I’m not much for television. I don’t even know the magical sequence of the myriad of controls that my husband uses to turn it on. During his absences, they lie dormant in a basket, and the house is filled with silence. Or music. Depends on my mood. But, as happens in everyone’s life, things change. This particular change has come in the form of Netflix. Oh my, what took us so long?
The absence of commercials is a terrific feature. Its intuitive design—tracking your viewing, knowing where you left off, analyzing your tastes and basing suggestions on them—well that’s crazy modern and downright convenient. The absolute best thing about it is that you can fall in love with a show and then just keep watching it. And watching it. And watching it. Which happened last month with Downton Abbey.
Now, I have always found the vast array of brainless gibber on television uninspiring and, often, downright irritating. I felt I gained nothing when I watched it, which led to years of avoidance. But apparently, I had simply been choosing the wrong programming. Not only was Downton Abbey vastly entertaining, it informed my writing.
It used every trope, some of them several times, and wrung every last drop of emotion from them: Edith’s rags to riches and Sybil’s riches to rags; Mary’s forbidden fruit…enemies to lovers, love triangle, friends to lovers, second chance at love (My, Mary was busy!); Violet’s strong character, a woman of steel with a heart of gold; The Grantham’s dabbling with the mid-life crisis in marriage. That’s a small sampling.
For me, there was no better story line than Anna and Mr. Bates. An unlikely pairing, they were perfectly suited but constantly challenged. Every time it looked as though they were going to enjoy their happy-ever-after, their worlds were torn apart. It is the stuff and business of romance novels. Seeing it play out on the screen, feeling the angst and rooting for their success, proved to me that it works. There is nothing entertaining about a smooth relationship. When all is well, put up a roadblock. Make them miserable. Give them hope. Then make it worse. The triumph in the end is so much sweeter for it.
There were so many small stories woven throughout, each one serving a purpose to the larger story. Poignant, philosophical, and at times, heart-wrenching, the tension is often broken by laugh-out-loud moments. It is an exemplary model of a writer’s craft enhanced by actors who are masters of show-don’t-tell and who have the courage to take the time needed with their lines. For it is often the spaces between the words that speak the loudest.
If I don’t post for a while, you’ll know what I’m up to—re-watching Downton Abbey. J