The Superbowl or Downton Abbey?

Last year 114 million people watched the Superbowl.  I watched the commercials and Madonna–there wasn’t anything else on, and it was nice to relive my teens by subjecting my kids to the Material Girl’s halftime show. Besides, as a college football fan, I’m just not that into pro-ball, and the Superbowl isn’t must-see TV for me.  Heck, I didn’t even know the Ravens and the Giants ‘Niners (thanks Ladonna…LOL–see what I mean?) were playing until yesterday. I do watch it, but I’m secretly rooting for the commercials.

But this year, there’s a new competitor for my attention:

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That’s right…I’ll give up on America’s biggest sporting event to watch a bunch of aristocrats and their servants make not-so-polite conversation and struggle to find their way in 1920s England. Downton Abbey is my favorite show on TV right now (since Fringe ended) and it’s fast becoming event television for me. Frankly, after last week’s episode, I’d have to have TICKETS to the Superbowl to miss Downton this week.

What’s so absorbing about watching a period drama about a gentler time, you ask? Because it really was a gentler time, or at least the show  portrays it that way, and I think we could all use a little of that in these digital times. Civility in the face of disaster, charity in the face of ridicule, strength in the face of tragedy–these are traits to emulate, not eschew. On the show, there are no explosions (now that the WW1 episodes are completed anyway), no lurid affairs (well, if you discount that youthful transgression of Lady Mary’s) nor any yuk-yuk-yuk humor.  What they do have is an engaging story that shows the struggles of the upstairs as well as the downstairs…and no one has it easy. The acting is superb, the costumes are beautiful, and there’s something amazing about how a drama full of good breeding and courtesy can still be so dramatic. Last week’s episode had me crying my eyes out. Downton Abbey takes risks, not just in being a “quiet” show, but in how expediently the creators use their characters to create tension. From Carson’s regal, old-school butler to the progressive, yet often unlikable, Edith–the show doesn’t shy away from showing the prejudices and weaknesses that make us human. And that makes for darn good television.

So that’s what I’ll be doing Sunday night (I’ll still watch the commer–I mean, the Superbowl until Downton Abbey comes on). Are you watching the game? Or are you taking advantage of low traffic at your favorite restaurant because everyone else is at home, glued to their TVs?

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