I don't watch a lot of television, but when I find a series that does strike a chord, I tend to become obsessed and arrange my entire week around it.
My TV obsession du jour right now is Downton Abbey. I almost gave up on it after the first few episodes, but now I'm thoroughly addicted.
Here are five reasons I'd recommend that you privilege Downton over Glee:
1. Plot. We've just finished Season Two of Downton over here -- so I won't include any spoilers. But suffice to say that while Glee felt really fresh during its first season -- forcing us all to go back to that awkward, uncomfortable space called High School -- it hasn't really evolved very much, plot-wise. The basic arc every season seems to be one of the Glee Club being threatened with destruction -- whether from inside or outside -- and having to somehow manage to overcome that implosion. And after a while, that just gets boring. Downton, on the other hand, started off in an almost ridiculous fashion. (I don't know about you, but when that guy died having sex, I nearly clicked the "off" button. When, since Private Benjamin, has anyone had to rely on that kind of plot device?) Since then, however, they have figured out ways to make the plot grow outward, rather than inward. Sure, it's a soap opera. But at least there are multiple and constantly moving threads, rather than one central narrative.
2. Character Development. Similarly, and I've harped on this before, the characters in Glee feel like they are becoming more and more one-dimensional, while the characters in Downton are getting more nuanced. It's true that Glee has done a great job in Seasons Two and Three of featuring some of the minor characters like Brittany and Mike and Tina. But I've been particularly disappointed by Sue Sylvester (played by the marvelous Jane Lynch) who -- other than a very moving episode where her Downs Syndrome sister dies -- has become a sort of sinister, freak show maniac over time. As Downton moved into Season Two, in contrast, I felt that all of the main characters -- and particularly the nastier ones -- began to show their humanity, which really went a long way towards making the show feel more realistic.
3. Leading Man. This is, of course, purely a matter of personal preference. But I've always been pretty creeped out by Matthew Morrison (Mr. Shue) and it's not the hair gel. Downton's Hugh Bonneville (The Earl of Grantham) isn't exactly about to win People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive award. But there's something wonderfully noble and endearing about him that makes you want to sit down for an extended fireside chat. (Or is that just me?)
4. Leading Lady. This is a really tough call because it's comparing apples and oranges. I adore Jane Lynch, (along with just about everyone else on the planet, as far as I can tell.) If she hasn't yet won you over, watch her perform one of former Representative Anthony Weiner's Facebook messages with Bill Maher (NSFW). But Downton has Dame Maggie Smith in the role of the Dowager Countess of Grantham. And as we all know, there is nothing like a dame. (You can see how terribly hard it is for me to renounce the show tune aspect of Glee...)
5. Setting. Sorry, Ohio. I know that you're a pivotal swing state and all. And I've always adored this song about you, which was apparently performed by Jane Lynch and Carol Burnett last season on Glee. But suburban, mid-western America can never hope to hold a candle to the breathtakingly beautiful English countryside. I don't even think that the town of Rippen -- featured in Downton Abbey -- actually exists. But, oh, how I long to go there all the same. Don't you?
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