It is sometimes comforting to have things that never change. So much feels in flux that a fixed point, however small, is welcome. Downton Abbey provides one such safe haven. There are many who slate it for a variety of sins: vocabulary that is not of the time, a tendency to smack the viewer over the head with historical facts, being too soapy, plots that move at a glacial pace. None of this matters deep down – people who want subtle social histories in their dramas that are painstakingly accurate tend not to be TV watchers to begin with, especially not ITV ones. It does what it sets out to, and is damn good at it.

The fact is, it is very reassuring. Last years rape storyline aside, controversy is dodged and nearly everything turns out all right in the end. Broken hearts are mended, good triumphs over evil, order is maintained etc. It is worth noting as regards the last point that Julian Fellowes seems to go out of his way when devising plots to show the Crawleys as an aristocratic success through being pragmatic but not revolutionary, tolerant but not benign. The whole reason Sarah Bunting, the angry socialist schoolteacher, failed in staging a mini-coup in that small corner of Yorkshire is that nobody notices a dictatorship is one if the dictator is a benevolent. Nobody cares if the Earl is privileged beyond all belief so long as he is seen as just.

Speaking of the Earl, it is nice to see Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern back in the centre of the action thanks to Cora’s unwitting flirting with the lanky art historian turning sour. Last series all they seemed to do was sit on the sidelines whilst the younger cast members got into scrapes featuring pigs, pregnancy and jazz singers. And of course, the Dowager remains the stoic battle axe that she has been since day one. She is, as cousin Isabel put it, “as infirm as Windsor Castle”. Certainly, Maggie Smith going up in flames would be a tragedy.

On the flip side, downstairs is beginning to lost its lustre. Yes, Carson and Mrs Hughes are still wonderfully imperious, but there is a lack of interest otherwise. With no O’Brien, Barrow’s plots just seem plain nasty rather than deliciously conniving. He needs a man, or at least a new sparring partner, fast. Moseley and Baxter are just snooze-worthy, and if Daisy wants to go, let her go. Mrs Patmore deserves better than her whingeing.

I suppose that brings me to the only real genuine flaw with Downton – there are too many plots for any to develop in any real depth. I am growing bored with seeing Bates and Anna having misery heaped on each other. Let them have a quiet series where they just plan a happy future together. A murder mystery is fine, but it needs room to grow and with marriages falling apart, illegitimate children springing up and Lady Mary playing man-eater we have more than enough going on. This could have bubbled away nicely in the background for a good few series yet, instead it feels crammed in.

Yet I still love Downton. It may not be deep, and it may require little of a talented cast, but to me it is uniquely brilliant. For a show where social class is hotly debated, it is a turn off for cultural snobs. But we don’t like that sort anyway. They never pass the port the correct way round the table.

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