It goes without saying that everyone with a screen and power was either watching or should have been watching the Downton premiere on Sunday night. The episode began at 8 p.m. our time. I realized this at 7:54.
Amby got the fastest bedtime routine in his life, and I sank into the couch at 8:02, just in time to catch one of those luxurious Viking River Cruises commercials. Joseph got an extra long viewing of the Old McDonald/Baby Einstein video on YouTube. To each his own.
BUT! This is a post on what else there is to watch in life besides Downton Abbey, and specifically, what to watch if you're an Amazon Prime subscriber.
1. The West Wing (1999 - 2006)
Politics, Catholics, beautiful recessed lighting in plushly-carpeted hallways--what's not to love? The first four seasons of The West Wing contain some of the best writing and snappiest dialogue of any television show I've ever seen, all thanks to show creator Aaron Sorkin. After his departure, though, the show lags for three more seasons. And yes, it is a show created, written and acted by people whose politics, morality and values clash greatly with my own. Of the few episodes that deal directly with abortion, I often rolled my eyes at the expressed opinions, paused the show, and then gave Sean a 5-minute counterpoint. Hey, nothing wrong with honing those debate skills.
Martin Sheen (Catholic in both show and real life) plays the leader of the free world with undeniable likability, visible humility and fatherly grief when tragedies inevitably strike. Bradley Whitford (pre-moustache), Richard Schiff and Allison Janney seem born to play their roles. Plus, and with no qualifiers: Rob Lowe.
One night every other week, I bring the iron and ironing board up from the basement, along with eight of Sean's dress shirts and a bottle of starch. "Turn it on," I say to Sean. He knows that means this show. More often than not, we end up mocking the folks who think they can get 3000 sf, an updated kitchen, hardwood floors and "an outdoor space" in Napa for $149K. But equally entertaining is watching in shock as a couple spends $700K on a 450 sf New York loft.
Disclaimer: Many seasons feature same-sex couples buying property, along with non-married couples buying homes. We're not big fans of watching either.
3. Sherlock (BBC 2010 - JAN 19 ARE YOU READY???)
I've already reviewed the fine gentlemen of Baker Street here, but I couldn't resist putting them again on this list.
4. Upstairs Downstairs (BBC 1971 - 1975)
Before Downton, there was U/D. Before Carson, there was Hudson. And before Lord and Lady Grantham ruled the screen, Lady Marjorie and Sir Richard Bellamy taught us manners and how to take tea.
I watched all five seasons of U/D last year, then watched seasons one and two of Downton. Though Downton far surpasses its precurser in beauty of setting, cinematography and costume, Upstairs Downstairs still wins for story arc and character development. Also, Downton contains far more villainy than U/D. Watching the mischief and malfeasance of Thomas or O'Brien often made me shudder (queue the slippery bar of soap scene). Maybe plot lines like those are necessary for a cast as large as Downton but for the smaller cast (and smaller house in upscale London), no such gimmicks were needed. The whole series is a gem.
5. Larkrise to Candleford (BBC 2008 - 2011)
Sensing a theme of period English dramas? Yeah. But, to use a joke from this series, it's my one weakness. Meet Laura, a teen girl from the rural village of Larkrise who comes of age in Candleford, the bustling city 10 miles from her home. Her postmistress cousin Dorcas agrees to board her and give her a job in her post office. The series boasts Downton's Brendan Coyle (pre-Bates fame) for the first three seasons, but he leaves to "take a job in Oxford." (WE know he really went to canoodle with Anna.) Memorable and sweet supporting characters make Larkrise an easy watch and entirely family-friendly.
So, while I love all these shows dearly, I'm not a big rewatcher of shows. White Collar and Burn Notice always get good reviews, but I'm not a big procedural-upon-procedural person. Recommendations are welcome!
For more favorites, head over to the moxiest of wives.