The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: PBS - 2012
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 525 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Dan Stevens, Penelope Wilton, Joanne Froggatt, Maggie Smith, Rob James-Collier, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Sophie McShera, Shirley MacLaine, Lesley Nichol, Siobhan Finneran, Michelle Dockery
Directed by: Brian Percival, Andy Goddard, Jeremy Webb, David Evans
Written by: Julian Fellows
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: January 29, 2013
Downton Abbey has weathered the war, and the prospect of an impending wedding for Mary and Matthew brings great anticipation, as well as Cora’s mother from America, Martha Levinson. Martha “differing” perspectives tests tradition at Downton, and the patience of the formidable Lady Violet. Aside from the sparks upstairs, a very real crisis threatens the foundation and future of Downton.
Spring, 1920. The Great War is over and a long-awaited engagement is on, but all is not tranquil at
Downton Abbey as wrenching social changes, romantic intrigues, and personal crises grip the majestic English country estate during Season Three. The returning cast is joined by Shirley MacLaine, who plays Martha Levinson, the very American mother of Cora, Countess of Grantham (McGovern). Years earlier, Cora rescued Downton Abbey with her riches by marrying Robert, Earl of Grantham (Bonneville). Now, new world and old world are about to clash as Cora’s mother locks horns with Robert’s redoubtable mother, Lady Violet (Maggie Smith).
Last season closed with the reluctant heir to Downton, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), recovered from his war wounds and ready to tie the knot with the eldest of Lord and Lady Grantham’s daughters, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery). Meanwhile, Mary’s youngest sister, Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay), eloped to Ireland with the political-minded chauffeur, Branson (Allen Leech), and is expecting a child.
This season lovebird servants Anna (Joanne Froggat) and Bates (Brendan Coyle) face new ordeals in their star-crossed marriage. Downton’s impeccable butler, Carson (Jim Carter), breaks in a new footman, who happens to be the nephew of the scheming lady’s maid O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran). Following Matthew and Mary’s engagement, Robert sticks to his duty to maintain Downton more firmly than ever – even as other great houses are crippled psychologically and financially in the wake of World War I.
Prior to receiving Season Three for review I hadn’t seen Downton Abbey but have heard nothing but positive things about it from those that have. I have to admit that going in I had some reservations based solely on the subject matter and genre as it just sounded like it would be slow melodrama set in a location/period specific setting that might be difficult to connect with. Not seeing the first two seasons left me a bit in the dark but a little research and being a quick study helped me catch the gist. I have to say that I can understand why Downton Abbey is touted by its fans. It is a well written 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. Along with the family comes the intertwined subtext associated with their live in servants who reside in the downstairs or on the grounds of Downton.
Writer/creator Julian Fellows 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 role 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. I watched the entire Season with my wife. We were pretty much all in right from the start as we quickly found ourselves involved in the goings on both upstairs and down. 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.
There is much going on this season as the continuing variety of subplots engagingly plays out. The cast is simply marvelous and all equally worthy of praise. I know that Maggie Smith has been recognized with Golden Globe/Emmy nominations/wins but as an ensemble the group is excellent. Those that follow the series should prepare themselves as this season has several surprises in store. Dare I say that some you probably won’t see coming.
Downton Abbey Season Three comes to Blu-ray in this three disc original UK Edition with the series 8 episodes and season finale spread over three BD-50 dual layered discs with the bulk of the bonus content located on Disc 3. We really enjoyed the show and at the conclusion of the final episode were both reaching for the iPad to see when Season Four would be airing here in the U.S. This set will be available on January 29th just prior to the airing of the season three finale on PBS.
The series contains thematic material and brief sensuality that would be inappropriate for young viewers.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Downton Abbey Season Three comes to Blu-ray Disc from PBS Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 25 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD Stereo sound that has an average bitrate of 1.7 Mbps.
This is a reference quality high definition transfer that looks spectacular. 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 rich, noise free and gradational. 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. I found this to be an impressive and pristine quality high definition video presentation from PBS.
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.
- (HD) Downton Abbey: Behind the drama – 48 minute featurette
- (HD) Downton in 1920 – 17 minute featurette
- (HD) The wedding of Lady Mary – 13 minute featutette
- (HD) The wedding of Lady Edith – 16 minute featurette
- (HD) The men of Downton Abbey – Hugh Bonneville, Dan Stevens, and Alan Leech discuss the differing classes of men featured in the series
- (HD) Shirley MacLaine at Downton – 9 minute featurette
- (HD) Behind the scenes: The Cricket Match – 6 minute featurette
- (HD) Behind the scenes: A journey to the Highlands – 12 minute featurette
Downton Abbey Season Three represents my first foray into the popular English TV series and I must say, better late than never. This is an engaging and wonderfully written show that might just surprise genre fans that have never bothered to give it a look. For those that never miss it I guarantee that Season Three has lots to offer including several interesting twists, a few turns and one or eye openers that reinforce why it is one of top rated shows on the air. Downton Abbey Season Three comes to Blu-ray in this three Disc release from PBS Home Entertainment featuring sparkling reference quality high definition video, crystal clear lossless sound and a strong supplemental package that fans will appreciate. I’m hooked and eagerly await Season Four. For those that enjoy the show and like to own it on home video this Blu-ray release comes highly recommended.
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