Friday, January 29, 2016

Why 'Downton Abbey'?



     Chicagoans watch four hours and 47 minutes of television a day, on average, according to Nielsen, making us 13th in the ranking of big city TV viewing, a full hour less than glued-to-the-tube Cleveland, where they watch nearly six hours a day, one quarter of the time available for humans to live.
     Having spent my first 18 years in the Cleveland area, I can explain. You watch a lot of TV because, well, otherwise, there you are, in Cleveland.
     I tend to sniff at television. When people ask how I manage to write a regular newspaper column plus magazine articles and a steady stream of books, I reply, "I never watch TV."
     It's true. Excluding Bulls games, I don't turn the thing on, and never at a set time to watch a particular show. I haven't seen "Game of Thrones" or "Empire" or "Broad City" or "Veep" — in fact, I had to Google "Top TV shows" to generate the list of programs I haven't seen, because otherwise nothing came to mind.
  

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20 comments:

  1. Not even Downtown Abbey can entice me to watch TV. I think I have no soul.

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    1. No but you are missing one of the most intriguing and effective forms of storytelling. The drama played out over years allowing for nuances and development of character that other medium can not as effectively present. Shunning television is like shunning plays or movies, losing out on any exposure to an art that is not really replicable in other media.

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  2. Glad you got on board, NS. I had missed the first four or five episodes, then heard so many favorable reviews I had to try it, and never looked back. Everything about the show is appealing IMO, largely because it doesn't try to be more than it is. Mr. Barrow is a favorite of mine, the closeted gay footman who plots and schemes, gets rejected by his crushes, and gives off the appearance of arrogance while hiding his sensitive soul. (If I had been forced to guess who your favorite character would be, it would indeed be Lady Mary, who is perfectly played by Michelle Dockery.) I'm sure I'll buy the DVD set.

    I meant to post something yesterday about Eli's Cheesecake but was really busy and time got away from me. I've ordered from them a few times and have never been disappointed. For anyone interested, here is a link, which includes sampler cheesecakes with a variety of flavors:

    http://shop.elicheesecake.com/category/cheesecakes

    SandyK

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    1. I had their lowfat sugarless cheesecake shipped. Well worth it.

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    2. Another thing I like about Eli's is you can freeze individual slices and grab one (or more if you have company) whenever you feel like it without having to thaw out the whole cheesecake. (Keeps the calorie count manageable as well :)

      SandyK

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  3. What you have missed by missing so much of televisions Renaissance period is its successful adaption of long form storytelling. Downton does that beautifully. So do many other shows. For exampl, The Americans, about undercover Soviet agents operating in the US in the 1980's takes an old television formula of a weekly spy caper and turns in into a fascinating mediation on marriage ( the spies are required by their country to pretend to be a couple) with deeper and more complex character development than any 2 hour movie or 500 page novel could allow. Dowtntons almost over, find your next show!

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  4. Suggest getting hold of Six Feet Under (HBO). It ran five seasons / 63 episodes starting in 2002 on HBO. It is a singular experience. Guessing it will fit your temperament perfectly.The series won a Peabody Award "for its unsettling yet powerfully humane explorations of life and death."

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    1. I found 6FU engaging for a while, then thought it jumped the shark when they made Rachel into a sex addict.

      Bitter Scribe

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  5. Ah Cleveland! "Detroit without the glitter." Or is it the other way around.

    Some people dismiss the show as an upper class soap opera. As if the great classics of Victorian literature, which appeared in serial form, didn't follow the same conventions. Although it is clearly fiction, it does have an air of authenticity, due to the painstaking production values and because its creator, Julian Fellowes, is of that world.

    You might also enjoy "Wolf Hall," the eight episode dramatization of Hillary Mantel's two excellent novels about the Tudors.

    Tom Evans

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    1. "War and Peace" is an upper class soap opera.

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    2. I DVRed "Wolf Hall" so I wouldn't miss an episode. It's pretty good, also authentic with how people lived, dressed and interacted in Henry VIII's court.

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  6. It's a wonderful series, although I think Lady Mary and the Dowager are snobbish b*****s.

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  7. It reminds me a bit of the old "Upstairs/Downstairs" serial.

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  8. Neil, if you're up for a modern Shakespearean tragedy, please take a look at 'Breaking Bad'. The opening scenes are shot in a cinematic style, the writing crisp and sharp, and terrific acting. It is the best show I've ever watched - and would put any film to shame in terms of plot, character development, and great story-telling.

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  9. Maybe I'll give it a try, but...

    The airwaves (cables?) were/are full of shows that people I respect, both critics and ordinary viewers, rave about, but that just don't click with me. "Breaking Bad." "The Sopranos." "Game of Thrones." "House of Cards." Some, like "Six Feet Under" (referenced above) and "Sex and the City," start out good but proceed to go off the rails as far as I'm concerned.

    I used to worry about this, but now I don't. If it's a flaw on my part, I have lots worse personal flaws to worry about.

    Bitter Scribe

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    1. There seems to be an abundance of "quality" television shows now, which is good in one way, but too time-consuming. You really have to limit your choices or you end up scheduling your life around it -- a bad idea. Any show that is now in it's third or fourth season is too long for me to binge on.

      I remember when "Game of Thrones" first started I used to watch it and recommended it on Facebook. No-one ever replied, and it started off with a small audience. After it jumped the shark (my opinion), I gave up on it. Sure enough, the past few years it's been one of the all-time top-rated shows, but still I'm glad I quit it.

      "Six Feet Under" was very entertaining and a high quality production, but had it's downside as well. (The show always began with someone dying, sometimes in a most spectacular or unusual fashion.) Certainly not for everyone, but quite moving at times.

      SandyK

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  10. Lawrence also said, "If I had my way, I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly, and a Cinematograph working brightly; then I'd go out in the back streets and main streets and bring them in, all the sick, the halt, and the maimed; I would lead them gently, and they would smile me a weary thanks; and the band would softly bubble out the 'Hallelujah Chorus.'" I guess it might soften the harshness if we understand that he himself was one of "the sick, the halt and the maimed."

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  11. Makes me want to revisit that amalgamation of prophetic looniness and bardic eloquence. I had a rich uncle who visited Freida in New Mexico shortly before her death and bought a rare copy of "Lady Chatterley" from her. So many books. So little time.

    TE

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  12. It's a great period piece and the costumes, settings and social expectations of that time regarding all the characters seem authentic. I doubt very much the titled women of that period enjoyed as much political liberty as these women seem to have attained. It's a dressed up soap opera and I'm not pleased with some of the story lines (especially those cut off before they have time to develop), but I enjoy watching the saga.

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  13. Give Victoria , now on Sun. eve on ch. 11 a try.

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