Downton Abbey, the British import that is quickly spreading across the world (trust me – it’s all people seem to watch in New Zealand, outside of egg-chasing), is returning for a second series this Sunday on PBS.
The period drama attracted universal acclaim for its first season, having won six Emmys last year. It’s also nominated for four Golden Globes this year. It drew 5 million viewers to each episode – some seriously big figures for PBS – and has generally become the most-loved British series since Top Gear.
From this Sunday (9 EST), the grand old English castle and its ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ inhabitants return for an eight-episode run that stretches from the Battle of the Somme in 1916 to the Spanish ‘flu pandemic in 1919.
So what’s the appeal of this quintessentially British production? Executive producer Rebecca Eaton told USA Today:
“It’s just a damn good story. That is what people are responding to — it’s so beautifully done. They’re fascinated with the Englishness of it.”
Downton is created, written and produced by Julian Fellowes (who also wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Gosford Park in 2011), and he thinks that sensitive handling of social inequality is what appeals about the drama:
“What makes it popular is we treat all the characters the same. We don’t suggest that the ‘upstairs’ people are more important than the ‘downstairs’ people. That was a decision that turned out to be right for the zeitgeist now.”
And it almost goes without saying that Brits seem to love the show – the final episode in season one brought in 12.4 million – more than one-fifth of Britain’s 60 million population.
Will you be tuning in to Downton this weekend?