[Opinion] What if Downton Abbey was a Book Series?
It is a crisp winter’s afternoon here in Melbourne, Australia and I’m settling in for a night of Downton Abbey. Despite watching the two seasons available about a hundred times each I still can’t get enough of this appealing Edwardian costume drama. When it first aired it was a refreshing change from the usual criminal dramas that fill up the nightly prime time television spots. I remember being surprised to hear that it wasn’t based on a book or play. (Technically. You could say it was based on Gosford Park but Downton is significantly more developed.) The ITV hit was simply an idea that Julian Fellowes wrote and of course, being a period drama, it was a hit.
But what if Downton Abbey had been a book series first? So many movies and tv series are based on books. In fact, you could say that at least 90% of movies being made now are based on books. So if Downton had been a book series would it have been turned into a movie or a series of movies with a split ending? Downton Abbey: The End Part 1! Or would it have remained a TV series? I feel like the answer is both. In this alternate universe it would depend on how many books Fellowes wrote in his series. If it was three or less I think movie execs would have been happy to condense it into a blockbuster movie to rival something like Pride and Prejudice. It would make a nice sum of money that’d be sure to make even Fellowes smile all the way to the bank. But then a whole other series of questions would arise from this: Would Fellowes take his success from a Downton Abbey movie and turn it into a tv series, like the one we have now? I rather think he would.
All of these thoughts swirling around my head suddenly stop when I think of what kind of state these poor books would be in. What kind of integrity would be left for the written form that it started in? It would have been torn to pieces for a movie, and then put back together with additional parts sewn on for a television series. All of these things make me glad it wasn’t a book. But wait one minute! We haven’t yet considered what the book would be like in itself.
It would be amazing! Combine Fellowes wit and skill with a feather quill… or rather a pen, together with the powerful characters of Grandma Grantham, Robert, Mary, Matthew and friends, and I imagine that Downton Abbey the book would be quite riveting. The book/s might include some stream of consciousness, maybe we could fall in love with Matthew all over again when he describes to the reader how his feelings toward Mary are changing. We would get far more information and development from the Sybil/Branson relationship. And can you imagine how fun it would be to read a book from the Dowager Countess’ point of view?
This post is all in fun, so I hope nobody thinks there are actually are Downton Abbey books out there or that they’re being written and developed into a film – they’re not, because they’re all in fantasy land. If you want to read about the world of Downton Abbey though, I hear there are some great fanfictions out there. Or better yet write your own!
I leave you with two fantastic clips of Maggie Smith doing her stuff in a sneak peek of Season 3! Season 3 premieres September on ITV in the UK and January 2013 on PBS in the US.