'Masterpiece: The Manners of Downton Abbey'
(DVD / NR / 2015 / PBS)
Overview: What goes on behind-the-scenes to get the manners of 1900s Britain exactly right on Downton Abbey? Enter the world of Edwardian manners with host Alastair Bruce, historian, expert on royal ceremony and custom, and the historical advisor to the hit drama series.
DVD Verdict: Alistair Bruce provides lessons in etiquette in the Edwardian Age in this Masterpiece film. Many of the actors from Downton talk candidly - it's fun to see how different some are from their characters in real life. If you like social history, the time period of Downton, or write historical fiction of this time period, you will find the topics of interest.
I have to admit re: the TV show that I was hooked after the first five minutes and come heaven, hell or high water, I was going to see Downton Abbey twice; the second time to pick up the points which I knew would be too fast, and possibly convoluted, to follow the first time round. I have watched Masterpiece since the inaugural with Alistair Cooke, and I can't remember anything as engaging and entertaining as this.
As a cousin of an English family with deep affection for the monarchy and respect for the aristocracy, my perspective is an odd mix of Democratic ideals, old-time Republican values and curiosity about and appreciation of the social structure which prevailed so long in England.
Downton Abbey appears to present a very balanced depiction of the social, political, economic and historical forces which drove the lives and fortunes of the classes and produced strange and almost incomprehensible behavior to comply with an unwritten, all-pervasive code. I am completely fascinated by the events and reactions and what would appear to be almost puppet-like behavior on occasion.
Back to this delightful new behind-the-scenes DVD, Alistair Bruce discusses how to sit, how to dress, how to eat etc. It's quite complicated - you will be glad you didn't live back then. If you are a Downton Abbey fan, I think you will enjoy the content in this rather entertaining, and eye-opening documentary. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the additional Special Feature of "How to Make a Dress."