Home > Thoughts > Why I Don’t Like Downton Abbey

Why I Don’t Like Downton Abbey

I work at the library and much ado has been made of the phenomenon that is Downton Abbey. At one point, there were 200 people (including me) waiting to discover why Downton Abbey was great. Well, I can tell you for all of the great raves about it, I was heartily disappointed. Why, oh why? (WARNING: Spoilers ahead.)

1. Mary, one of the main characters, isn’t very likeable. Mary is a central character, someone the viewer is supposed to feel sympathy for since she is the eldest and must marry her next of kin (a cousin) to inherit her estate and fortune. It’s a shame then that Mary comes off as dour and bitter, which makes me feel even less sorry for her state of affairs.

2. Edith, Mary’s sister, isn’t very likeable either. Edith is a very secondary character but she doesn’t invoke sympathy either. In fact, she is the scheming sister willing to take her sister’s leftover suitors if they’ll have her.

3. Cora, Mary’s mother, is like a white wall—there but uninteresting. Cora should be a character who is more interesting, especially since she ends up getting pregnant later on in the season, but it seems as if she’s more there to help events plod along rather than being a central party to them.

4. Thomas and O’Brien are pure evil. I know, I know. Not everyone can be as great as Bates, Anna, and Gwen and there MUST be some antagonists but I couldn’t even sympathize with their villainous behavior. Is Thomas mean because he’s gay and can’t come out publicly? Is O’Brien a bitch because she smokes? I’m making stuff up; I don’t have any idea. There’s nothing to help me figure out why these two act the way they do.

5. I could care less about the entail. To be honest, I didn’t even know what it was when I started watching the show and by part three, it had been mentioned so many times that I thought I ought to look it up in the dictionary. After I discovered what it was, I suddenly realized the show’s premise revolved around Mary (a character I didn’t like) and the entail. Considering that I didn’t care about the entail from the get-go and still didn’t as the show went on, I realized that the main premise of the show hadn’t sucked me in. That’s a fail for me being interested in a show.

6. I discovered I don’t care for period drama. This is probably one of my main issues. When Sybil (the youngest sister) buys a pair of bloomers and everyone looks at her in shock, I rolled my eyes. I had a hard time accepting the show for the time period that it was in, which isn’t the show’s fault. It just isn’t my cup of tea.

7. It’s a soap opera. One of Mary’s suitors dies after orgasm (it’s not explicit but implied) and Mary, Cora, and Mary’s maid Anna haul him back to his bedroom to be discovered in the morning. All I could think after seeing that was, “Really?” This happens in episode two or three of the season and I kept watching to see if it was a one-off episode or if the show would build off the events of “poor Mr. Pamuk.” (I especially feel even less sorry for Mary during the whole ordeal.) It turns out the show appeared to be heading in the direction of building off of the event, and I immediately realized I’d have to keep watching a show that was bound to get more and more far fetched as it went along. I gave up midway through season one.

Granted, the acting isn’t bad, the script isn’t terrible, there are some characters who are likeable. (Maggie Smith, of course, is excellent.) But with the combination of everything I outlined above, the show was bound to be a disaster for me. If you like Downton Abbey, congratulations. If you don’t, I’d love to hear from you and your reasons in the comments below.

P.S. I really, really wanted to like the show just because it’s been so hyped up. Le sigh. Thank God for BBC’s Sherlock.

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  1. Ella
    November 13, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    Well same here..though there were characters I liked, Mr.Beats or Bates, Anna and The youngest sister. Also i didn’t like that sisters are practically competing against each other and that the story became far fetched that I couldn’t stand it anymore that I had to fast forward so I’d know how the first series ended. This show is overrated.(gave my dvd away)

  2. Amy
    January 6, 2013 at 8:35 PM

    I read the hype and thought it was going to be something special. I tuned in to the first episode and in about 20 minutes (trying to give it a chance after the first 10) realized it was garbage. It started out at a frantic pace with an assortment of unlikable characters. I really wanted to like it and PBS has done good “period” shows in the past, but I won’t recommend Downton Abbey to anyone.

  3. Susan
    May 17, 2013 at 2:39 AM

    Thank you!! It bores me, too. I believe the series’ creator was responsible for the film Gosford Park, which I walked out of. Oh, I also have a hard time understanding the accents.

  4. February 22, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    Frankly speaking, I can’t stand it, either. Period dramas just aren’t my thing.

