Well, I said I wasn't going to do it, I didn't watch much of the first two seasons, but I did get sucked into the third (and most recent season) of Downton Abbey on PBS. I think maybe it was because I read about the huge (do I still have to say this? SPOILER WARNING for following link) season-ending spoiler before the episodes even started playing here, and I thought, hell, now I might as well see how it gets there.*
I feel a bit dirty now that I've watched it and I still say that 1. Lady Mary is the most boring, annoying female character in the history of BBC productions, and 2. She and Matthew Crawley are the least sparky couple I've ever seen. But let's face it, I'm a sucker for all things British, and particularly all things Edwardian. And not so much the upstairs Edwardians, but rather the servants. I cannot believe how house servants got worked all day long, for such little pay. Perhaps, on a very small scale, it is my farm upbringing that makes me sympathize with people who probably desired very little else but to have a moment here and there to sit down.
I do have a nonfiction point here. In one of my trolls through the "New at the Library" nonfiction lists, I found Alison Maloney's title Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants, and a few weeks ago blew through it in the course of about two days. It's quite slight and I'm not sure it's worth its $23.99 cover price, but It still was an informative, entertaining read. The author explores several aspects of servants lives, including the backgrounds from which they came, their hierarchies within a household, typical days and tasks, pay and conditions, hiring and firing, and many more. The text includes many citations from primary sources, which really give a feel for the period:
"Most servants were given just one afternoon off a week, on Sunday, so that they could attend church. In addition, if the mistress was a benevolent one, they might have had an extra day off a month.
Cassell's Household Guide suggested the generous extra day did away with the necessity for a maid's friends to call on her at the house. 'At the same time, a mistress should be careful not to bind herself to spare her servant on a certain day in every month, as is sometimes demanded,' it advised." (p. 84.)
Goddamn servants. Always demanding the same one day off per month. You can see how the upstairs ladies of these houses just had their hands full.
Overall: a good book. And it might just help tide you over a bit until Season 4.
*Also because Sesame Street did a lovely Upside Downton parody. Good old Sesame Street.