Conversation in the office was grim the other week as discussion turned to a family that recently has fallen on hard times.
To start with, they nearly lost everything after the father made an disasterous investment. The husband of the oldest daughter made matters worse by talking to a financial adviser about the family’s investments behind the father’s back.
Meanwhile, the middle daughter chased an older man for a relationship few approved of. They planned to get married, but he left her at the altar.
More recently, the husband of the youngest daughter was caught at the scene of arson committed by radical political protesters. Chased by police, he escaped to rejoin the rest of the family, leaving his pregnant wife to fend for herself.
She eventually joined her family as well, and went into labor a few weeks later. She died that night after delivering a baby girl.
In the midst of all of this, a close family friend faced a cancer scare while another old friend of the father’s was locked up in jail, unjustly convicted for murdering his wife.
No, I’m not recounting the gossip of a local, unnamed family.
I am, however, summarizing the episodes from the latest season of the TV show “Downton Abbey,” a British “costume drama” that has taken America by storm.
Originally aired on the UK’s ITV in 2010, it was picked up by PBS for Masterpiece Classic the following January.
It has since attained a sort of cult following that even prompted our First Lady to beg—somewhere between forcing carrot sticks down youngsters’ throats and getting a hair style with bangs—for an early copy of the third season before its Jan. 6 PBS premiere.
I bring all this up now because I need to issue a warning: If you haven’t started watching it yet, if you have somehow managed to fight off the incredible social pressure and deep, hidden desire to find out what it is about, don’t.
Don’t watch it. Don’t let your television set hover near PBS during the 8 hour on Sunday nights. Don’t even touch it with the proverbial-lengthened pole.
I say all this with such authority because I am already a victim of the show, a “Downton Abbey” junky who knows the power and the gravitational pull of this elegantly disguised soap opera.
I didn’t know anything about Downton Abbey until a few weeks ago. I thought it had something to do with a group of nuns in the middle of some large metropolis.
But hearing of its popularity and impending third season, wife Hanna and I found the first season on Netflix. Curious, we watched the first episode. Then the second. Then the third.
Before we knew it, we were ready for Season 2. Tension rose when we found it wasn’t on Netflix and that the library had loaned it out.
I’m not proud of this, but we watched the entire first two seasons and the first episode of the third in less than two weeks. Which now leaves us to wait a week at a time for another dose, a taste just short of satisfying the craving for what happens next.
The disgraceful scandals, the ravaging conflict, the glamor and opulence and indulgence, and—dare I say it?—the beautiful antique Rolls Royce vehicles: These are all factors that combine to make “Downton Abbey” something of a narcotic, the vicodin of public television made possible by viewers like you.