Period dramas come and go, but Downton Abbey is different. Julian Fellowes’ sumptuous spectacular secured a special place in the hearts and minds of telly viewers around the world.
It’s a rare thing, a show which is saying farewell before its fans want it to, which is as popular abroad as it is at home. It has become so much more than a TV drama. It’s spawned tourist tours, mountains of merchandise and a dedicated following around the globe.
But this evening, six years after it first hit our unsuspecting TV screens, it took its final bow. It was the Christmas present we desperately didn’t want: the final ever episode of Downton Abbey.
Now, there will be no more Mrs Patmore’s kitchen disasters, no more passive-aggressive dinner party conversations, no more going upstairs to take off pretty hats. No more of Thomas’s scheming, Daisy’s pouting, Mary’s flouncing and Cora’s simpering. And no more wise words or eye-watering witticisms from the Dowager Countess.
Downton Abbey has been accused of being increasingly soapy, silly and predictable. But those rousing violins, those gothic turrets, those clipped English tones, they brightened up our dreary autumnal evenings and comforted us like a cosy, hand-kitted blanket.
Tonight’s episode, the final ever time we’ll see the Crawleys and their staff (unless there is that much-rumoured film, but let’s not complicate matters) neatly and kindly concluded their story.
There were no shock deaths at the wheel of a car, no bouts of Spanish flu, no heartbreak. It wasn’t distressing or upsetting. But I still feel bereft.
Mourning attire would be more appropriate than a 3-seasons-old Christmas jumper. Because now all we have is the memories of a drama which surprised everyone with moments like Pamuk’s saucy demise, Edith’s jilting, that slippery soap, countless murder trials, muddy pig-related disasters and Robert’s bloody dinner party. And we mustn’t forget of all those clever and eternally quotable one-liners.
Downton Abbey has become a beloved British TV classic and I’ll miss it now it’s gone.
Who knows what’s going to take its place? What’s going to lead the schedules next autumn, and dominate next Christmas Day?
There’s a gaping hole in the TV landscape, and it’ll be a challenge to find a drama worthy of filling it.