The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 3, 2014

Fans anxious to see return of 'Downton Abbey'

Sipping high tea or not, Joplin area fans say they are hungry to see the new season of the Masterpiece Classics hit series “Downton Abbey” that debuts Sunday.

The season’s first episode will air for two hours starting at 8 p.m. on Ozarks Public Television, which locally is KOZJ.

“The reason I like it is it’s about a family and the transition from the industrial era and how they are adjusting,” said Teresa Massa, a local viewer who said she and her husband have imbibed in the English custom of high tea a couple of times while watching the show, drinking tea while eating crumpets, fruit and cheese.

“Downton Abbey” is set in the early part of the last century as a family, the noble Crawleys, and those who serve them cope with the struggles of life and the changing times that come to bear on their old royal way of life in England.

The Massas have been tuning in since the beginning in 2010.

Teresa Massa said she discovered the new show one evening when “I was just surfing the channels and I saw Maggie Smith, so I started watching it because she’s a great actress.”

Smith’s character is a wizened but sassy dowager countess whose put-downs are cutting but tasteful.

Indeed, the series is well-heeled with writing and acting nobility. Its creator is Julian Fellowes and the cast includes Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern and Lesley Nicol.

Massa credits the writers and actors with developing the characters and the times in which they live fully in 3-D.

“Just the way they have treated the different characters, their lives and how they are changing and thinking,” is of interest, she said.

The setting of the first season starts on the eve of World War I, and this season’s shows will depict the year of 1922. Seeing how the straight-backed Edwardian family adjusts to the changing times, the changing roles of women during that period and the human frailties of those who live both upstairs and down in the castle where the series is set, keeps fans like Massa coming back.

There is the effect of what Massa calls “the American influence,” when outspoken Martha Levinson, played by actress Shirley McClaine, comes from America to visit her daughter, who is married to the family patriarch.

“But a great deal of it is the study of the history: World War I, the roaring ’20s and how they’re getting prepared for the 1930s,” is part of the program’s interesting plot, she said.

While the nobility upstairs face their challenges, the show also is compelling for its look at the lives and the roles of the servants and household staff downstairs.

Massa said she finds it interesting to view “just the way they do the cooking. I think we’re so used to the microwave. And how they do the ordering for the household. There’s an episode where one got in trouble for buying cheap stuff. It’s just different aspects of life.”

Downton’s popularity is demonstrated by its win of 10 Emmys and two Golden Globes. Last season’s finale drew 8.2 million viewers, The Associated Press reported.

That audience would likely please the residents of Downton, who, “though they have conflicts in all the levels of that household, they finally pull together,” Massa said.

The setting

“Downton Abbey” is filmed in and around Highclere Castle, a 200-room estate in Newbury, England.

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