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The Best Dramas of 2012: 3 – Downton Abbey

December 20th, 2012 by Nathan Alexander Video Editor

(The ten best dramas of 2012 will be revealed on Hulu’s homepage each weekday of this week. To view the rest of the list, click here.)

3 – Downton Abbey

I can’t remember when it was, but at some point last year, it became clear that I was going to have to watch Downton Abbey. There were simply too many people in my face talking about it. How could a British costume drama that takes place in the teens be so exciting? I had to find out. I watched Episode 1 with my wife and her parents, but after a while, I found it hard to hear the dialogue over the sound of three people snoring. It was like a room full of chainsaws.

After my first failed attempt, I tried to get my wife to watch Downton Abbey with me. She resisted. All that snoring had traumatized her. It was like being sniffed all over by a pack of invisible wild boars. It was then that I realized – Downton Abbey has some plot points that are tricky for an American viewer to pick up on. Once you’ve got those covered, you’re in – so I’m going to throw the basics at you:

Robert Crowley, the Earl of Grantham, lives in this freaking huge house called Downton Abbey. The place is so massive that it requires a great deal of money to maintain, with the help of an enormous staff – cooks, maids, valets. Robert ran out of money, so he married a rich American woman, Cora. Now here’s the tricky part: Robert and Cora signed this agreement called an entail. The entail says that Downton Abbey, and all of Cora’s fortune, can only be passed to a male heir. And Robert only has daughters. Basically this means that the house, and all the money, goes to Robert’s cousin, and the daughters get nothing. So the oldest daughter, Mary, actually gets engaged to the cousin, so she can stay filthy rich – but then, oh snap, the cousin dies on the Titanic. So who inherits Downton Abbey, and all that money? The new heir turns out to be a distant, distant cousin – a working-class guy who hates all this posh stuff. Butlers and whatnot. And Mary hates him, immediately. And just like every single movie you’ve ever seen with Matthew McConaughey in it, you know they’re going to hate each other right until they start making out.

If you watch Downton Abbey and you don’t know what an entail is, you’ll spend half of the pilot trying to figure out what’s going on, and then your wife’s stepdad starts snoring with enough force to make ripples in your water glass, and shake books off the shelves. By the way, guess who’s getting a CPAP for Christmas?

Once I got my wife up to speed on the whole entail business, and after (seriously) every couple we went out with wouldn’t shut up about Downton Abbey, my wife agreed to watch, and within two days she was totally hooked.

What’s the big deal with Downton Abbey? Oh, so much.

The beautiful photography, set decoration and scenery serve as a sumptuous backdrop for a story full of scandalous secrets and evil schemes.

Downton Abbey is two houses in one building – a house full of of rich-ass loafers: fox-hunting, tea-sipping, port-drinking, dinner-jacketed nobility, and a house full of super-poor waitstaff, scuttling all over the place, lighting fireplaces, making beds, preparing and serving lavish meals, actually putting the clothes on the rich people. The poor people work their asses off and the rich people literally do nothing. Like, nothing, ever. The incomparable Maggie Smith, unbelievably lifelike as the ancient Countess of Grantham, cracks her best line when working-class Matthew mentions his weekend plans, and the Countess says “What is a weekend?” Then you realize – every day is Saturday to this lady.

And you just get into all their dirt – who they sleep with, flirt with, steal from, their shady past dealings… the show is juicy.

Watching Mary and Matthew hate each other is awesome. She’s the ultimate snob. Mary treats Matthew like trash, and the whole time you’re watching her become more and more attracted to him.

There’s two seasons of Downton Abbey on Hulu right now, so if you haven’t already… get started. Feel cultured for watching a snotty British costume drama. Feel trashy for watching a soap opera. Feel anxious for Season 3, which ends next week in the UK, and is set to hit the US this January. But most of all, feel proud that you totally know what everyone’s talking about. You’re in.—Nathan Alexander

Last comment: Nov 17th 2013 25 Comments
  • Jem says:

    Cancelling my hulu, watching downtiwn abbey 3 at amazon.

    Good luck Hulu

  • Catherine says:

    After just finishing “Monarch of the Glen”, which has a very different pace, I jumped into this. At first, it was hard to get into because, I found the characters hard to like. It took me till episode 7 to then start to care about them. Now I’m fully taken in. Season 3, I had to download from iTunes because Hulu stops at Season 2 and it looks like the only other place to stream it, is Amazon which requires a $79.00 Amazon Prime membership (Amazon apparently has exclusive rights to Season 3). Anyway, I shall marathon my way through Season 3 and wait with baited breath for Season 4.

  • Hey Roni,

    Thanks for posting on our blog! I’m sorry but as of right now we do not have the streaming rights for Season 3 of Downton Abbey. Hopefully we will acquire them soon, and I’ll definitely pass along your interest. As for the Ads, I totally understand your preference, but keep in mind that they help offset the cost of the streaming rights required for our current season TV. If there is anything else I could address for you, or any other feedback you would like to give, please let me know.

    Joe B.
    Hulu Support

  • Roni Wise says:

    Seriously, no season three of Downton Abbey? I heard Hulu is having serious financial problems, is that why you didn’t get the rights? Back to Apple TV I guess, downloading season three, and I see season 4 is also due out soon, What’s up with rights to that. I find the commercials VERY annoying for a paid subscription by the way

  • Hi Sarah,

    Unfortunately, we currently don’t have the rights to stream season 3 of Downton Abbey and there’s no word yet on whether we will be able to stream it in the future. Of course, we’d love to offer this content to our users in the future and we’re always looking to expand upon what we offer through Hulu and Hulu Plus. Hopefully we’ll get the rights to this content soon. Thanks for reaching out!

