Downton Abbey Season 5: Episode 1
After a year away, our friends at Downton Abbey are back. Season 5 is always a dangerous season in a TV show. The best shows reinvent themselves, the ones that don't seem to drag on. Downton doesn't have the ability to reinvent themselves. The reason we love Downton is because our characters are so rigid that any change is totally noticeable. And I did notice that the actresses are a little less interested in looking like they are just average people back in the 1920's. I thought all the downstairs staff are starting to over do the make-up and are looking a little too Hollywood. Never fear, the show still has all that we love. In an age of shock television it is difficult to find a show that doesn't just shock for shock's sake but also is engaging. Downton does a great job of balancing. I recently watched the pilot to Black Mirror and I felt that the writers were only trying to shock me. I feel this way on HBO shows as well. I wish writers would try to shock me with original plots and characters. It was the writing and characters that originally made me love Downton. Nothing new really occurred in the season premiere and that is OK. I call this the "Cheers" effect on television. We didn't want Norm and Cliff to go out and get a life, we wanted them sitting at the bar making us laugh. We don't want Robert or Carson to understand the changes that are taking place in the world. We don't want the Dowager and Cousin Crowley to get along, we want them persnickety as ever. We don't want the Downstairs staff to grumble about their position, we want them happy to serve. I have heard the writers of Star Trek say it was hard to write under Gene Roddenberry's rule of no conflict between characters. I am sure Downton struggles to stay within their set up, but they need to or the show will not work.
Problem is with no real changes in five years my affections are waning. There was a time when I looked forward with anticipation to see what would happen next on the show, now I look forward to it with that same feeling I get when I want to wear that old college sweatshirt. It has gone from appointment TV to comfort TV. That is the cycle of a show like this. I have a feeling Downton is gonna go on for many more years than it should. The actresses will get richer and thinner and the plots will recycle. Your gramma will still love it, but the awards and excitement will be gone. I used to root for Mary and the guy who left the show. (I already forgot his name, so it may not have been the best idea.) I now don't really root for anyone, but I smile while I watch it.
In the end, I say, continue watching Downton Abbey. It is cute, it is comfort but as far as being innovative Television it is probably past. Hard to blame them though because that is what the entire show is about; holding on to an idea that has gone by.