I confess that I'm one of those people that didn't pay enough attention in history class, but I'm making up for it now with the wealth of fantastic historically-themed television available. History and historical fiction fans will want to take note of this recent television series: Downton Abbey, a critically acclaimed costume drama produced by BBC. Beautifully filmed with a riveting cast, the show highlights the years leading up to World War I in England.
The series centers around the aristocratic Crawley family who live in Downton Abbey (think enormous, gorgeous castle). Downton Abbey is palace-like and the Crawleys are surrounded by servants that tend to their every need and whim. The problem that starts the drama rolling is that the Crawleys have three daughters, hence no son as an heir. When the closest male relative dies in the Titanic sinking, suddenly the whole estate will go to a young man they've never met - a distant male relative who works as (gasp) a lawyer. The Crawleys are horrified, but bound by the law of the day. Their upper-crust life is suddenly at risk, and all around them are alarming signs of a war to come. Additionally, the three daughters are vying for suitors, yet at the same time trying to assert their independence as women in a still male-dominated world.
Much like the beloved Upstairs Downstairs series, class tensions abound in Downton Abbey: the Crawleys lead a privileged, but scrutinized and lonely life; the servants obey, but resent their masters; and the middle-class is woefully stuck in-between. Many of the best characters are the servants as they know the intimate secrets of the family. The show does an excellent job of creating intrigue and crafting strong, complex characters, both good and bad, that you can't wait to see again.
After devouring season one (the library has all the disks), my husband and I are now eagerly awaiting season two which airs in January...
Recommended by Erica Jesonis