British TV Soap Keeps Chugging Along
By Mark Fields
Downton Abbey is one of those inexplicable phenomena of the early 21st Century. An unapologetic soap opera set among the privileged lives of a British upper class family in the early 1900s – call it “gentry porn” – it was a stalwart ratings-winner for PBS for six seasons and successfully transitioned to a feature film with its cast and sensibilities intact. A second movie is out now, and it delivers many of the same guilty pleasures as the first film and series, but the formula and especially the plotlines are starting to get a little threadbare. It feels like they’re scraping for stories when a film crew co-opts the mansion and half the family traipses off to a villa in France. As much as I have loved the upstairs-downstairs drama and the solid performances from a uniformly terrific cast, I would not be sad for this film to be the fond farewell to the Crawleys before it all devolves into a disappointment, if not an outright embarrassment.