March 5th, 2012
I don’t know why I’ve taken such a voyeuristic pleasure at the doings of Downton Abbey. Family dramas have been around at least as long as when John Galsworthy penned The Forsyte Saga. And yet, I was hooked by the tale of a typical English aristocratic family and its servants below stairs as they barely survive the trauma of the First World War.
While waiting for the next installment doled out like pheasant consomme every Sunday evening, I took the opportunity to order in and watch Manor House, a PBS series produced in 2002, in which a family and several volunteers set up house in Yorkshire at an estate and tried to live according to Edwardian rules. It was the closest I’ve seen on a so-called reality show to a complete disaster. The butler bent the rules and still the young footmen, kitchen maids, and other staff could not adjust to eighteen hour days, primitive working conditions, and calling someone else “sir.” And this was England, no less. How would Americans react to such indignities? What do you mean, I can’t bring my iPad?
Anyway, they had their share of servant troubles at Downton Abbey, but at least they knew how to deal with a corpse found in the eldest daughter’s bed. You just can’t find help like that anymore.
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