.

    by terrypinder on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 08:12:13 AM PST

    •  She's more of an Anne Romney (7+ / 0-)

      She thinks things are due her but she is not graspingly evil in the same way as the Koch brothers. She cares for the workers in a paternalistic kind of way. And Sybil is Warren Buffet; a traitor to her class. And the evil footman is most definitely Cantor-the eternal schemer.

      You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is "Never get involved in a land war in Asia".

      by yellowdog on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 10:40:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think it's lost me by now. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      terrypinder

      I held on for the (occasionally very good) season one, suffered through season two, and found myself checking email through most of last night's premier.   From what I've heard, season 3 only goes downhill from here.

      But I'll still watch every episode, just in case.  Just like I suffered through seasons 1 and 2 of the awful Walking Dead to get to the surprisingly not bad season 3.  And because I want to be Maggie Smith when I grow up.  

      And in the meantime I'll curl up with my dvd of Gosford Park.

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 12:08:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The US Comes Near Last Among Advanced Democ- (10+ / 0-)

    racies in delivering the American Dream of upward mobility to its people.

    Ours is the country you want to leave, not come to, for the American Dream.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 08:15:58 AM PST

  •  "job creators" (6+ / 0-)

    or what purpose does the aristocracy have according to Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham.

    Might as well have been written deliberately to show the absurdity of American conservatives values, thank you bbc.

    fact does not require fiction for balance (proudly a DFH)

    by mollyd on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 08:20:42 AM PST

  •  We Could Amend the Constitution... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ExStr8, blueoasis

    ...to allow the sale of hereditary titles. Cash on the barrel-head. Regardless of race, creed or color.

    A trillion dollars to become a prince, 500 billion for high-profile grand dukedoms, all the way down to 100 million for a barony in some low-prestige part of the country. In exchange for the money the buyer would receive a title and the right to open the local opera season, cut the ribbon at supermarket grand openings, and host the local village picnic every year.

    'Twould pay off the debt in no time.

    best,

    john

    Strange that a harp of thousand strings should keep in tune so long

    by jabney on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 08:48:00 AM PST

  •  Actually, the values of the historic (11+ / 0-)

    British aristocracy are very different from those embraced by our own 1%.  The aristocracy were often - though not always - very wealthy, but repaid their country by serving as legislators, soldiers, and clergy, and as poorly-paid administrators of empire.  How many of our 1% have ever served in the armed forces?  

    Their country estates and homes in London provided employment that had to be more pleasant than working in a Victorian factory.

    That is not to say that the British lower classes lived in paradise, but they were much better off than the peasants in most of continental Europe (Russian serfs were only freed after the US repealed slavery!).  And Britain was to some extent a meritocracy, where many rose "from the ranks" to join the upper classes.  A common sailor in the Royal Navy could become an admiral and end his days as a lord.

    Britain's rapid industrialization brought a new class of wealthy persons into being, the new rich who more closely mirrored our own 1%, and who had no concept of public service.  This same industrialization, which required free trade to export its surplus production, also doomed the noble country estate as a viable economic entity, as grain was cheaper to import than to grow domestically.

    Anyway, don't be too hard on the Granthams.  Most European adults alive in 1914 would never again be as happy or properous as they were before the Great War.

  •  Come now, this is a harsh treatment (14+ / 0-)

    To say that the Crawleys represent today's Koch brothers or Republicans is a mis-read.

    Let's remember - during the war, they turned most of their home into, essentially, a VA hospital, and family members helped take care of the soldiers, etc.

    Mr. Crawley stood by Bates and hired him despite his disability, and didn't abandon him even when accused of a crime. There was the other valet that had PTSD that was hired, and when his problems were too much, he was given a generous severance, medical care and the promise of a recommendation.

    They also fed unemployed veterans, and the mother insisted the cost of doing so come out of their own pockets, and not be charged to the government.

    Moreover, although not shown much in the TV show, estates such as Downton were in fact a large economic engine for the village. Of course, many of those old estates could be Koch - like, charging usurious rents for their lands, etc. but from what we see Downton does not seem to be this kind of estate.

    Yes, they led privileged lives and enjoy being lords and ladies of the manor, but at the same time I do think the Dowager Countess and Lady Mary also have the village's welfare at heart, and that they wouldn't screw the middle class and poor to maintain their lifestyle as Republicans do now.

    I think there's a little Jay Rockefeller or Kennedy in them :)

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 08:51:07 AM PST

  •  the show is an apologia for conservatism (8+ / 0-)

    the show's creator, Julian Fellowes, sits in the House of Lords for the Tories.

