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Downton Abbey

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I've been thinking about your reply most of the day and it made me realize that I think DA and the cultural work it does is almost the exact opposite of Mad Men. I enjoy MM after a fashion, but like so many one note parodies ("oh, isn't it funny how we use to be nostalgic about this period because, boy, oh boy, wasn't it awful?") it tends to wear thin on me very quickly.

Do you really think that's what MAD MEN is about? About us feeling superior to the past? I think that's a surface level reading myself.

Me too. I don't think what makes MAD MEN exceptional is its cultural critique.

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I guess I'd love to hear more about this in the MAD MEN thread. I liked DA, but I think MAD MEN is the superior show.

Anders, I think I'll (I hope, graciously) decline that offer. I think that discussion would too easily morph into (if it isn't already) a partisan debate, and I'll concede you're not in the minority. (Also, I just don't feel like I could muster the energy to contribute to a discussion framed in that way.) I have no interest in debate(s) about why one show is better than another (or not), though I have mild curiosity about analytical comparisons that illuminate either art object (or both) in a way that helps clarify for me (or others) what it is about the thing one prefers that makes one prefer it. Persiflage's comments were actually quite enriching for me in that regard, and I meant to share with him how they were so. If I offended or riled fans of MM in the process, I apologize, and I certainly wouldn't want to compound that error by going into their (virtual) house and fanning the flames.

I do not think Mad Men is about us feeling "superior" to the past (just as I don't think Downtown Abbey is about us feeling inferior to the past). I do think both Mad Men and Downtown Abbey are as much about our relationship to the past as they are about the specific moment in history that they portray. And I do think think we are today, in this moment, a cynical age. As such, I think part (much? most?) of the cultural work that Mad Men does is reinforce the notion that we are right to be cynical, because while it critiques the 60s with biting, Back to the Futurish, 20-20 hindsight, it offers (me) little to nothing in the way of alternatives to the life and values it critiques.

I do think Downtown Abbey is ultimately more complex, because it, at least, invites us (or me) to consider alternatives both as held within the period itself and in our responses to them. Mad Men has often provoked sympathy in me but never (in 4+ seasons) empathy. I find its point of view to be ultimately just so limited. Perhaps that's an indictment of me and not the show, but Downtown, for all its hamhaned pacing problems in Season 2 will occasionally surprise me. Or, rather, the characters in it will occasionally surprise me. Both shows give me characters who I think are unhealthily determined by the cultural environment they are in, but in showing me characters who (try to) make meaningful choices, DA gives me a belief that there is a core person underneath the cultural determined one with whom I relate. Once I get past the thick layer of ennui that infects everyone in MM, I just don't see much there.

Huge caveat--it's worth pointing out that neither show is finished. As such, making final judgments about what either does (or fails to do) is, of course, premature.

Edited by kenmorefield

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I do not think Mad Men is about us feeling "superior" to the past (just as I don't think Downtown Abbey is about us feeling inferior to the past). I do think both Mad Men and Downtown Abbey are as much about our relationship to the past as they are about the specific moment in history that they portray. And I do think think we are today, in this moment, a cynical age.

Thanks for this Ken. This is much more enriching than insisting that one is better than the other.

I agree with you on the above, while I disagree on the specifics of the way MAD MEN asks us to engage with that relationship with the past.

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As Ken points out above, Downton Abbey is not finished, and season 3 premieres in the US on PBS tomorrow night. I am primed with all the semi-spoilers from TVGuide. Let the melodrama recommence!

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This is now the only must see TV in our house. My wife is in love with this show, and I find it entertaining. Sometimes I'm entertained by the overall story and the time spent with these characters, sometimes I'm entertained at the overall story and the time spent by these characters.

So far season 3 is much more the latter iteration of entertainment. Medical Scares (again)! Inheritance issues (again)! These times, they are a-changin' (again)! I'm hoping for some big shift in action, but I'm glad that they've moved on from is Dowton doomed by the Canadian railroad crisis. I also noticed a lot more double entendres and the like this time around. Envigorating indeed.

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I've been amused to find that the top story at Patheos Movies, which says "How Downton Abbey Should End," directs readers to my Holy Motors review. It's been that way for a few days now, in spite of the fact that I reported it. I wonder how many people have actually followed the link and read the whole review...

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Out of the blue, a co-worker told me last week that she'd be passing along Seasons 2 and 3 of "Downton Abbey." She knows I enjoyed Season 1 and couldn't get to Season 2 the week I had it on loan from the library (Sarah plowed through it without me).

 

Now I'll be able to watch both seasons at my leisure. Which means I'll probably wrap them up around the time of the Season 9 premiere.

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