  5. Lou Fiander
    March 4, 2014 at 9:07 PM

    First of all it’s not about the entail, it’s about bringing to life a period in history when women were suddenly having to adopt new roles and thrive in ways they had not been expected to; about a period in history when the wall between classes where being demolished, à la Sybil and her chauffeur, à la Grantham having to learn new ways to keep his family’s lifestyle intact, à la Bates being respected for himself despite in little bit of time in The Big House. I love seeing how the war changed things around. It’s not an era I particularly like but the show helps me completely see how those changes came about.
    Secondly, Mary’s character develops to the point where you start cheering for her. She’ll never be my fav character but I must say she impresses as she changes and mature, finds her reason for being. Edith is sniveling from beginning to end and I’ll be glad when (if) she finally gets a backbone. Cora and her mother-in-law are there as the link between past and future, sorta stuck in the middle. It’s fascinating to see how the ‘downstairs’ part of the population at Downton Abbey accepts their lot in life and actually consider themselves lucky. To think that there are more staff than there are ‘masters’ is so bizarre. To think that the ladies (and the gentlemen) need help to change into outfits or to get ready for bed. And to think that this really happened in real life, well, all this makes you think about past lots versus present ones. Oh yes, this is a soap opera, but I see nothing wrong with sugar-coating any chapter of history if it’s going to help it go down with ease and pleasure!

  6. msmoneypenny too
    March 20, 2014 at 12:26 AM

    Unlike what others have said here, I LOVE period Dramas. Merchant Ivory films, Anne of Green Gables and even House of Elliot are on regular rotation on my Blu-ray player. I saw a couple of episodes and thought: ”meh” and dropped it out of boredom. Friends and family were shocked I wasn’t following it religiously, jonesin’ for the next season, and declared: ”What? But that’s your thing!” “You LOVE the Edwardian period!” “How many times did you see Titanic…?”. Yes, that is me but the story and or characters have got to be good.
    This show leaves me wanting. I go along with what Kass wrote.

    To me,these are the Elite of the Golden Age coming to the end of that era and “struggling” with less servants and affluent suitors to marry daughters off to. Boo hoo. I think maybe it’s hard to sympathize because it was such a time of Haves and Have-nots and that is the reality of world we are facing today. I don’t want to see the Kardashians lamenting the theft of $250, 000 in jewelry (because, you know they make that in a month for doing nothing, really). Am I a bad person if I don’t care? BAH! That is another topic.

    I think Upstairs Downstairs worked better because it was really about the “help” and their perspective. This show is more “Upstairs” and I think that is where it loses something. It’s pretty to look at (read: Kardashian) but is there anything more?

  7. Susan Massy
    October 12, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    I had to see if I was the only soul on the planet who is not impressed with Downton Abbey, so I searched the web. Now I can vent. I am a long time fan of British TV and have a personal collection that I watch over and over again because they are so authentic, so well done. I think this program is way below their standard and don’t understand all the praise. I think it’s great that it has helped Pubic TV to raise funds but really it is not any where near the best of British imports. Their is no humor which is harder to write, so the story and characters are one dimensional and the plot seems contrived. If something good happens something bad will surly happen to carry the story along. On the other hand, I am mad about Call The Midwife; Perfection!

  8. Maggie
    December 28, 2014 at 11:32 PM

    So glad to find others who are not impressed with Downtown. Substitute two other “D” shows and you will have the same thing, just in a different era; by that I am referring to Dallas and Dynasty. The mother, Cora, is too stupid for words; her lady’s maid would have been sacked without a reference for not picking up the soap that Cora slipped on and then miscarried. I think the creator jumped on the soap opera band wagon when he discovered Americans were going nuts over his show. There is so much in their behavior that does not fit. Mary would not have fallen in the sack with that Turkish guy..she would not have thrown her virginity away on that man, it would have been too important to securing the estate for her family. Bates is boring, that actor played the same character on “Larkrise to Candleford” so is a one note actor. The rape scene of Anna was also stupid, Bates may be boring but he is very attentive to his wife and would not have sat there listening to music and not gone with her to get something for her headache. They should have recast Matthew as that death was just way too much drama. The huge time gaps are a problem too with important emotional/mental struggles glossed over with the passage of time. I could go on more but this is enough. I watch it hit and miss to see if it might improve but to me it keeps going downhill.

  9. Nancy Gowins
    January 7, 2015 at 12:11 AM

    Odd To I So Appreciated Your intelligent Remarks Regarding Downton Abbey. I’ve Tried Watching It Only Twice And Ended Up Aborting Before The Episodes End. I Found Lady G. Milk Toasty, Pathetic And Yes, The Show Nothing More Than A Silly Soap Opera Swathed In Beautiful Costumes And A Period Setting. I Guess I Appreciate More Enlightening Entertainment. Thank You, Its Nice To Know I’m Not Alone! Please Excuse All The Capitals..Not Sure Why This Is Happening.

  1. January 3, 2013 at 11:13 AM

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