You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

O My America: Did Sholem Aleichem Write Downton Abbey?

March 7, 2013

6a00d8341c630a53ef01157257e319970b-320wiseason2_characters_slideshow_robert_01By Lawrence Bush

I cut off my cable television more than two years ago to save myself hundreds of dollars and spare myself any repetitive stress injury from clicking the remote control — and so I rely on Netflix, Amazon, and the public library to keep me abreast of the good stuff. That's why I've just begun Season Three of Downton Abbey (on disc) — which has me convinced more than ever that it was written by Sholem Aleichem.

Either that, or Baron Julian Fellowes is channeling the Yiddish master. I mean, I truly enjoy Downton Abbey, but c'mon, it is Tevye the Dairyman transposed to the British aristocracy! It is Tevye singing an encore of "If I Were a Rich Man!" (based on the "If I Were a Rothschild" chapter in Tevye the Dairyman). There's the traditionalist father, Tevye/Robert Crawley the Earl of Grantham, trying to ignore the tides of change but always kept receptive to the need for flexibility by his love for his daughters. There are his daughters, all looking for love — one of whom (Hodl/Lady Sybil) runs off with a revolutionary, one of whom (Tzeitl/Lady Mary) marries "a bit down" to a nice guy who might as well be her cousin, and one of whom (Shprintze/Lady Edith) dies/nearly dies from heartache. There's the lure of wealth, the lure of traditionalism, the lure of America . . .

Ahh, costume drama!