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“Downton Abbey” for grown-ups

The popularity of "Downton Abbey," the BBC's stately home soap, has set some of the series' more bookish fans on a quest for Edwardian literature. Besides providing Maggie Smith with the opportunity to play a zinger-delivery system known as the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley, "Downton Abbey," in its more serious moments (which are admittedly few), examines a way of life on the cusp of profound change. Even if we're not living in a Jacobethan castle, we can sympathize with just how unsettled all those characters feel.

In a similar, if more elevated, vein, a BBC dramatization of the four Ford Madox Ford novels collectively known as "Parade's End" will arrive on American television at the end of the month. (HBO will air the miniseries beginning on Feb. 26.) The screenplay is by Tom Stoppard, and Benedict Cumberbatch, of "Sherlock" fame, stars. "Downton" comparisons will abound, though some viewers will be disappointed to find "Parade's End" lacks a mansion and wisecracking old ladies -- not to mention the complete absence of attention paid to the servant class.

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