The Grantham family run and own a vast estate with acres of land and property and they are often seen on horseback. But only minimally. I think there has been a foxhunt at some point and we've seen one of the ladies on horseback at a steeplechase. I think the fox hunting element has been only seen on a very small amount of screen time to avoid upsetting the politically correct contingency, but let's be honest, the aristocracy have not been known to avoid upsetting people with their hunting, shooting fishing and generally ill-treatment of the wildlife of the countryside. There has been some shooting going on, but what else do these 'types' get up to? Compared to the downstairs staff, they're generally a very dull lot. 'Stiff upper lip' describes them well. Don't show your emotions (the men, of course.) except when the dog dies, not show any affection for your better half. Reserved, stoical etc etc. Meanwhile, the women are self-centred, moody, emotional, and thoroughly heartless in some cases. Mary spent episode after episode moping after the death of Matthew (understandable, up to a point I suppose.) And then she became a man-chaser. Building up the hopes of many men and then ditching them at the last moment. Lady Edith has been seen moping over her child which she had illicitly and then tried to palm the poor child off on a farmer and his wife who live on the estate and then pretended that she wasn't her child. What a tangled web etc etc.
I suppose 'Downton Abbey' does have it's appeal. It's well enough made, written and acted. A lot of time and effort has gone into the look and feel of the thing. The period is evoked well with both the settings and costumes. But to be honest it's somewhat dull. It can best be described as 'chewing gum for the eyes.' What I mean is, it doesn't take many risks. It's typical Sunday evening entertainment. It fits the so-called 'Ovaltine Television' mold. We always seem to get either vets, nurses, midwives and other assorted professions in our weekly dose of drama on a Sunday night. And invariably costume drama of some sort. It's the sort of last thing we see before we go to bed as the weekend draws to a close and have to contemplate going back to work on Monday morning. It's totally inoffensive, doesn't upset anyone in any particular way and is thoroughly Middle Class. We get our fill of nostalgia, although, as someone or other said, 'Nostalgia's not what it used to be.' It moves along at a snails pace. No speeding cars, police chases, guns being fired. It won't 'frighten the horses' as someone else also said. I don't dislike it and it gives employment to a great many good actors. I have to say it's great to see Dame Maggie Smith in something and definitely in her element. As I've said in an earlier post, she does seem to get the best lines.
The upstairs characters are not really characters I can identify with. They're rich and arrogant. Can't they see that their lifestyle is gradually coming to an end? Would they not have had some idea that things would change after what happened in Russia in 1917 with the Revolution? As would have happened when Charles I was beheaded and Cromwell took over with the Commonwealth? I can't really identify with them. They don't in general terms have 'character journeys' because they don't have to strive for a better life because they have money, position, power and so on. Meanwhile, the downstairs staff have to not only work extremely hard, but if they want to break free from their lives of drudgery, they have to work harder than most to get anywhere away from the confines of the house. Although, saying that, they do have the protection of the house and the family, security up to a point, a roof over their heads and free board and lodging.The best drama comes when the characters have to go on a journey, a really good story arc, which means that by the end of the novel/play/film or whatever they have changed from how they started at the opening of the story. Think of Oliver Twist or David Copperfield or even Les Miserables, where Jean Valjean changes gradually during the course of the story.
I have seen documentaries on television which give a relatively accurate picture of what life in a country house would have been like, similar to the large house depicted in 'Downton Abbey.' Yes, I know, it was never intended to be a documentary. It's more of a soap opera for those who want to have aspirations above their current position in life. Similar in some ways to 'Dynasty' or 'Dallas.' But there are aspects of life on a country house and estate which seem to have been conveniently forgotten. Such as the fact that the staff have to get up extremely early each morning (usually before 6 a.m.) to make up the fires, carry coal in buckets great distances from goodness knows where, empty the slops (or to be more accurate, the bed-pans, 'guzunders' etc etc.) because most of these houses didn't have sanitation as we know it in the 21st century. Then there's the matter of slave ownership, as many aristocrats made their fortunes by owning slaves who worked for them on cotton plantations. And then when slavery was abolished many former owners got large sums of money in compensation from the British government which they then often used to invest in such things as the railways, canals and many industries. And I suppose to be fair, 'Downton Abbey' is set in the early part of the 20th century when most of what I have mentioned in this paragraph would have been eradicated. Also, many of the owners of these houses and estates were fair employers, who treated their staff with respect and gave them decent wages, for the time.