Laura Mackie may well be calling her Lady’s Maid and asking her to open the champagne. The Director of Drama Commissioning is doubtless celebrating what many critics thought impossible – a critical and commercial hit. A period drama, no less – on ITV.
Although ITV has had their fair share of populist TV over the years, it’s safe to say that period drama has not found it’s natural home on ITV. And although critics may argue that the salacious comings and goings of the residents of Downton Abbey, owes more to Footballers Wives than to Bleak House, it is nonetheless the type of water-cooler TV that the channel desperately needs.
DVD boxset of the first series is bound to fill a few stockings this Christmas
The adventures of Lady Mary, Carson, O’Brien and Maggie Smith’s scene stealing Dowager Countess has given ITV the most successful period drama since Brideshead Revisited. Topping the viewing figures at 11 million viewers, Downton Abbey was a record breaker in a number of other respects. At a reputed cost of £1million per episode it is the most expensive British TV show ever produced, it holds the record for a single episode viewing on ITV Player.
Penned by Oscar winning writer, Julian Fellowes, the cast included British theatre actors Maggie Smith, Samantha Bond, Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, Penelope Wilton and Dan Stevens, as well as introducing a range of new, younger actors.
The secret to Downton’s success is simple, it is exquisitely shot, written and acted. The series finale having aired on November 7th, the DVD boxset of the first series is bound to fill a few stockings this Christmas, in preparation for the next wave of Downton Fever, coming with the airing of the second series which begins filming in March. Which gives our American cousins enough time to catch up as Downton airs on PBS in January.
– Martin Schurman