AVS Forum Blu-ray Spotlight: Downton Abbey – The Complete Collection

Ralph Potts puts the Spotlight on the complete Blu-ray collection of this compelling, well-written and popular English serial set in early 1900’s England that follows the familial drama surrounding an aristocratic family that resides/owns a palatial estate known as Downton Abbey.

My Thoughts:

“Downton Abbey” made television history when it originally aired on MASTERPIECE in January 2011. It became the highest rated drama on PBS, boasting millions of viewers tuning in each Sunday to watch the Crawley family and those that served them. Fans of the series became hooked, watching the splendor, romance, desire and heartbreak, scandal and rumor that flourished both upstairs and downstairs.

Led by Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, and Maggie Smith, the acclaimed ensemble cast brings to life all the drama and intrigue of the inhabitants of Downton Abbey, the lavish English country manor, home to the Earl of Grantham. This complete collection set, includes all 52 episodes of the series of this Golden Globe® SAG® and multi-Emmy® Award-winning series, following the Crawley family and their servants through all of the splendor and romance, desire and heartbreak, scandal and rumor that Downton Abbey viewers across the globe have grown to love.

Writer/creator Julian Fellowes paints a vivid picture of the snobbery, traditional devotion, elitist ways and compromising interpersonal relationships that thematically underscore the show. The plethora of characters aren’t all complex but are superbly drawn with a distinctive aesthetic that ebbs and flows with the melodramatic proceedings. This allows them to be likeable at times unlikable at others but always definably pertinent to the show’s shifting axis. There is a bit of a soap opera feel however it never descends to that level of ostentatious envelope pushing. Instead it humanizes them all, exposing their strengths, weaknesses but above all the implicitness found in their devotion to their way of life, one another and their genuine and shared struggle to co-exist amidst the ever-changing world around them.

Watching this sixth and final season, as with the prior five, we found ourselves completely engrossed in this well written serial that spans 12 years of gripping drama centered on a great English estate on the cusp of a vanishing way of life. Nearly six years ago, America fell in love with the Granthams of Downton and their family of servants, and has followed them through sweeping change, scandals, love, ambition, heartbreak, and hope ever since. Downton Abbey delivers wit, warmth, passion and a phenomenon that is, at its heart, utterly human. I will forego any details about the series events as I feel that they are best left to be experienced by the show’s effective drama/melodrama, superb interplay and endearing characters. I watched every minute with my wife and we found ourselves engrossed as the show’s elements played out to a gratifying conclusion that never missed a beat.

I salute Julian Fellowes, his production staff and the cast including, Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Joanne Froggatt, Penelope Wilton, Phyllis Logan, Laura Carmichael, Brendan Coyle, Lesley Nicol, Sophie McShera, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leech, Kevin Doyle, Samantha Bond, David Robb, Raquel Cassidy and Michael Fox. I can’t recall the last time I watched a television serial that won me over so completely. I am pleased to own Downton Abbey: The Complete Series in this comprehensive release that includes five hours on new bonus content.

Release Date: October 18, 2016

Downton Abbey: The Complete Collection comes to Blu-ray Disc from PBS featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 31 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo sound that has an average bitrate of 1.7 Mbps.

Downton Abbey as presented on Blu-ray offers consistent high definition quality the proves gratifying. Images are crisp with subtle refinement, resolute sharpness and exquisite dimensional perspective. Contrast is well balanced and dynamic which energizes colors and empowers whites/grays. Blacks are deep and noise free while lacking refining gradational emphasis that occasionally borders on crush. I wouldn’t describe the effects as deleterious but it’s worth mentioning. Detail in uneven light and darkened environments reveals discerning shapes and structure in backgrounds/objects. Colors are appreciably delineated with natural rendering and punchy primaries that stand out among those within the varied range used. Fleshtones are natural with subtle description and where appropriate warm complexional highlights.

Video: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio stereo sound is quite good. Dynamics are robust and defining without being strident or edgy. Dialogue is rendered with appreciable tonal expression and excellent room penetration through the center channel speaker. The front soundstage is diffused with notable separation and articulated detail. The series is dialogue driven and as such doesn’t necessarily require use of the surround platform although a broader mix would have been acceptable. Regardless I never felt this presentation was lacking in any way and sounded excellent.

Audio: 80
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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  • DSU Rating * (non-rated element): NA

Bonus Features:

  • The 5 hours of new bonus material include:
    – The Story of Downton Abbey
    A 90-minute feature documentary following the story from Season One to the very last episode of Season Six, including exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and interviews.
    – Character Documentaries
    Seven short films that tell the stories from Seasons One through Six of some of Downton Abbey’s key characters through interviews with the actors and clips from all six seasons.
    – Downton Abbey Creators’ Favorite Scenes
    Writer and creator Julian Fellowes and executive producer Gareth Neame spend an hour watching and commenting on their favorite scenes from across the complete series.
    – Supercuts
    Nine short films bring together all of your favorite memories, from The Dowager’s Finest Moments and The Best of Mrs. Patmore, to Downton Abbey Weddings, The Best of Downton Rows, and many more!
    Additional bonus content includes:
    – Great Houses with Julian Fellowes
    – The Manners of Downton Abbey
    – More Manners of Downton Abbey

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8802A 13.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra High Definition Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and In-Ceiling series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components – CP-CP102 cooling package