"The young are all so calm about change, aren't they?" — Violet, the Dowager Countess, played by Maggie Smith in "Downton Abbey"
Whether for Maggie Smith's imperious and often hilarious delivery, the impeccable period wardrobe, or the romance and rich character studies of a family of English aristocrats and their servants, the first season of "Downton Abbey" was a highlight of 2010.
The sudsy period piece, in four 90-minute installments, became one of the most popular "Masterpiece" series on PBS in years.
Season 2 debuts this weekend and carries on the tradition, continuing Smith's zingers as well as the tortured romance and travails of an entrenched society on the verge of massive change.
Last season, Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) had just announced that England was going to war. Season 2 picks up in 1916 with "Downton" heir Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) fighting in the Somme, as the Downton manse itself is about to be enlisted as a rehab center for the wounded.
The top-drawer soap from writer Julian Fellowes ("Gosford Park"), which started on ITV in England, won multiple Emmy Awards last year including best miniseries. It's not too late to join in. Unlike the Grantham and Crawley families, you need not dress for dinner: Just balance a plate on your lap and settle in for the first of seven parts.
"Downton Abbey" Season 2 premieres at 8 p.m. Sunday on KUED-Ch. 7. (Note episodes 1, 6 and 7 are two hours; episodes 2-5 are one hour each.)
"Downton" is the modern equivalent of the classic "Upstairs, Downstairs," must viewing if you missed the culture-clash drama the first time around.
The two "Downton" seasons so far provide an engrossing escape to an age on the verge of technological and social change. The second season successfully broadens the story lines of several key characters. The cast is first-rate; only Elizabeth McGovern occasionally rings a false note, but she plays the only American in the group, so she's meant to stand apart.
The period offers a stunning parallel to our current changing times. Imagine the shock and/or awe with which pre-World War I families greeted electricity and telephones, a historic parallel to the way today's elders respond to the confusion of Internet options and smartphones.
How many chapters can PBS sustain in order to cash in on the series' popularity? Imagine "Occupy Downton" in Season 12 or so, with the Granthams surprised to find themselves in the outmoded 1 percent.