Downton Abbey producer defends drama

Maggie SmithDownton Abbey’s executive producer Gareth Neame has defended the ITV hit drama from criticism that it is turning into a soap opera.

Downton Abbey continues to draw big ratings to ITV on Sunday evenings but despite its ratings success the second season continues to divide opinion amongst fans and critics. The fast paced nature of the second series – in how it has covered the war – has been criticised by fans and reviewers alike. The final episode of season one was set just as war was being declared across Europe but the opening episode of season two was set two years later in 1916. Sunday evening’s episode saw the end of the war and some fans are disappointed at how quickly Downton Abbey moved through the war years and how historical events such as the Easter Risings in Ireland and the Russian Revolution were only briefly mentioned and hardly covered.

“The narrative unfolds with speed and energy. Given that ratings are high and a much wider audience enjoy Downton Abbey than previous period dramas, it would suggest that people are enjoying the pace of the show.” – Gareth Neame quoted by The Mirror

The plots of the second season have also come under some fire with them being compared to that of a soap opera. Sunday evening’s episode saw a wounded soldier arriving at Downton Abbey claiming to be Patrick Crawley, the true heir to the estate who was presumed to have died in the sinking of the Titanic. The soldier claimed to have survived the sinking but was left with amnesia. The storyline has prompted some fans to compare the drama to Dallas or as one reviewer wrote, according to The ‘Mirror, ‘Crossroads with posh frocks‘.

“It has become one of the most talked-about dramas in a generation. It is hugely gratifying that the show has struck a chord with viewers. It looks at all aspects of the lives of its key characters and perhaps in that respect could be compared to a soap. But Downton is, however, a very different type of drama. First and foremost it is a period costume drama that is filmed very much in a contemporary style, which I Michelle Dockeryhope adds to its appeal.” – Gareth Neame quoted by The Mirror

Another issue for fans – which is beyond the dramas control – is the number and length of ad-breaks during the episodes. At the start of the second series there were numerous complaints about the number of commercial breaks though admittedly the same complaints were made about the first series last year. The sponsorship stings also came under fire from fans who felt they were inappropriate.

ATV Today critic Queenie is a big fan of Downton Abbey, having praised it in her column, but admits “The second series has zoomed through the First World War like a marathon runner keen to get to the finish line. That’s a bit disappointing because there is so much they could have done- just look at how Upstairs Downstairs covered the war.” And on last week’s plotline Queenie has this to say “It was rather like something out of Dynasty but the acting all round was superb and it was balanced out with the storyline of the Dowager Countess, played by the brilliant Maggie Smith, desperately trying to find something to keep Cousin Isobel occupied”

ITV has yet to officially order a third series of Downton Abbey but given its strong ratings each week such a commission seems a merely formality. This week’s ATV Today Poll is on whether or not ITV should order a new series. Voting is simple; the poll is in the top left hand side of this site. Select your choice and click vote. You can post during comments about the second series of Downton Abbey at the bottom of this page.