(This article appeared previously on Grown & Flown.)
Last night’s season finale of Downton Abbey — the period drama megahit from PBS Masterpiece — meant the end of an era for millions of fans. Here are the 11 things we’ll miss most:
1. Theme Song
The gorgeous orchestration of the theme music by British composer John Lunn prepared viewers for the weekly feast of more audible pleasures to come.
2. Opening Photo Montage
Creator Julian Fellowes is a master of detail and his opening montage richly displayed life in both the upstairs and downstairs quarters at Downton. Fellowes’ wonderful dialogue and highly textured use of period furnishings in the television production were of the caliber of his feature film Gosford Park, whose script he wrote, winning a best screenplay Academy Award in 2002.
Lord and Lady Grantham faced challenges with their daughters and extended families that were surprisingly relatable.
3. British History
Every Downton Abbey episode gave viewers a chance to absorb lessons in British history. The writers covered WWI, the influenza epidemic, the decline of the landed aristocracy, the beginnings of the Irish Free State and the Roaring Twenties. We learned so much watching.
4. Interior Design
I savored the details of Downton Abbey’s set design, and wondered what it would be like to live with the sweeping staircases, vaulted ceilings and formal home furnishings. Every Sunday night, I was inspired to take my own decor up a notch.
5. Parenting Lessons
Lord and Lady Grantham faced challenges with their daughters and extended families that were surprisingly relatable. Watching the interpersonal dynamics presented vivid examples of parenting do’s and don’ts. The world may have changed much in the last 90 years, but the challenges of parenting remain unaltered.
6. The Grantham Clan
Downton had an expertly drawn cast. Fellowes made these characters real to me and I became invested in the lives of both the gilded Granthams and the downstairs help.
7. Smash Hit
Downton Abbey was the rare quality costume drama, the biggest success ever for PBS and ITV, where it aired in the UK. I recall watching every episode of Brideshead Revisited, and my fellow Grown & Flown blogger Lisa Heffernan fondly remembers Upstairs, Downstairs. But those shows were televised in 1981 and 1971, a reminder that programs like this do not come around often.
8. Gorgeous Clothes
The ladies’ period costumes were stunningly beautiful. From wedding gowns to sleeping attire, the luxurious fabrics and intricate accessories were breathtaking. Watching the show felt like playing dress-up. Just imagining the contents of the Grantham ladies’ closets made me want to put long leather gloves and strands of pearls on my Christmas list.
9. Maggie Smith
Dame Maggie’s lines alone made the show worthwhile, and she dominated each and every scene. I leaned into the TV whenever she appeared, to make sure I didn’t miss a word (although I could always count on seeing her in a Monday-morning meme with the best zinger of the previous evening).
10. Lady Mary’s Suitors
The hopes for happily ever after for Lady Mary Grantham and Mathew Crowley ended with the Season 3 finale. This led to a steady parade of handsome leading men interested in the wealthy widow. Her pickiness meant we continued to stand in the televised receiving line for her potential suitors.
11. Date Night
Downton Sundays became a regular date night for my husband and me. We would set a fire in the fireplace, pour two glasses of wine, and watch the show together in our empty nest. Discovering a show we both enjoyed was a gift.
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