We live in the 21st Century, a very modern, fast pace and for most of the world, spoiled with technology. Society in general focuses on the issues of daily life, whether political or economical issues or sport related topics. From that standpoint the producers of a British TV drama: Downton Abbey, were reluctant in investing money in a full season that pretty much will focus on a family life in the early 20th century in Europe, pre-WWI, an era called Belle Epoque. The drama will mainly focus on an aristocratic family and their struggles to survive, to cope with tragedy and to understand that at the end of the 19th century the world was changing very fast. The show also will depict the interaction between two distinct social classes. On one side the family that inherited and owns the estate “Downton Abbey” and the other side their employees.
The producers were aiming for maybe one million viewers and never thought that their TV drama would be the most watched TV series in this segment not only in the UK, or several countries in Europe, but all over North America and the world. The series touched a bit on social issues at that time, like the Communist Soviet Revolution in 1917 with a classless view of society. Also the influence of the United States as an emerging powerful economy.
According to Jeremy Egner of the New York Times, in his article “Downton Abbey’ Reaches Around the World”; the show won the Golden Globe Award, the Primetime Emmy Award and the Guinness World Records for the most acclaimed English-language series of 2011. It earned the most nominations of any international television series in the history of the Primetime Emmy Awards. By the third season it was one of the most watched TV shows in the world. The producers probably were shocked! Definitely the actors and the whole crew were amazed with the huge success not only in the UK but worldwide.
So, what happened? Why was the audience of the 21st century so interested in this “Downton Abbey” drama?
There have been social media discussions, Facebook fans pages, even university level case studies regarding Downton Abbey. The question always caught my attention, why so much interest in a TV drama for an era set 100 years ago?
I watched and must admit that even the music “intro” at the beginning of the show, makes us report to a completely different world. A more calm, not so fast pace, specially Season I prior to WWI, where society developed the “art of convivium”, meaning living in an atmosphere of convivial friendship among each other. In my opinion the audience in a certain sense was longing for something of that era. Longing for something of the past. I am not saying that everything was perfect in that era, but also not everything is perfect in our 21st century era as well. I think what was good, nice and different in that era, attracted the attention of the audience.
In our busy lives, people can take time to travel and see something from the past. Maybe because it is easier to reflect on how the world was and from that perspective try to solve modern problems. Or simply a way of escaping from the modern problems.