Belfast Telegraph

Have we kicked the Abbey habit?

By Lindy McDowell

We all love a period drama. At least according to those viewing figures for Downton Abbey which must surely have Spook-ed the Beeb.

More than nine million tuned in for the former on Sunday night, twice as many as those who tuned in to see spy thriller Spooks.

And in LA, Downton won four Emmys in this week's awards ceremony.

The joy of costume drama has a lot, naturally enough, to do with the costumes.

(See also Mad Men, starring the statuesque Christina Hendricks, which also won four gongs at the Emmys). With Downton Abbey there is that air of quaint gentility portraying an upstairs/downstairs lifestyle that has long disappeared ...

Or has it?

Every report you read these days about the lifestyles of the rich and famous is laden with reference to servants, maids and even butlers to the point where you begin to think having a footman is entirely 21st century stuff .

And public life is top heavy with toffs.

Our Parliament is bursting with the public school educated (Labour as well as the Tories).

The privileged posh dominate in the national media, in entertainment, even in pop music.

Don't kid yourself with the myth of meritocracy.

The aristocracy continue to hold sway. Lord Snooty is still in situ.

We haven't come such a long way after all, from Downton Abbey with its master and mistress holding court in the ballroom and the likes of you and me below stairs polishing the crystal and cranking up the stove.

This isn't progress, you sometimes think.

It's only a costume change.

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