If you haven’t watched “Downton Abbey” before now . . . are you OK? Because it was all everyone could talk about six months after it initially aired in the United States (10 months after it initially aired in the U.K.) I’m glad you’re back from the desert island you inhabited or are done with your Ph.D dissertation but seriously, now that you’re actively back in society, get on Netflix and watch “Downton Abbey.” Especially if you’d like to impress a lady.
You should have a passing knowledge of it if you’d like to give equal time to her interests like she is undoubtedly reciprocating right now by Googling who did what in the Home Run Derby. Luckily for everyone, I’ve got a handy guide to the first season of “Downton Abbey.” It’ll help you fake it without clutching your pearls through 10 hours of fancy hats.
Downton Abbey: Season 1
Quick synopsis: So there is this estate called Downton, which okay, you guys: Downton is the name of the whole village. The Earl of Grantham is the title of the dude overseeing that village. He is basically a landlord/mayor of that village. So he is responsible for keeping the livelihood of the whole village going, as well as owning a big house. Got it? The Earl of Grantham we meet in this case is named Robert Crawley. Seriously, invest a few minutes and Wikipedia how British titles worked. It will clear up a lot of things and is useful for all these British period dramas.
Anywho, the show opens in 1912 on the day the Titanic sinks. The cousin of Grantham (not an official title), next in line to inherit thanks to the entail (*see below) happened to be on board and thus, with him, sank the plans for the future of Downton Abbey. You see, Crawley/Mr. Downton only has daughters: Lady Mary, the oldest, prettiest, snobbiest one; Lady Edith, the Jan Brady; and Sybil, the plucky youngest. Lady Mary was supposed to marry the Cousin of Downton to keep the estate in the family. For the record this isn’t particularly weird for this time in British history (see: “The Importance of Being Earnest”).
It’s particularly bad news bears for Mr. Downton, who had to marry a *gasp!* American to get the most possible money into the failing estate. They have to search high and low and finally find the next male heir, Matthew Crawley, who is a third cousin who is *gasp!* an attorney who *gasp!* works. They coerce him to come to Downton and get prepped to inherit it, and he’s like, “Ugh, I have to have heavy dinners in formal wear instead of working all the time? Gross.” But he shows up anyway with his suffragette mother, and antics ensue.
These antics include: fancy dinners, a fancy flower show, Lady Sybil going to political rallies and showing up for a fancy dinner wearing *gasp!* fancy pants, a fancy Turkish diplomat dying in Lady Mary’s fancy bed, but then Lady Mary and Cousin Matthew get all Sam and Diane will-they-or-won’t they, and a fancy garden party. Throughout, Dame Maggie Smith tosses out zingers on the regular.
Also, there are servants who run the place, most notably: Bates, who was a war buddy of Mr. Downton so he gets a job despite a terrible limp; Anna, the sassy lady’s maid; O’Brien, with the hair; Thomas, the secretly gay one, which, whoa, (*see below); and Gwen, who wants to be a secretary and later shows us her boobs on “Game of Thrones.”
How to use this information
Impress your historically minded friends by: Pointing out exactly how an entail worked. Essentially, that all property is inherited by the next male in line in the family, regardless of how distant they are. This is also prevalent in Jane Austen’s novels. For instance, the Bennetts’ estate goes to an estranged second cousin, while the Dashwoods’ goes to a half brother. It happened all the time dudes, and women were essentially powerless in this system unless they married well.
Lady boner points: If you point out that England did away with this system of entail entirely in October 2011, most notably meaning . . .
Super bonus lady boner points: The impending royal baby will be now be third in line for the throne, usurping Prince Harry, regardless of gender (women could previously only inherit the throne only if there were no male heirs.) High-five, royal baby. Side note: the future heir to the throne can also marry a Catholic now, by this same ruling, although the heir him/herself must be a member of the Church of England. Trust me. Get yourself some extra points by mentioning the Royal Baby.
History lesson: Thomas, the secretly gay footman, could have gone to jail for being gay in 1916.
Lady boner points: If you point out that Thomas’ moral conflicts completely unrelated to his sexuality make him possibly the most interesting and dynamic character on the show.
Super lady boner points: Squint your eyes and do your best British accent as you pretend to smoke a cigarette. That is a fool-proof Thomas impression.
Impress your history buff friends: By pointing out that the social ruin that would have come from the discovery of Lady Mary, the eldest daughter, boning Mr. Pamuk to death before marriage really wouldn’t have been lifted until the 1960’s and the sexual revolution, although men could easily and frequently engage in sexual relations prior to marriage. Crazy, right?
Lady boner points: If you try a cheesy pick-up line like, “I wouldn’t mind if you Pamuk-ed me . . .”
Super lady boner points: But add, “. . . but I still respect your brain like you’re the Sybil to my Branson.”
Bonus fun fact: The name of the theme song is “Did I Make The Most of Loving You?”
There are no lyrics. Impress her with your own words.