Am I a heretic to admit that my favorite TV show is on a network that favors fundraising, pledge drives and telethons over advertising as we know it. Am I a disgrace to my brand-building profession for succumbing to the powerful pull of PBS every Sunday night and thoroughly enjoying the utter lack of advertising for one whole hour? Then, mea culpa.
I fess up to the fact that my favorite show is none other than world acclaimed Downton Abbey, a show with off-the-charts viewership and little use for traditional advertising.
I admit it. I’m addicted to Downton Abbey. And I’m certainly not alone! Britain’s hit series, Downtown Abbey, written and co-created by Julian Fellows has become a global sensation. Now in its third season, the Masterpiece Theater phenomenon has taken the world by storm. With its lovely costumes and opulent homes, it has the look and feel of a classic British television series. Richly drawn characters, both benevolent and wicked, co-exist with interlocking lives and different stories happening simultaneously.
So why has the world so embraced the Crawley family and their regal, to-the-manner-born ways? During economic downturns, fiscal cliffs and dismal unemployment rates, how can we find it in our hearts to love these people who “have it all”? That’s precisely why we do. They have it all, but there’s still something missing. And we find that reassuring. We take comfort in the fact that despite the trappings, their lives are filled with the same themes as our own. Universal themes connect us to the Crawleys at our most human level. Love. Loss. Birth. Death. Jealously. Deceit. Treachery. Persecution. It’s somehow reassuring to know that money and privilege in full dress tails can do nothing to protect the Crawleys from life on life’s terms.
And then there’s the comforting fact that the good guy always seems to win. Bates is vindicated from a false murder charge. Thomas, the conniving footman, is accepted despite violating sexual mores of the day. Ethel is embraced by caring folks despite being a “fallen woman”. Matthew is forgiven for harsh criticism of his father-in-law’s handling of the estate. Lady Edith finds success and love, despite being the “ugly duckling”. Tom Branson survives despite the loss of his beloved wife. Lady Grantham, carries on despite the death of her daughter.
Week after week, it renews our hope that, like the Crawleys, we too can carry on.And with the wrap-up of season 3, that’s exactly what we hope for Downtown Abbey – that it will carry on…for many seasons. Even without the advertising that is so near and dear to our hearts.