***Spoiler Alert *** My wife is a serious Downton Abbey fan, so as a result I have been following the show too. Downton packs a lot into forty-five minutes. I enjoy the period touches and the constant habit the English have of not being physically capable of communicating openly about well, everything. What is fascinating is how the show is placed in the context of history when change (World War I, economic concerns, women’s suffrage, the roaring twenties) is being forced on the Abbey whether the people there are ready for it or not. I have my favorites—Matthew Crawley and his Mum, and Maggie Smith’s comic timing as the Dowager. They always provide a good laugh. I also find Lord Grantham to be an interesting character. His impeccable posture and royal air hide an unsure man with a great many weaknesses just beneath the surface.
Toward the end of the first season I began to notice that something was missing. Where were the people of African, West Indian, and Indian descent? Aside from the brief appearance and demise of the Turkish diplomat Mr. Pamuk, I never saw any people of color. When the youngest daughter, Sybil, elopes with Tom, the chauffeur, I liked the chasm it created, how issues of class came to the forefront. Tom was definitely the outsider, and was treated with contempt by the royals and the servants alike. Tom’s romance and eventual marriage to Sybil upset the delicate balance between the Abbey’s masters and its staff.
For a television series that goes to great lengths to get all the nuances of the period right, historical accuracy should force the writers to inject some degree of race into the show. There are some rumblings from the show’s writers and other places online that there are plans to make the show more diverse. When they do, it should create opportunities for some cracking good storytelling.