I have to say, I owe Julian Fellowes my sanity. Or maybe my lack thereof. All I’m sure of, is that without his marvelous show I wouldn’t be half as entertained during my days off as I have been these last few weeks. I have single-handedly watched both seasons —I may have scoured the internet for bootleg copies, I’M SORRY—without even pausing to breathe or use the bathroom. No small feat if you know me at all. Though Downton may have scored at the Emmys and Globes this past year, I still don’t feel that this marvelous show has gotten its fair share of the spotlight. So, in order to help influence a wider audience, it’s my pleasure to bring to you the top five reasons you should be tuning in.

 

1. Lady Mary and Sir Matthew
These two characters are the sole reason for turning in. Followed closely by Mr. Bates and Anna, but that will be explained later. Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), as the oldest daughter, was expected to marry the heir to the Estate — it is only after the heir apparent dies on the Titanic that Matthew (Dan Stevens), a distant cousin (removed a certain number of times), becomes central to Downton’s story. Once he does, though… Lord does this show become irresistible. You’re torn when they’re torn apart; when their hearts break, yours feels like it’s broken too. Theirs is the romance of legend and it is the tent-pole of the show. At least for this humble — read: obsessed — viewer. I tune in to see if they’ll get one step closer to the inevitable ending they both deserve.

 

2. Dame Maggie Smith
You saw her in the Harry Potter series. If you’re over the age of thirty, you saw her in a behemoth of a list of other films. But on Downton, as the Dowager Countess, she’s sassy, smart and fabulous. Whether she’s wobbling on a new-fangled wheeled desk chair or calling the telephone an “instrument of torture” — Dame Smith is at her utmost sardonic best in this British series.

 

3. Mr. Bates and Anna The beloved duo — comprised of maid, Anna (Joanne Froggatt), and valet, Bates (Brendan Coyle) — has turned the two actors into something reminiscent of Brangelina… only fictional. And non-marriage-ruining. No one counts the original Mrs. Bates, anyways. She’s just as scheming and shady as Angelina Jolie. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

What makes the relationship between Anna and Bates just as compelling—if not more so—than that of Matthew and Mary’s, is their unwavering support of one another. While the class system causes a myriad of starts and stops in the relationship of Mary and Matthew, as servants, Bates and Anna face each hurtle with unwavering dedication and love. Whatever it may be — whether murder, thievery or the dastardly duo of O’Brien and Thomas — they conquer it together. With both class (I apologize for that word choice), and for Bates, a decidedly gentlemanly air.

 

4. Ms. O’Brien and Thomas
The previous section does a good job of allowing me to segue into this one without much frivolity. To be totally honest, these two (played by Siobhan Finneran and Rob James-Collier) andare almost appalling in the depths to which they’ll sink in order to satisfy their own agendas. It doesn’t matter whom they must step upon to make their way to their goal — they’ll do it and all while chain-smoking and cackling to one another. But, like every other soapy primetime pair before them, they make it deliciously entertaining. Yes, even while you’re cringing over the discomfort caused by their actions.

The show even makes it difficult to hate them. One second they’re taking advantage of Bates’ wartime injury and the next, we’re reminded of the hurdles they too face on a day-to-day basis. Like with the rest of the characters on this show, Fellowes makes it impossible to hate any single character wholeheartedly. Except maybe Lady Edith. Ugh… Lady Edith.

 

5. The Costumes Last but not least are the costumes of the show. Whether they’re sumptuous gowns and beaded headpieces or riding outfits for the Christmas hunt, the costume designers alone make it worth checking out this fantastic, historically appropriate fashion show. Even as World War I looms, it’s hard to tire of the attention to detail that the show places upon their characters’ wardrobes.

To summarize in the most succinct way possible; tune in to Downton if you appreciate a flair for the dramatic, Dame Maggie Smith or the squabbles of the rich. If none of that pleases you, though, why don’t you just stick to your Jersey Shore marathon. I’m sure it’ll suffice in the interim.

Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey airs Sundays at 9 PM on PBS Stations.