Downton Abbey goes to War

But first a few metrics: Pegasus Pulp has been in business for one month now. In that month, I put up five different e-books and sold 15 copies altogether over all platforms. There is a more detailed breakdown on the Pegasus Pulp blog.

What is more, the traffic at this blog also multiplied and this site got more than 11000 visitors in July 2011. Alas, most of that traffic increase is due to Mssrs. Strunk and White and not to Pegasus Pulp.

I’ve blogged before about Downton Abbey, a British costume drama about some very aristocratic people and their servants set in the 1910s. I was profoundly uninterested in Downton Abbey, when it first aired last autumn, and when I actually chanced to see an episode it was dull as dishwater. Still, plenty of Brits and particularly Americans really seemed to love Downton Abbey and couldn’t get enough of the show. And particularly the Americans were all, “Oh, it’s so romantic and the house is so great and the costumes are so wonderful.” In short, it seemed that particularly for American viewers, the appeal of Downton Abbey was very much a case of “history as a theme park“.

Viewed in this light, I find it interesting according to the Guardian season 2 of Downton Abbey will take place during World War I and will apparently include quite a bit of combat action.

Now World War I is a period absolutely not suited to the “history as theme park” approach, at least not if trench warfare is depicted at least halfway realistically. And even though Downton Abbey may not be my cup of tea, I have no doubt that the production team will portray the trenches of World War I realistically. Of course, World War I is less rooted in the cultural memory of the US, probably because the Americans were only involved towards the end, than in Britain, France, Belgium or Germany. So there is a chance that some American viewers will still view the World War I setting of season 2 as a cool historical theme park. However, I predict that a lot of those people who loved season 1 will react with “Hey, this is not the theme park I wanted to see.”

And by the way, am I the only one who thinks that Downton Abbey is a total rip-off of Upstairs, Downstairs? Both shows are set during the same period, both focus on an aristocratic family and their servants, both present the long twilight of the British Empire. What is more, the first few seasons of Upstairs, Downstairs were set during the late Victorian and Edwardian era, then there was a whole season of World War I culminating in the Spanish flu, then the final season was set during the roaring twenties and culminated in the 1929 stock market crash, which bankrupts the aristocratic family. And now the second season of Downton Abbey will also be set during World War I, while a projected third season is supposed to be set during the 1920s. The parallels are really obvious.

Besides, I never even liked Upstairs, Downstairs all that much, because at least half the characters were incredibly unlikable. I watched it, sure, but as far as British period television of the 1970s is concerned, I always preferred All Creatures Great and Small and particularly The Onedin Line. So I don’t really see the need for a show that is basically an Upstairs, Downstairs remake and for a bonafide Upstairs, Downstairs sequel. But apparently the whole twilight of the British Empire thing appeals to a whole lot of people.

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