Last weekend, Jon & I sat down to breathe. As we exhaled, we hit the remote control and searched for some veg t.v. – as in, thoughtless, let’s escape for an hour, mind candy. Downton Abby popped up on the guide. So we decided to see what all the hype is about.
Alright. So there. I’m outed. Yes, we’re one of the few – the remnant – who has yet to experience the pleasures of an old English manor and its inhabitants as presented by Masterpiece Theater.
So, we flipped that way and were pleasantly surprised. First and foremost – no commercials! Second, such a lovely experience. Almost like getting dressed up and being served High Tea at the Ritz. Of course without having to get dressed up or go anywhere besides under a big blanket on my couch.
Having no connection to the story, we were thrust into the middle of a dramatic saga. Actors that I’ve loved in the past (…seriously where has sweet Elizabeth McGovern been – I just adore her – and who can ever get enough of Maggie Smith?!) popped up on the screen and we tried to figure out who was English, who’s American and who is serving whom. We quickly discovered that the family, in financial straits, was on the brink of needing to sell the estate, a devastating and life-altering proposal. We were also introduced to a pending marriage teetering on the edge due to differences between the adoring, yet troubled couple.
But that’s just the manor owners. Life issues of those who gracefully and with great dignity maintain the workings of the household get as much airtime and spotlight as those in high station.
Seamlessly the program moves from story to story with utmost respect. From the heartbreaking account of a young lady who has (for some reason unbeknownst to Jon and I since we’re newbies) chosen a life of impropriety, to an inmate, to a rude butler to a sister jilted at the alter. Tasteful is the word that comes to mind.
Everything about it – tastefully done. I’m sure there are disagreeable story lines here and there, but the proper feel about it all offers something of a respite for viewers.
This is why I think the show is an out-of-the-ballpark hit. When Masterpiece Theater gets four Golden Globe nominations, something is striking a chord. People are craving the respect interwoven within this simple program. The order, the propriety, the politeness, the modesty, decency, correctness, decorum, restraint, … the list goes on.
When the couple in danger of breaking their engagement seals their renewed commitment with a respectful kiss, eyes closed lest they see each other before the wedding, every girl watching swoons … because we want someone to care about us enough to respect boundaries and treat us if we are a prized possession only to be handled with utmost dignity and care.
Quite the contrast from our society today. Case in point: Just the other day I endured a less than dignified escalator ride in Northpark Mall. With my 5-year-old in hand, I shook my head and stared in disbelief at the boxer-clad bottom parked within inches of my child’s face. I’m often amazed at how the pants of certain young people defy gravity as they stay cinched in a place not long ago would have been considered falling down. We finally reached the top and watched the gentleman, left hand holding his britches and right hand reaching for his scantily-clothed girl friend, penguin-walk away.
Yes … we’ve come a long way from Downton Abbey. But since we apparently love it so much, can’t we bring some of it back? Maybe it starts simple. Maybe something like dinner tonight involving sitting at the table and politely conversing rather than inhaling and racing to the next thing. Maybe it could involve letting a sister get in the car and choose her seat before a clamoring brother pushes past… or maybe holding a door open … or waiting to be spoken to … or grooming our kids to err on tasteful rather than shock … or … well, lots of stuff.
As we consider the Presidential Inauguration today and contemplate the path of our nation, we can remember what Chuck Colson always said, “Culture doesn’t change people; people change culture.” So, let’s bring back some Downton Abbey propriety.
One home at a time.
Thanks for walking the road with me.