Character Profile 2: Isobel Crawley

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Tonight is the beginning of season 5 of Downton Abbey.  I have been a fan of the show since 2011.  Here is a post I wrote about  it in February 2012.

http://smilingldsgirl.com/2012/02/23/downton-abbey/

The Show:

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I don’t watch that many dramas on TV because most have gotten too R rated in their content (too much nudity, profanity, violence etc).  I did watch a little of Gothem this year and enjoyed that but most of the time I end up watching either reality TV (Survivor, Big Brother, Amazing Race) or comedies (Goldbergs, The Middle, Simpsons).

So when I found Downton Abbey on PBS I was thrilled.  It is a show about the aristocratic family The Crawley’s in early 1900 Great Britain.  It is considered the post-Edwardian era by historians and it was a time of change away from the old caste systems to a more equal playing field.

The first episode of the show starts in 1912 and by the end of season 5 we are at 1925.  The show maintains a ton of characters both upstairs and down and the acting is across the board great.

Writer Julian Fellowes does a great job of integrating all the characters with the immaculate costumes and sets.  The tone is soapy but always with real heart.  Even a character like Mary Crawley who under a less capable pen (and actress) would be a one-note snob but here she is more nuanced and tough to pin down. One moment you hate her and then she does something really likable.

A lot of people have turned off the show because in season 3 they had 2 big castmembers who left the show  and were killed off.  Then in season 4 a rape occurs which is brutal and tough to watch but I thought well acted and probably pretty realistic to what would happen to a raped servant in that age.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Season 5.  Very excited!

Character Profile:

isobel working

It was hard to decide a character to profile because I love so many of them but I decided to pick a person who in a way bridges both the upstairs and downstairs world- Isobel Crawley.

A working class relation by marriage to the Crawley’s, Isobel is the widowed wife, daughter and sister of doctors and is a trained nurse, a skill that comes into play frequently on the show.  She also interacts often with Dr Clarkson who may be a potential love interest?

doctor-clarkson-isobel-crawley-downton-460x258 Isobel is played by legendary British actress (and dame I think?) Penelope Wilton.  She is lovely in her performance managing to pull of a strength and hidden vulnerability.  On one hand you feel she is more noble than some of the Crawleys but on the other it seems like she is way over her head.

What gets her into trouble on occasion is her desire to help people.  Being from another class than the Crawley’s she often fights for people in the servant class whether it insisting on a new treatment for a man with dropsy in season 1 or helping shunned Ethel who is reduced to prostitution after meeting hard times (in that plot line even the staff is violently opposed to the hire).

isobel and ethel

Her relationship with the entire Downton staff is lovely.  She is on a different level but kind of like Branson she both dines with the family and has worked with Mrs Hughes and others on a pretty equal playing field. I like that she both obeys conventions and defies them at the same time.

In fact, when they arrive at Downton she tells Matthew “What they expect is that we won’t know how to behave so if you don’t mind, I would rather not confirm their expectations”.   I think that sums up how she lives her life- self-aware, confident, willing to please others, but also wanting the best for herself and her son. I would say she wants to defy expectations by both the staff and family of the house.

isobel and mrs hughes
Mrs Hughes and Isobel

 

Isobel is also at constant war with Lady Violet played unforgettably played by Dame Maggie Smith.   The writing between these two dynamic women (both characters and actresses) is the best in the show.

In season 4 we got to see a new side of Isobel who has lost her Matthew, her only son.  There was a new vulnerability and a sense she does not handle grief with the perfection we might have expected.  She isolates herself and only comes out to see little George.  I am very curious to see where her story goes and what Fellowes does with her as both a lonely but independent woman.

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Isobel and Lady Violet

 

I do have one plea to the show. It started out with a good mixture of light humorous banter mixed with drama and soapy conflict. With the deaths in season 3 and rape in 4 the show got considerably darker and I miss the wit and fun. I hope we can get back some of that lightness. Not that I want the show to be silly but a lighter tone would be nice. There are plenty of shows on TV with anti-heroes and conflicted, wounded creatures. I watch Downton for the great writing and bubbly look at a different era. The drama should absolutely be there but give us a break from time to time.

But even if it continues to be dark I know I can count on Isobel Crawley to be one of the most fascinating and hard to pin down characters on the show.  That’s what great writing, production values and acting can do for a character.  Can’t wait for tonight!!!

Who is your favorite Downton Abbey character? What do you think of Isobel? Do you agree with me on the tone of the show?

2014 TV Highlights

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I thought it might be fun to take a little break from movies and Scrooge for a second to talk about my favorite moments in the world of television this year.

I’m a huge TV fan, which is really strange because my family is not.  My parents do not watch a single program on a regular basis, so it is not something I grew up with.  For long periods we didn’t even have TV and then the Olympics would come around and I would beg the parents.  Please let us get TV!  (I love the Olympics!).

As an adult I have embraced it even more and especially with DVR I find it immensely entertaining to get into a show and spend some time with the characters.  Unlike a movie where you get 2 hours into a story, a television show you can really get to know people.

I also must add that I try to keep my viewing on a PG-13 level so that cuts out some of the very popular HBO shows such as Game of Thrones (same with Orange is the New Black).  I know all of you love it and I respect that but too much violence and nudity for me.

How I Met Your Mother-

The biggest disappointment for the year was without a doubt the finale of my favorite show How I Met Your Mother.  I hated it. It undermined the narrative they had been building for 9 years of the great love story between Ted and Tracy and I will never forgive the show for that.  Shame on them!

I know it sounds dramatic but it was one of the biggest disappointments in media of my life.  I still want to throw something at Carter Bays and Craig Thomas for their lack of respect for all they had created.  Urgh….

Mixology-

Mixology was another major low point.  What was ABC thinking?  It was one of the most disgraceful pieces of media I’ve ever seen.  Read my rant on the misogynist junk. (Rape was a punchline in a joke if that tells you anything).

http://smilingldsgirl.com/2014/02/27/tv-modern-women/

Ok. Calming down.

Let’s focus on what I did like.

24: Live Another Day-

24 was back and they managed to craft a very entertaining season with all of the things we love about 24- layers of villains, Jack Bauer outrunning a helicopter, a mole in Jack’s team (maybe 2?), great performances, stunts, action, twists, turns and just a ton of fun.

To me it wasn’t as good as season 5 but I’d put it up there with 2,3 and 4.

Girl Meets World-

I LOVE Boy Meets World.  It was a show on TGIF from 1993-2002.  The characters were the same age as me and yes it was incredibly corny but it always had its heart in the right place.  William Daniels took the acting up a notch from typical teen fair and the relationships between Shawn, Cory, Topanga, Eric and others had real heart to them.

So naturally I was hesitant when I heard a spinoff was in the works called Girl Meets World.  Fortunately they got Michael Jacobs producing and most of the same writers back and Danielle Fishel and Ben Savage are back as Cory and Topanga only this time they are the parents of 2 kids Riley (the Girl who meets the world) and adorable Augie.

This first season has been incredibly strong.  It has all the cornball elements with all the heart.  Now Cory is the Mr Feeny character and Riley’s best friend Maya is the new Shawn Hunter.

We also have Farkle the son of Boy Meets World Minkus and he is great and a more than just for good looks kid named Lucas.  It teaches good messages with an engaging cast and humor that works.  I love it!

Much like Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie it is a show about an entire family, not just a snarky little girl.  They all get plotlines and have character development.  It’s so refreshing to have something everyone can watch together and enjoy.

Survivor-

Yes, I love me some reality competition.  Survivor is about to go into season 30 and while season 29 has been a bit of a let down season 28 was fantastic.  One of the best they’ve ever had.

Almost every person was in it to win it and winner Tony was spastic and crazy, building spy shacks, running around the island entertaining us all and being completely brilliant.  Never has a more bold player won the game and it was fascinating to watch.

Say what you want about the show the interactions of the contestants and the choices they make are fascinating to me.  Why they vote a certain person off?  Why they keep another?  It’s a very interesting social experiment and game. In the current season the game play is some of the most random I’ve seen which has it’s own level of fascination.  It’s amazing with nearly 30 seasons the game never plays out in exactly the same way because you are dealing with people not scriptwriters.  It makes it unpredictable and exciting.  I’ve always said you could do an interesting class on game theory and use Survivor as your test case.  I’d take that class.

What makes Survivor especially fun is I am a patron for RHAP- Rob Has a Podcast which is a community of fellow fans and we talk about the moves and for a girl who works from home it has become my watercooler conversation that I look forward to each day.

Former contestant Rob Cesternino is the R of RHAP and he is engaging and funny, my favorite podcaster (although Rotoscopers Animation Addicts is a close second!).  It’s fascinating to me to see the different takes people have on moves and who people bond with and for what reasons, especially in a great season like Cagayan.

Big Brother/Amazing Race-

Survivor is my first love but I also love Amazing Race and watch some Big Brother.

After a lame All Star season, this current season of the Race has  been fabulous.  The move to Friday has been a good thing and Bethany and Adam are my favorites.  What she can do with one arm is truly remarkable to watch and they are just so down to earth.  I love them and want them to win so bad!

Really great challenges and likable contestants have made it fun.  The Race is fun to watch but not as much of a strategic game as Survivor so not quite as interesting.

Big Brother was an interesting season because it was so dominated by one player.  Like Tony, Derrick was bold and incredibly smart at the game.  He was never put on the block ever and Big Brother lasts 90 days!  That’s pretty amazing.  There was one moment where a lie he had told a character had come out and within a 45 minute conversation he had her apologizing to him.  That was unbelievable to watch.  What a game player! I would get eaten alive by players like that!  (Since I was laid up with my knee I watched too much of the live feeds this season. The darn things are addicting and why does everything happen after 2 am in that house!).

Both Tony and Derrick were able to convince their partners to take them to the end when there were clear goats they could have taken.  Basically they both convinced 2 people to give them the prize.  Fascinating.

What makes me happy is both Tony and Derrick seemed like really good guys and always nice when the good guys win the game.

(Again with the Race and Big Brother my RHAP community make both shows extremely fun).

Downton Abbey-

The only drama I’m really into right now.  I know a lot of people have gotten of the Downton train but I’m still on.  It was an intense season with Anna’s rape and the effect that has on all the characters.

The acting is so good, sets, costumes top notch and the melodramatic stories work for the kind of stories being told.  It was a bummer so many quit the show but they handled as best they could and I am sooo excited for the new season coming in January!

I hope they get back to the lighter feel the show originally had.  Yes there was always drama but oddly enough Season 2 with WW1 was not the saddest season. They need a bit more of a balance.  I’d also like for them to dive into Thomas’ character more and not just have him be the gay bad guy.

I’ve always found Mary to be a fascinating character because we should hate her but then she does something very likable and so we don’t.  It’s great and Mosely, Carson, Daisy and of course the Dowager Countess played by Maggie Smith are all great characters.

So on to season 5!

Sherlock Season 3-

This shows how much I loved the long awaited Sherlock return.  It aired February 2014 and I still have it on my DVR 10 months later.

Especially episode 1 and 3 of the season I thought were just about perfect in every way.  The ending may be one fake death to many we will see and it is a bit frustrating they never told us what happened to Sherlock but it was brilliant as well.  The way we kept getting possibilities of how he might have survived.

The acting is amazing, cinematography perfect and a new villain Charles Magnussen who was chilling and even creepier than Moriarty.

I also loved the plotline with Mary and trying to figure out what kind of mole she was.  They give you a huge hint there is something afoot when Holmes first meets her and it was a puzzle the whole series.  Brilliant.

As I watched the series I was literally yelling at the scream at times I was so engrossed.  I’d put the writing, acting, cinematography up against any Hollywood film.  It’s just great.

A to Z-

Well I suppose there is going to be one show I loved which barring a miracle appears to be cancelled.  Darn it all American viewers this show is so good!

Featuring Cristin Millioti from HIMYM and Ben Feldman from Drop Dead Diva it’s like a combination of 500 Days of Summer and How I Met Your Mother.

Some of the side characters were a little much but I’m convinced if NBC could just stick with it a little longer it would be a big hit for them.

As a girl who is starving for good romantic comedies, this was one.  The leads have terrific chemistry.  The story was charming.  I hope it can be saved but for now not looking great.  🙁

Goldbergs-

My favorite comedy by a long shot.  Especially as a movie lover and a kid from the 80s the humor hits all the nostalgic points but it’s more than that.  It’s extremely well written with an appealing cast and great kid actors.

When I first saw it I thought it was a That’s 70’s Show retread in the 80s but it’s not.  Wendi McLendon Covey is hilarious as the mother.  Jeff Garlin and George Segal steals every scene he is in as the Grandpa who thinks he is Burt Reynolds.

It’s kind of like The Simpsons brought to life with older kids.  It’s that smart and fun and warm.  Plus, the fact that Adam Goldberg shot all these hours of tapes of his family and a the end of every episode you see clips pertaining to that episode is so cool.

It makes the show feel lived in and real despite it’s craziness.  The videos say ‘this is over-the-top but my family was pretty darn close to it’ and that is funny.  Plus, you can tell the whole show is a labor of love from writing, directing, acting and everything else.  I love it and think it is hilarious.

My favorite episode is Karate from season 1 but season 2 has been great too.

Mindy Project-

A lot of people are down on this show too but I still really like it.  It has an engaging cast with pretty good writing and I love the chemistry between Danny and Mindy.  The kiss on the plane…holy cow that was a great kiss

and then the ending to last season I am not kidding I might have watched it 45 times.  It was perfect.  I almost wished the show was over so it could just end there but you know they have actually done a good job with Mindy and Danny as a couple this season.  It wasn’t until I saw that finale that I realized how much I miss romantic comedies.  I need my sugary romances you guys or I get very gloomy!  I need my romantic movies so at least I get it from TV from time to time.

I wish we could hang on to A to Z like they’ve hung on to Mindy Project.  Morgan cracks me up every scene he is in.  Definitely my favorite character.

Other Shows I Still Love- The Middle, The Simpsons, Big Bang Theory (yes I still like it), Duck Dynasty, Wahlburgers,  and Shark Tank.  Oh and Dancing with the Stars has had 2 excellent seasons in 2014.

What shows did you like this year? Any I mentioned you a fan of?  Any way that’s what I like.  Thanks for reading!