Sunday, February 19, 2012

Downton Abbey: Julian Fellowes and his wonderful tale of the "Edwardian Twilight" years (Times Live)

With 12 Emmy awards and a Golden Globe, 'Downton Abbey' is a certified hit. The US television ratings exceeded 10 million viewrs, making it the most successful British period drama since 'Brideshead Revisited'.

Barry Ronge explains whyAs the old patriotic song says, "There'll always be an England ..." and Britain's history remains irresistible to filmmakers and audiences alike.

Proof of that is reflected in the television series Downton Abbey. The show's vast international audience could not get enough of the pomp and circumstance of times gone by. With opulent costumes and perfectly judged performances from Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern, it offered romance and drama.

 The show, however, is neither a witty Oscar Wilde comedy nor a soap opera in vintage frocks. It's a sharply focused account of a complex social and cultural turning-point in British history. The story starts in 1912, when the clouds of World War 1 were already gathering. But the wealthy families in their grand houses, like Downton Abbey, scarcely paid any attention. Historians have dubbed this period "the Edwardian twilight", because it signified the end of an aristocratic way of life that had held sway since the reign of ElizabethI.

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