    Nor do I think it's chance that the show took off around the time that a minority Conservative government made its way into power in the UK. (And in fact, Fellowes' peerage was awarded during the first season).

    It's an attempt to gin up sentimental nostalgia for a vanished  age of Tory paternalism where the lower classes knew their place and benevolent aristocrats ran things for the good of all, to distract from the modern reality of Toryism.

    Anyhow, I watched the first couple seasons at a friend's behest. I forgot what happened in each episode as soon as I finished watching it.

    The takeaway is that all forces of modernity, equality, and change are worse than merely evil--they are, gasp, déclassé! The progressive, modern-minded Isobel Crawley is depicted as a humorless, sanctimonious busybody. The Irish socialist Branson is obnoxious and loutish in order that we feel Earl Robert is fully justified in despising him and wanting him nowhere near his daughter.

    And the servants, simple, good-hearted, loyal to their masters and the institution of the aristocracy, just as ideal servants should be. The only interesting one of the lot is Thomas, and he's a villain. Carson is great, but that's mostly because he's solidly on Team Mary (of which more later).

    Meanwhile, there's Earl Robert, always so nice and forbearing, the champion of the values of British nobility fighting a losing battle against time. Why, he's so open-minded that he can even bring himself to infinitesimally tolerate a trace of modernity in his world (a world bought and paid for by the fortune of his American wife, whom he married purely for her money). Telephones? Having a journalist for a son-in-law? I'm shocked he didn't need the smelling salts for that one!

    I'm an American, dammit! Give me some frickin' action, not this enameled, genteel world of fox hunting and tea parties where everything hangs in eternally unchanging stasis. Wasn't America founded in rebellion against that crap, anyway?

    Mary Crawley is awesome, though. Those eyebrows say more than words ever could. She's the only reason to watch the show IMO.

    "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

    by limpidglass on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 09:57:23 AM PST

    •  I gave up watching after 20 minutes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite

      of last night's show. I had hopes of enjoying more than the gorgeous costumes, but tales of British aristocracy don't interest me at all. Good diary, though.

      The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

      by ybruti on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 11:08:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm rather suspicious of all the British (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TiaRachel, a2nite, melo, Garrett

      royal crap that my PBS stations show. I don't know why Americans should be excited about QEII's diamond jubilee when we have no such interests in the reigns of other monarchs.

      On the other hand, I do enjoy several British TV programs that also air on PBS. Larkrise to Candleford, in which Brendan Coyle, who plays the unfortunate John Bates in Abbey, made his mark is one. It juxtaposes royalist sentiment with more egalitarian values rather effectively in another time of rapid change as agrarian life waned and industrialization rose.

      One thing I look for is the values that produced the British National Health which is why I've enjoyed Call the Midwife, the story of a young midwife on London's East End in the 1950s. They are almost heavy handed about the advantages of the National Health in improving the health of the citizens of that age. And they looks back more than once at the evils of the defunct workhouses, which separated families and ground them down with work and degradation. I see it as an extension of our own ongoing debate about health care v. health insurance.

      Certainly the Crowley family of Downton is unrealistically kind to their staff and they present a sympathetic plight to the viewer, but I keep that in mind. Ultimately we know that their way of life will be drastically altered by events, so maybe we can spare them a bit of sympathy.

      I have no desire to return to a monarchy or to to derive vicarious pleasure from watching the British royals. And I certainly am not enthralled by the lifestyles of the rich and famous of the American plutocracy which is eating out the heart of the US economy. I have no more sympathy for them than the 1st class passengers at the sinking of  the HMS Titanic (which began the series Downton  Abbey), who in reality by and large survived the sinking as the steerage passengers were locked below decks to drown. BTW, my favorite characters may be Sybil Crawley Branson and her Irish husband, Tom. They are intelligent and kind with no desire to live a life of wealth and pleasure.

      "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

      by Lily O Lady on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 11:33:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  From an early episode (0+ / 0-)

      I love that becoming an architect was suitable for royalty and being a doctor was slumming it.

      This says everything about this family.

  •  I'm not too keen on (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    limpidglass

    how they made the villianous Thomas gay.  Is that what they're saying? That gay people are morally warped?

    "Valerie, why am I getting all these emails calling me a classless boor?"

    by TLS66 on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 10:19:40 AM PST

  •  That's the way (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Intheknow, liz dexic, a2nite

    things were then.  Not specifically a British phenomenon.  As I pointed out above, the abuses were far less egregious in Britain than most of Europe.  I've heard that for true misery, nothing could come close to being a Hungarian peasant in the years following WWI.

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