As the most popular drama series in the history of PBS, Downton Abbey has captured the imaginations of millions of viewers around the world, bringing to life a grand English estate and the people connected to it. Over the last six seasons, the show has spanned 13 years of romance, tragedy, change and triumph. With the final season now airing in the U.S., here are 10 reasons Downton Abbey continues to be the best show on television.
1. Julian Fellowes’ incredible storytelling
No stranger to period drama, Julian Fellowes won the Academy Award for his screenplay, Gosford Park. And, as the writer and creator of Downton Abbey, he continued to work his storytelling magic by writing incredible characters who stay with you long after the final credits.
2. Talented ensemble cast
There is no single star on Downton Abbey. Instead, there is an incredible lineup of actors, whose chemistry and talent make the show such a success. The cast is anchored by veteran actors, including Dame Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Jim Carter and Hugh Bonneville. Plus, the series has launched the careers of several other cast members, including Dan Stevens, Michelle Dockery, Joanne Froggatt and Lily James.
3. Unforgettable roles for women
Downton Abbey features many incredible female roles, but what makes the show stand out is its disregard for age. Some of the best scenes are between the older women, whether it’s the bickering Lady Violet and Isobel Crawley or the quietly supportive Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore. Even better, the characters are allowed a chance at romance, despite being women of a certain age.
4. Memorable one-liners
From T-shirts to mugs and even tea towels, Downton Abbey’s dialogue is so popular it now graces the mundane items that fill our lives. With such gems as Lady Violet’s, “Don’t be defeatist dear, it’s very middle class,” or the ever classic, “What is a weekend?” the show is filled with memorable one-liners that are not to be missed.
5. History brought to life
The series begins in 1912 with the sinking of the Titanic, and throughout six seasons, it touches on important historical events such as World War I, the Russian Revolution, the 1918 flu pandemic and the rise of Hitler. Unlike a stodgy historical drama, Downton Abbey stays fresh and exciting by focusing on the everyday lives of its characters and the choices they make as they maneuver through a changing world.
6. A peek at life upstairs and downstairs
It’s hard to deny the allure of the glamorous and aristocratic Crawley family, who are masters of withering glances, quippy retorts and disastrous dinner parties. However, those in the servants’ hall provide a fascinating counterpoint to the family upstairs. With strict codes of conduct and a rigid order of precedence, the members of service navigate a world of snobbery and backstabbing that rivals that of the nobility. It’s a wonderful illustration that people are very much alike no matter their station in life.
7. Endless love stories
The sweeping romance of the show is one of the great joys of watching Downton Abbey. Someone is always falling in or out of love. There is the epic on-again, off-again relationship between Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley. Then, there is the perpetually tragedy-struck couple of Anna and Mr. Bates. And, who could forget the slow-building romance between Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson? Love is one of the enduring themes of the show.
8. Fabulous period fashion
It’s impossible to talk about Downton Abbey and not mention the exquisite gowns, hats, hair and makeup that parade across the screen every episode. From the ornate evening attire of pre-World War I to the looser, boyish looks of the ’20s, the series seamlessly takes the viewer on an eye-candy tour of early 20th century British fashion.
9. Gorgeous interiors
Continuing with the visual feast that is Downton Abbey, one can’t overlook the stately homes filled with gorgeous interiors. Massive columns. Swoon-worthy balconies. Twinkling chandeliers. Even the lamps and paint colors seen on the show have developed a loyal following.
10. Highclere Castle
If there is a star of Downton Abbey, it is the stunning Highclere Castle, the real-life stand-in for the show’s fictional estate. The breathtaking estate is the heart and soul of the series and the pièce de résistance of this television masterpiece.