The first season of Downton Abbey takes place during 1912-1914. It is the story of the Crawley family and their servants. The Crawley family discovers that something has happened to their heir, and they must find the next in line and train him for their position. It causes great upheaval in the family. We follow personal stories as the daughters look for love, are faced with class issues, and see how great historical events shape the family.
Downton Abbey is not based on a book. However, some of the ideas for this show came from real people, events, and locations. A biography for one of the people who inspired some of the plot lines in the show is: Lady Almina And The Real Downton Abbey. Some of the similarities are: the family home being turned into a hospital during World War I, the Lord marrying an a rich American heiress to provide money for the estate, a servant named Bates with a limp, Spanish flu, and an Earl obsessed with cars who ends up in an car accident.
I thought this was an interesting show to review as any books directly related to the show were written after the first season aired, including the biography about Lady Almina. This is a fine example how using a stories about real people and events as inspiration can be fashioned into something incredible. I found it interesting to watch a show and later read the book about some of the real people who inspired this incredible series.
I recommend watching the original UK edition. When the show aired in the U.S. parts of it were edited out to fit into the time slot it was given. There is not a ton of missing material, but it is noticeable. The first time I watched it on dvd, I thought something odd was going on because there were scenes I did not remember. Again, it is not detrimental to the experience if you watch another version, but I prefer being able to see what was originally there.
This is an incredibly done period drama. The costumes, script, and locations all superbly work together to make the viewer feel immersed in the show. I enjoy the subtle humor that is often included, particularly from the Dowager Countess. There is also great heart to this show, which makes it a joy to watch. I have enjoyed rewatching this show, and always look forward to the next season.
I highly recommend watching this show, and reading some of the books it has inspired.