  • Sarah says:

    Any new updates on when Season 3 will be on Hulu+?

  • Hi Lisa,

    Unfortunately we don’t have any updates at the moment, but we’ll do our best to acquire season 3 soon!

    Hulu Support

  • Lisa says:

    Any new updates on getting Season 3 on Hulu/Hulu+? Really makes me want to spend my subscription money on other things- like buying Season 3 from Amazon! Come on Hulu!!

  • James says:

    I also question my continuation of my Hulu subscription because they don’t have Downton abbey anymore and they have never had the walking dead???? Why keep my subscription all the shows they have on there are on youtube as well?

  • Hi Jackie, thanks for getting in touch with us. I’m sorry that you’re unhappy with our selection. We don’t currently have the rights to stream full episodes of Downton Abbey season 3, though we’ll certainly be looking into acquiring them. I’ll pass your request to our content team here. While that’s not a guarantee we’ll be able to secure the streaming rights for the show, we’re always looking to expand our library.

    Best, Alexa, Hulu Support

  • Jackie says:

    I am so disappointed that Hulu does not have season 3. That will be enough for me to cancel also.

  • Ashley says:

    I signed up for HuluPlus for the sole purpose of watching Downton Abbey. Since Season 3 is not available I will likely be canceling my subscription. It’s very disappointing….

  • Heather Phillips says:

    Hi, I just renewed my subscription to Hulu because I wanted to see Downton Abby. However, I see that it only goes through season 2. Why is season 3 not available? This is very disappointing. We have always loved Hulu because it stayed up today on all the popular show, which Downton Abby is a very popular show. I am disappointed.

  • Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for getting in touch with us, and thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately we don’t have season 3 of “Downton Abbey” currently, but I’ll pass your request to our content team here. While that’s not a guarantee we’ll be able to secure the streaming rights for season 3, we’re always looking to expand our library.

    If there’s anything else I can do – or if there are any other shows you’d like to see added to Hulu – please let me know.

    Hulu Support

  • Kevin Humphries says:

    Watching Downton Abbey was the ONLY reason we joined hulu plus. Since they don’t have Season 3, I am going to cancel the subscription. Maybe, if they get the rights and can stream Season 3, just maybe I’ll come back, unless some other season gets Season 3 first.

  • Hi Paula,

    Thanks for posting. We don’t currently have the rights to stream full episodes of Downton Abbey season 3, though we’ll certainly be looking into acquiring them. I’ll pass your request to our content team here. While that’s not a guarantee we’ll be able to secure the streaming rights for the show, we’re always looking to expand our library.

    Hulu Support

  • When is season three of Downton Abbey going to show up? It’s been a month since the season premiere? Very frustrating!!!!! If it’s a highly rated show then it should be on by now. Answers please?

  • Jeff says:

    I share the frustration of those paying for a premium service and not having access to shows that have been out long enough to obtain streaming rights. Especially the shows that receive such attention should be higher on Hulu’s priority list. “We do not have streaming rights to Season 3 at this time” is known information for those of us checking back weekly for the updated season graphic and finding none. What would be helpful on that page you refer us to is details as to when it will be available for streaming or even where Hulu is in the process of securing rights. Thus far, I haven’t heard that Hulu is attempting to obtain rights. What is the status?

  • Jodi says:

    So are we still not going to get an answer as to why you guys still don’t have Downton Abbey on Hulu Plus? They’ve already aired the first episode of season 3, so don’t give me any lines about show availability. I want a direct answer. Why don’t you guys have the licensing yet? And when do you think you’ll get it?

  • Hi Erika,

    Thanks for your interest in Hulu Plus! I’m afraid I haven’t any current information to offer regarding availability of Season 3 of Downton Abbey. As you can imagine, we’ve been getting a lot of inquiries! As content availability can vary on a show-by-show basis, I do recommend checking the availability notes of specific shows on their homepage.


    When you view the show page, the availability notes (lower center of the page) include the specifics regarding the show’s availability. We know waiting is hard! Still, I hope we have some good news for you soon!

    Hulu Support

  • Erika says:

    So I was all excited to watch Downton Abbey this morning since it premiered last night and it doesn’t show up on my hulu plus. Does that mean it will not be shown on Hulu Plus? That was a major reason for our subscription.
    I hope this gets cleared up

  • Diana says:

    I agree with Deb about the service. It takes me an hour or so to find where it is playing. Love the show, enjoy it a lot. Yes, sometimes you can not understand what they are saying but I use close caption , but if you can not read , I don’t know what other suggestions can I give. Enjoy the show and PBS is a great station . Thank you….

  • krystal m says:

    I just signed up for hulu plus and I thought I would be able to watch the shows I want to watch but instead im paying to watch half of seasons like im watching gossip girl and you have season 6 but it starts on episode 6 that not good and if I cant watch full seasons what is the point of paying for it

  • Hi Deb,

    Thanks for your post. I’m very sorry for the trouble. It’s pretty busy around here for the holidays, so in order to best assist you, please contact us through our Support Form ( http://www.hulu.com/support ).

    We look forward to hearing from you, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!

    Hulu Support

  • deb dugger says:

    love the service but keep having issues regarding program cancelling mid show and not being able to return…to satisfy my need to finish the story…that is really annoying…DD