Home
In this issue
April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan 18, 2012/ 23 Teves, 5772

Yes to Downton Abbey

By Mona Charen




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Simon Schama holds a place of honor in our home. Preparing for a trip to London in 2005, we watched his video series "A History of Britain" over the course of several weeks. Our boys loved it so much that they would chant "Britain! Britain!" after dinner. His history of the French Revolution, "Citizens," was masterful.

So it's with the greatest respect that I disagree with him about "Downton Abbey," the first television series to keep my interest since, well, "The Sopranos."

Schama thinks he detects the "clammy delirium" of nostalgia in the Tea Party's "ache for a tricorny country," "radio ranters" selling Americans on a false paradise of pre-Social Security and Medicare America, and now viewers are racing to their TV sets on Sunday nights to catch "Downton Abbey" — a "steaming, silvered tureen of snobbery."

America, Schama scolds, "desperate for something, anything, to take its mind off the perplexities of the present" is gobbling up this newest Edwardian-era story because of our secret longing to be members of a defunct aristocracy."

Who is being the snob here? Schama, an Englishman, proposes to elevate our taste. The series irritates him because he still recalls the sting of being "put in his place" by the "toffs" in the 1950s and 1960s. We credulous Americans are too easily swept off our feet, he protests, by these country house tales.

Oh, please. There were similar complaints in the 1970s — before the era of talk radio or the Tea Party — when Americans were swept up in "Upstairs, Downstairs" fever. The critics, then as now, are quick to suspect class-consciousness in the American psyche. They assumed that viewers loved the series because it fulfilled fantasies of living the coddled life of the upper class, with scads of disposable servants warming the bed sheets, polishing the brass and ironing the lace.

Not really. In "Downton Abbey" as in "Upstairs, Downstairs" some of the noblest characters are to be found below stairs. Bates, the earl's valet, is partially lame from a wound sustained in the Boer War. He bears his disability — along with the cruelty of two of the other servants — with fortitude. His quiet integrity and long suffering seem to be rewarded by the love of a ladies' maid, Anna. But there are plot twists coming.

As Schama acknowledges, the series is "fabulously frocked and acted." The sets are gorgeous, the actors stunning, the costumes dazzling and the story captivating. It isn't great literature. It's melodrama, with clear villains and heroes, with boy meets girl, girl loses inheritance, girl loses boy, misunderstandings, sex scandals, blackmail, sibling rivalry, lost opportunities, jealousies, lies, flower shows and war.

Among the servants and the aristocrats, there is thwarted romance, betrayal, cunning, generosity and gentility. The viewer sympathizes completely with the servant who longs for a better life and takes up a correspondence course in typing so that she can earn a better living and escape the grinding work and foreshortened possibilities of a parlor maid. And the viewer's compassion is aroused even for one of the least admirable servants (a thief himself, he had schemed to frame another), when he is sent to the trenches in World War I. Shaking with fear, he reaches a hand above the trench holding a lighter. When an obliging German shoots through his hand, he manages an escape from the torment of trench warfare.

It's not an honorable escape, but that's one of the things that elevates "Downton Abbey" above the usual TV fare. Set in an era when honor was considered as essential as oxygen, the series always sets a moral frame for the characters' behavior.

"Downton Abbey" doesn't succumb to the modern prejudice of portraying all aristocrats as morons or monsters, the better to grind the ax about the evils of the old class system. The earl is an honorable man who tries to live up to the code of the gentleman. His mother is spoiled and willful but basically decent.

There isn't any need to reach for the smelling salts because "Downton Abbey" is a hit. We Americans have not fallen into a swoon for dead British aristocrats. We don't need lectures on the injustice of the class system. We've never had one. When we meet the Queen, we shake hands (1776 and all that). We're simply enjoying a good yarn — beautifully executed. Come down off your barricade Schama.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


Comment on JWR contributor Mona Charen's column by clicking here.

Mona Charen Archives

© 2006, Creators Syndicate

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles