Blogger and retired PR executive Gary Holmes has posted an essay comparing the British TV series Brideshead Revisited and Downton Abbey. Brideshead comes out much the better of the two on several counts, leading Holmes to conclude that what he calls TV’s Anglo-Novella genre has gone into decline:
The biggest difference between the two shows is that the producers of “Brideshead” had enormous respect for their viewers and didn’t think they needed to be spoon-fed every plot development or theme. “Brideshead” is slow-paced by today’s standards, with a lot of “showing,” not “telling.” It expects viewers to draw many of their own conclusions.
By contrast, “Downton” creator Julian Fellowes neither trusts his viewers’ ability to keep the story straight, nor does he have any confidence in their concentration span. Every plot development is telegraphed episodes in advance, and there’s a general “rule of three,” in which every new fact has to be mentioned three times so no one misses the point.
Holmes goes on to compare the treatment of the past in each production and finds Brideshead the more realistic in its approach to the master/servant relationship, the settings and the attitude of the characters toward the historic period.