Catholic Review of “Downton Abbey”

As you know from earlier blogs, my husband and I are fans of TV.  We take advantage of programming on many channels AND the incredible invention of the DVR (does anyone still watch commercials?).  Now, it’s not like we watch TV all day, everyday.  It’s just our preferred way of vegging in the evenings after our son goes to bed.

As our regular fall and spring shows round out for the season, we get into the summer time lull of very few options at night.  So, we take to watching series off of Netflix or movies more regularly.  And, we take recommendations from friends and family, too.

Well, I have to give credit to our recent favorite show to my sister and brother-in-law, who recommended in several months ago, my mom (who, thankfully owns the Season 2 DVD), and a couple of friends who finally pushed us over the edge and assured us that it was worth the watch.

The awesome cast and the Abbey

Our new fave is the PBS series Downton Abbey, which, unless you are living in a cave, you have probably heard of.  Honestly, my husband and I were like, “Meh” when we first heard about it.  Early 1900s?  England?  PBS?  We’re not exactly Jane Austen fans or people who have no other options than public television (not knocking it, just saying).

But, we finally bit the bullet, jumped on the band wagon, and have not looked back since.  And, when I saw we, I mean WE.  Oh yes, my husband, too.  Sure, I had to convince him to watch the first episode with me, but it didn’t take more than that.  He was as hooked as I was from the opening credits.

In a nutshell, it’s about a wealthy family who are the proprietors of a huge home, grounds, and staff that was passed down within the family.  The story begins with and is built mainly upon the issue that the family has 3 daughters, no sons, and the person who was set to inherit the family fortune and property is rendered incapable (no spoilers here!).

I won’t go into more than that about the plot, but I will give you my reasons why I think you should watch it and that I know you will enjoy it.

(1) It’s on PBS.

Why does that matter?  Because that means it’s clean, family friendly, and actually educational in it’s ways.  I said to my friends last night, if I were a high school history teacher, I would want to use the series to teach from because not only would I not have to worry about there being anything offensive in it, but there’s also so much material to draw from.

I’d say that it’s easily PG-13 (and, even LESS PG-13 than anything that’s on TV or in the theaters).  If you had a daughter or son who were interested in that time period, you could actually watch it together and have some good conversations.  There are a couple of things that happen that you would have to be ready to discuss with a teen, but again, compared to most of the crap out there for teens, it’s nothing.

(2) It’s well written.

For being basically a period-piece soap opera set beginning in 1914, it’s actually very entertaining, enlightening, and easy to follow.  Granted, we watch with the closed-captioning on, so that we don’t miss anything in the variety of English accents.  And, yes, there are occasionally references that we don’t get (hey, we aren’t history buffs!).  But, the plot moves well, there is well placed humor, and there is great character development.

I apologize that this meme will not make sense unless you have seen the show…so, maybe you will watch the show just to appreciate this picture…

(3) Morality, virtue, vices, and the complexity of humans is explored.

From the outset of the show, there are characters you can tell who are “good” and ones who are “bad”.  But, even the characters who are upper class, upstanding, and “good” sometimes make bad decisions and have to muddle through the consequences.  And, even those who are bad and even despicable make choices that they aren’t proud of or happy with and they have to live with those regrets.

(4) It’s just plain interesting.
Class separation, major historical events, family dynamics, a society and way of living that are completely foreign to us in modern day – it’s fraught with topics of interest that lead to discussions.  From servants who want to change their lot in life to sibling rivalries to parents and grandparents who disagree with
what’s best for the family – It’s actually not that far off from what we deal with in day to day life.

Needless to say, I give it two thumbs up, 5 stars, a hearty pat on the back.

The first season is on demand on Netflix and Amazon Prime, too.  The second season you have to rent or buy at this point.  And, from what I understand, there will be another season on PBS before too long.

So, from this Catholic Realist, I say, give it a chance and start watching it soon.  Seriously, it’s good stuff.

I’m not a legitimate reviewer of anything…


  1. Anna · July 6, 2012

    This is one of the many Catholic reviews I’ve read about the series. I don’t know if my husband and I are Catholics from another planet, because after hearing so much praise coming from our Catholic friends we finally sat down and started watching Season 1. Well…we just couldn’t move past the gay kiss. Sorry. It was unnecessary, since it was already obvious that the two were attracted to each other, and it would have been best to leave it at that. The problem is that we have become numb to the subtle attacks to our morality like this one, and ‘hey, this is nothing compared to what’s out there’ doesn’t justify the scene being included in a series supposedly written by a Catholic author. We have become complacent and accepting; as long as it’s just a little scene, who cares? If you administer poison a drop at a time, you become immune to it.

    • Emily · February 26, 2013

      Thank you, Anna! You are the ONLY Catholic/Christian I have seen acknowledge this. Everyone else I talk to just seems to ignore it. When all of my Catholic friends were recommending this show to me, saying it was “family friendly” and “clean,” they most definitely failed to mention this scene. Now I am very hesitant to watch the rest.

  2. Pingback: How Romance Novels Almost Ruined My Marriage…In Bed | The Catholic Realist
  3. ParentingIsFunny · February 4, 2013

    Oh, yes!

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