January 5, 2014

Local fans prepare for 'Downton Abbey' season premiere

By CHRIS FASOLINO Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — The new season of “Downton Abbey” premieres tonight, much to the excitement of North Country fans.

The popularity of the show, which is written by Julian Fellowes and chronicles life in an English manor house during the early 20th century, is undeniable. So what draws viewers to “Downton Abbey?”

Elle Berger of Plattsburgh feels that the allure is hard to define.

“That is a mystery that everybody who is drawn to the show asks him or herself: What is it about this show that’s so addicting?

“I think it’s because the show is so colorful. The characters are colorful, and you get to live in another era.” The historical aspect therefore piques curiosity.

Berger compares the appeal of “Downton Abbey” to that of a good novel, noting that it is a combination of mood, character, tone and other elements.

And, she adds, “Downton” has “a secret ingredient”— its understated and quiet nature. This is a refreshing contrast, she feels, from the “noisy and fast-moving” television shows common today.


Last month, Mountain Lake PBS, which airs the program locally, held a 1920s Gala & Premiere inspired by “Downton Abbey” at the West Side Ballroom in Plattsburgh. Berger, who attended the event, said she thought it was “splendid” and believes there is a parallel between the show’s English countryside values and Mountain Lake PBS.

At Downton Abbey, she explained, “the family that lives there is responsible to the community — they provide employment and protect the landscape.” Likewise, she feels, Mountain Lake PBS is about “protecting and preserving what is good in the community.”

Many “Downton” fans have a favorite character — while others can’t decide.

Berger recalled that at the PBS gala, she picked Mary as her favorite. Now, she adds: “I’ve changed my mind in the past few weeks. Now I think it’s Mrs. Hughes. She is kind and caring; I think she is a gentle woman, and I really like that.”

Ed Kanze of Bloomingdale, who also attended the gala, does not have a favorite character, and he knows it.

“It’s beautifully written; the viewpoint is very sympathetic to all the characters. It captures the full spectrum of human behavior.”

The draw is such that, Kanze said, “we really don’t watch anything on TV — but we love ‘Downton Abbey.’”


Since the show airs on British television before its appearance on PBS, fans have the opportunity to pre-order; meaning that some will approach Sunday’s premiere full of questions, while others have already seen the new season.

Shara Wood of Plattsburgh, who has loved the show “from the beginning,” takes another course. She pre-orders every season, but waits to watch it, instead viewing the episodes week by week.

“I feel like self-control is so important with this show,” she said with a laugh. After the season is over, she goes back and watches all the episodes again.

“I just immerse myself in this world.”

In Sunday’s premiere, she said she expects to see “Mary in a lot of exquisitely tailored black gowns.” Wood loves the show’s period clothing.

She adds, however: “I do feel that, by killing off (Mary’s husband) Matthew, Julian Fellowes is trying to punish me for not contributing to PBS. Julian! I contributed to NPR!”

SEE THE PREMIERE The season premiere of "Downton Abbey" airs on Mountain Lake PBS at 9 tonight.