This pretty much some up how the show is so addictive - http://gawker.com/5874387/why-everyone-in-the-universe-should-watch-downton-abbey
I've burned through the first season and half of the second in the past week. The pacing always seems off; when I feel like the story's reached a stopping point, I usually find that there's another 20 minutes of airtime or so left.
TAW asked why I seemed so ambivalent about it since she adores the show. I've concluded that it's a well-acted, gussied up soap opera. If we're putting this show on the list of the current great shows on TV, then I'll compare it to Breaking Bad and Mad Men, and there hasn't been anything on Downton Abbey that reaches the heights of Breaking Bad's "Crystal Blue Persuasion" sequence or Mad Men's non-linear storytelling in this season's "The Other Woman."
It's not to say that I'm not invested in Anna and Mr. Bates (though I don't care much about Matthew and Mary), but I also don't see O'Brien's or Thomas's motivation for constant troublemaking. Boredom? Thomas's resentment over his repressed homosexuality? It can be entertaining, and they're interesting plot drivers, but it's bordering on irritating.
Oh, it's 100% soap, right down to the silly plot twist(s) you're about to encounter. It's enjoyable enough, but disguised as high culture mostly due to the accents and the setting.
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I'm not a huge apologist for the show, as I understand your frustrations, but I wonder if your fast paced viewing may add to that. (not a criticism, just an observation)
Season 2 definitely felt weirdly paced - meandering in some plotlines and then rushing through others. The overall tone of the series is definitely highly soapy, so if that's bothering you don't expect it to improve much.
I don't mind soapy (I rank The O.C. as one of my favorite shows of this past generation of TV, for God's sake), but I think I was expecting something more than high soap based on the hype. If nothing else, series three will be something to watch in January.
The Thomas as black marketer storyline had potential, but it was blown through in the course of two episodes, which is a shame so they can send him back to Downton.
My pace of viewing may have been a factor. Each episode usually encompasses a significant amount of time in story, and a significant amount of time usually passes between episodes. So, when I watched at a rapid clip, it just highlights the sense that even though time is theoretically passing in the show's world, it feels like nothing is changing, which is frustrating.
I'm just glad Ser Jorah Mormont put up a better fight than his Edwardian descendant.
Also, I could imagine Mary going on and on about her pets.
Considering the losing fight I've had to avoid spoilers for season 3, I hope PBS understands the importance of airing it in the States closer to the British airdates for next season.
My guess is that it's been so late because of their belief that they need to air the Christmas Special along with the other episodes. Hopefully the strong ratings (up 54% from last year) that BBC America got for the Doctor Who Christmas Special last month will spur them into action.
And are other PBS stations using this as a fund-raiser? There are at least two 'live' Downton Abbey screenings around here - one at an old (but still in use) theater in Charlottesville where they're having a dress-up $50 per head dinner party beforehand, and then a free to everyone screening at 9:00pm.
In which a comparison between Downton Abbey and Entourage is plausibly made.
So we just started S1 this weekend (way to be up on the times) and it's very enjoyable. It's kind of interesting watching for the first time and knowing some people's complaints about S2 being "too soap opera-y" because some of these plots (I'm looking at you, Turkish Dude!) are extremely soapy and ridiculous. So I like to think I'm well prepared for viewing the rest of the series.
Man, Thomas and O'Brien are dicks. When's the Spanish flu hit England? The house could use a purge starting with them.
I wouldn't say its a complaint as much as a warning. Be prepared for soapyness and you'll love it, but if plausibility is your bag this may not be the show for you.
Season 3 is the first time I watching it live, so to speak, so this is the first time I've encountered Laura Linney's introduction. The fast-forward button got a lot of use last night.
Alan Cumming hosted Sherlock and was much better at it.
I almost dropped the show during season one because of the soapyness. I was hoping for something like "Remains of The Day", which is soapy in its own right, but it also spent time on the minutaie of butlery (is that a word?).
Once I realised it was more like The Young and The Restless I accepted it for what it was and was able to enjoy it more. There are still a few storylines that don't go anywhere but that's true of many shows.
>>There are still a few storylines that don't go anywhere<<
I think season 2 much moreso that season 1 suffered from pacing problems like this. Smaller storylines that dragged on interminably (Daisy and William, especially after he returned from the war) while larger options were completely rushed (spanish flu, anyone?).
This was better than the first episode of series 3, but Matthew and Mary need to sit down and be quiet.