COMMENTARY: American shabby loves Downton Abbey

Under-dressed Americans admire the over-dressed English

Wikipedia: Downton Abbey is a British period drama television series first aired in the United States in January 2011 as part of the Masterpiece Classic anthology. The series, set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey, depicts the lives of an aristocratic family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era [1912-1923, so far].

It was the most watched television series on PBS, and by the third season it had become one of the most widely watched television drama shows in the world. In other words it is a highly successful soap opera; “Upstairs Downstairs” meets “The Great Gatsby” or the English version of “Dallas.” One wag called it the "Downton Delusion."

The series occasionally shows the lives and condition of the hoi polloi, but most of the action takes place among the upper-crust who, while always broke, inevitably put on a good show by dressing for dinner, and lunch, and breakfast, and hunting, and going to town, and any other occasion they can dream up.  They are dressed to the nines even when the episode airs at six.

Now, more than ninety years later historically and a continent away you can’t get your average American to even wear real shoes, much less dress up for any occasion; the flip-flop has become the nation’s go-to footwear and dress up is a pair of Air Jordans, but we still love to watch the wealthy don their finery and work their intrigue.

A similar story recast in contemporary America would rank alongside “As the World Turns” or “All My Children” as just another soap, but when it’s all dressed up there is a certain façade we colonials can’t resist. Perhaps it’s just a never-ending fascination about how the other half lives, after all “Dallas," our homegrown version of Downton Abbey, ran for 357 episodes and the fictional Ewings are still considered American royalty by many.

Marty Richman

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Marty (Martin G.) spent his teen years in northern New Jersey. He served more than 22 years on active military duty, mostly in Europe, and is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, Nuclear Weapons Technical Officer. Marty then worked 25 years in various engineering and management positions in the electronics and energetic materials industries supporting the communications, computer, aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, from The College of Hard Knocks, among his numerous awards and accomplishments. He was a regular weekly Op/Ed columnist and feature writer for The Hollister Free Lance for seven years and a member of its editorial board for five years. Marty is a frequent commentator and contributor to BenitoLink on a wide variety of local, state, national and international subjects.   Marty was elected to represent the City of Hollister District 4 on the City Council in November, 2018. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.