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.