I am a person who gets way too attached to things that aren’t actually real. When I was young, I felt like my stuffed animals came alive any time I wasn’t around them, and bemoaned my leaving or my newest toy acquisition. (Toy Story and The Velveteen Rabbit really didn’t help this issue.) Now that I’ve crossed over into adulthood, I don’t think my inanimate objects come to life anymore (other than plastic storage container lids who seem to multiply in the drawers at night; I mean where are their matching container bottoms?!), but I do get extremely attached to TV shows. I live for fall and winter primetime when shows start filling up my DVR.
However, nothing has filled my heart and my soul (and DVR) quite like Downton Abbey…
Let me take you back to the spring of 2008. I was a senior Musical Theatre major, nearly done with classes and about to embark on “real life” adventures. During my time in Nashville I was lucky and talented enough to study film/TV acting with a studio outside of school grounds. It was there I first heard tale of this mysterious Downton Abbey. “Its about servants, and rich English people; they live in a castle. Its really good,” a fellow student had told us all before class started one night. Our instructor overheard and brought up the art of a good emotional cover — how Downton was a perfect example of having so many feelings bubbling below the surface, but no proper vehicle in which to make them known. As a twenty one year old woman-child in 2008, the art of a cover was, well, lost on me, and as intrigued as I was, I never got around to watching.
A few years later, it seemed everyone was worked up into a Downton Abbey frenzy. All over Facebook, I would see statuses posted lamenting something bad happening to someone named Matthew, or a quote about vulgarity not being used to cover a lack of wit…
Was literally everyone I knew watching this show?
Christmas of 2014: I got an Amazon Prime subscription as a gift. Work was slow, and I had time to kill at my desk. My best friend talked me into starting Downton. I reluctantly began to stream.
End of January of 2015: I had streamed four seasons of Downton non-stop.
March of 2015: My now fiance took me to Biltmore to see the “Dressing Downton” traveling exhibit. Upon seeing the first costume in the dining hall, I screamed and cried. I cried actual tears. When I say I screamed, I want you to know I did not gasp sharply. I full-on 1960s Beatle-mania fangirl screamed and started sweating. When I saw Lady Sybil’s gown, complete with baby bump, I unleashed so many spoilers that the ladies behind me were audibly upset and stormed past me. It was, to borrow from Jen Hatmaker, a whole thing.
You guys. There are two episodes left until this show is done forever. It is already done in the UK.
I need oxygen.
Do you also need oxygen? I feel like probably yes. You do. So what now? How do we all deal with this? I am here to help you. Well, sort of. First, let’s examine why I love this show so much. Why has this one show meant more to me than any other program ever has or could ever hope to? Why am I so invested and attached to these fictional characters in their fictional world that I actually feel a little uneasy when I see them on Instagram or a late night talk show wearing “normal” clothes and laughing about their upcoming adventures?
For me, Downton is the perfect storm of, well, perfection.
1. The Characters: Every single person on the show, regardless of their part is so invested in what they are doing. As someone with a theater background, I am awestruck every time an actor delivers a line in stunning perfection and clarity, in total calm collected fashion, while their world crumbles around them. And even though we begin in 1912 and are now about to hit the 1930s, the characters are still relatable. Love and loss, feelings of hope and despair, wanting more in life, yet being thankful for the life you have been given — these lessons are timeless.
2. The Costumes: I have seen the costumes up close (please reference the above) and they are even more stunning in real life than they are across a TV screen. The detail put into every single garment for both male and female cast members is just unreal. I long for the past; when everyone dressed up for dinner and when the world was a more aesthetically pleasing place (I type this as I sit in yoga pants and an oversized cotton shirt sooooo…) and getting to watch Victorian dressing at its finest is absolutely one of my favorite parts of the show.
3. The History: I love history. When I was little I would beg to go to Charleston, SC so I could go on plantation tours. My dad took me to Biltmore once when I was eight and I never wanted to leave. Watching how life went on for people nearly 100 years ago fascinates me.
4. Speaking of the Biltmore: Nathan and I love to sneak away to Biltmore whenever we can. We tour the house (I haven’t cried inside anymore I promise), stay at the Inn onsite, eat dinners with courses, and go wine tasting. Biltmore is just our thing. We love it there. There are so many parallels between the lives of the Vanderbilt family and that of the Lords and Ladies of Downton. So, once a week, even if I can’t steal away with Nathan to Asheville, at least I can get a little dose of the wonderful times he and I have had there.
What do you think? Do you love those same things too? Okay. Good. We are getting somewhere. Now it’s time to ask ourselves what we can do? Or better yet, what would Lady Mary do? Never one to sit idly by while an injustice was thrown into her path, Lady Mary would find some pragmatic way to handle this situation. However, just as Mary can’t stop neighboring houses from being sold at auction or bring Matthew back from beyond, I cannot rewind time and keep my beloved Downton Abbey on the air. Even though I cannot stop the inevitable from happening, I can order a boxed set of all six seasons and watch over and over again until my heart is content. Well, as content as it can be at this point. I think, realistically, this is all I can do to hold onto the legacy my favorite characters have created for just a little bit longer. That was sort of a big build-up to a really simple seeming solution. I feel very raw and emotional right now. Words are hard when those words detail Downton being gone forever. Who was I kidding up there? I am clearly too neurotic to help you grieve the end of Downton; I can barely get through it myself.
Downton Abbey has nearly drawn to a close. And although I have only been a fan for a short time, I am so distraught that my Sunday nights will soon be free of the trumpeting Masterpiece Classics’ theme song I can hardly think straight. My weekends will cease to be the same at least for a little while. But, after all, “what is a weekend” anyway?