'Downton Abbey' continues with sass and charm


This undated publicity photo shows Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess, left, and Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson from the TV series “Downton Abbey.”

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The third episode of the third season of cult obsession “Downton Abbey” premieres Sunday. To hear others speak of “Downton” is to be subjected to repeated “amazings!” followed by hurried highlights of each character. The tried-and-true British “Upstairs, Downstairs” formula of the show has piqued American interest since its beginning, especially among fickle millennials. 

“Downton,” NOT Downtown, could have easily been dismissed as another BBC period piece. But the show has attracted a varied audience by encompassing many plot lines and genres. It has been dramatic, tragic, romantic, mysterious and humourous. Humourous enough to cause even the heartiest American to use the British spelling of humor.

Local lawyer Paige Bruton Williams said she was surprised by the success of the show with American audiences.

“PBS was always the channel to turn on to educate yourself about the Civil War or entertain your cats while you left home. Now, it has suddenly turned into the channel everyone is watching with just one show,” Williams said.

“Downton” proves there is a corner of public television where manners and propriety matter and are pored over by thousands. Not before Downton could a 20-something American tell you what a footman did. “Downton” makes the job of a footman exciting and scandalous. 

Viewers have connected over a mutual dislike of whiny middle daughter Edith and respect for the Dowager Countess’ impeccable snark. While some cultural references might very well go over Americans’ heads, it is the characters’ depth that makes watching every episode a necessity. UT senior Crystal Flinn has a tradition of getting together with friends and baking English-themed treats before each episode. 

“I’ve become so involved in the characters’ stories. They are so well-written and as time goes by you get more invested in what happens with these people,” Flinn said.

The Dowager’s quick wit has become a favorite of fans, despite her often closed-minded and judgmental nature. Viewers count on her for surprising insight when it matters most, whether that be when Lady Edith is left at the alter or when the very fate of Downton is at stake.

“It is something I really look forward to. I have to watch out though because the Dowager’s sass is contagious,” Flinn said.  

Cali Bittick, a vet tech in Austin, prefers the whirlwind romance of Lady Sybil and former chauffeur for the Grantham family, Tom Branson. 

“There’s nothing like forbidden love, especially when rigid English tradition is mixed in,” Bittick said. 

This season started by throwing many story lines up in the air including the very fate of Downton itself. While there is quite a bit to catch up on, it’s not too late. “Downton Abbey” airs on KLRU every Sunday at 7 p.m.