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Downton Abbey Case Study

Rob Miller | Monday August 20, 2012

Categories: GCSE, Eduqas (WJEC) GCSE, WJEC GCSE Media Studies, Hot Entries, Television, Television Drama

Downton Abbey is a high production value (£1m per episode) TV Drama that belongs to the sub genre of Period Drama (itself a genre) – elaborate set and costume design and a large ensemble cast are key features along with clear intertextual references to the 1971 – 1975 originally ITV screened Period Drama but revived by the BBC, Upstairs Downstairs. It is set on a fictional estate (Downton Abbey) in the North Riding of Yorkshire and was created and written by Julian Fellowes in 2010 who was later responsible for the July 2012 four part ITV epic Period Drama, Titanic. Set in a similar time period Downton Abbey has links to the historical event (the sinking of the Titanic) as Robert, the Earl of Grantham loses his cousin and heir to Downton Abbey in the tragedy (Robert has three daughters of his own who cannot inherit the estate).

Fellowes is an English actor, screenwriter and Conservative peer who has a reputation for familiarity in regards to the representations written into Downton Abbey – most of the roles he has undertaken over the years as an actor have been as members of the aristocracy or the upper class or in Period Dramas. In 2004 he wrote the critically acclaimed Snobs, a book about the marriage of an upper class girl to a peer – arguably he very much has the pedigree to create a TV Drama that explores the life of the upper class in distinct binary opposition to the servants less fortunate and ‘below stairs’.

Upstairs Downstairs followed this exact same pattern with only real differences being that it was set in Edwardian London at the turn of the 20th century but also documents social and technological changes at the time (1903-1930). Downton Abbey is set in exactly the same time period with series one starting with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the second series being set during and just after the First World War (1916-1919) with the Christmas 2011 special covering 1919 to 1920. All three series were well...

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