This enchanting TV show gives HBO a run for its money

If you were a fan of Upstairs, Downstairs, Bleak House, or The King’s Speech, you’ll love Downton Abbey—a superb television show created by Julian Fellowes (the Academy Award–winning writer of Robert Altman’s Gosford Park, who recently became Baron Fellowes of West Stafford).

The action takes place in 1912 (the sinking of the Titanic is a crucial plot point), in and around the Edwardian mansion that gives the series its name. At first, at least, the characters are stiff, reserved, almost cold-blooded. But they’re beautifully rendered—each episode adds new shadings and reveals surprisingly rich emotional lives. (By season’s end, the mansion itself has emerged as a fully formed character.) The plotting is intricate, and the upstairs/downstairs aspect is especially well played: The show is very smart television, made for a razor-sharp audience.

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This enchanting TV show gives HBO a run for its money