Period Melodrama Helps Beat SciFi


Lady Mary & Matthew Crawley - Image courtesy of Nick Briggs, Carnival Film & Television LTD (via

From National Public Radio’s story Saturday on Elizabeth McGovern to Sunday’s article in the Star Tribune about witty scripts, the return of Downton Abbey [to US shores] this weekend has the media in a lather.

Rightly so, in my humble opinion. Hobnobbing with the rich and famous at Downton offers you something of a fill of British history and, given where the second season’s storyline is headed, world history too. It lets you ponder sociology and culture, women’s rights and politics. And, as I told a friend earlier today, it’s an excuse to sneak in some good old fashioned trashy romance stuff too. What’s not to like?

Even without a TV, the Mandles are ready to leave our Minnesotan home in favor of a visit back to the estate as soon as Season 2 is put up on the PBS website.

And the folks at Masterpiece Classic won’t mind that we stop on by. As the Strib article pointed out, viewership of Masterpiece is up 150% thanks to the history, or sociology, or politics at Downton. Or, just face it, the romance.

In addition to Downton, Masterpiece has brought on numerous other new shows intended to attract those of us who’d rather equate Miss Marple’s TV home station to the living room set box of our parents. (Mom/Dad: No offense!)

Shows like Downton, “Upstairs, Downstairs,” and a reimagined Sherlock Holmes are evidence of a brand attracting a new audience by repositioning itself. The 43% ratings hike for Masterpiece indicates that this audience likes what they’re seeing.

So counter to what we saw with the SyFy channel rebranding last year, there is clearly a way brands can successfully follow through with repositioning by changing–improving–their actual product rather than just the trimmings. (And yes, I know that AdAge thought SyFy did well by its effort. And yes, I still disagree. Proof: I haven’t watched a show there since Battlestar Galactica finished its run.)

Now, please remember to leave your horse-and-carriage at home. Lady Mary is attracted to those who drive those new-fangled mechanized mobiles.


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