God is written out of “Downton Abbey.”

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Presumably the Crawley family is Church of England, but the only time you’ll see anything remotely religious on “Downton Abbey” is during a wedding.

The Telegraph:

…the man tasked with ensuring the historical accuracy of the series has revealed why Downton does not do God. Alastair Bruce, who serves as the show’s historical advisor, said that executives in charge of the series had ordered producers to “leave religion out of it”, for fear of alienating an increasingly atheistic public.

Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that the Crawley family is never shown in the process of sitting down to dinner, with the action instead shown from part-way through the meal. This, Mr Bruce said, was to avoid having to show the characters saying grace.

He added: “In essence you hardly ever see a table that isn’t already sat at. We never see the beginning of a luncheon or a dinner, because no one was ever allowed to see a grace being said, and I would never allow them to sit down without having said grace.

“I think that the view was that we’d leave religion out of it, and it would’ve taken extra time too. I suggested a Latin grace, but they decided that was too far, and no one would’ve known what was going on.”

The absence has not gone entirely unnoticed.

The lack of religious references in Downton has been a topic of debate in America, where the series is wildly popular and airs on the PBS channel. The flagship American evangelical magazine, Christianity Today, has noted: “God is a peripheral presence at best.”

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Alan Christensen
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Alan Christensen

At least here in America there's typically very little religious presence in prime-time TV. I can think of a couple series that were in a church setting--the short-lived "The Book of Daniel," the more successful "Amen," and a current show called "Impastor"--but aside from that type of show the instances where characters' faith comes into play are pretty few and far between.

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Pete Haynsworth
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Pete Haynsworth

There's also "The Choir.“ Takes place mostly on a cathedral close. Have a beautiful CD of the series' soundtrack, but haven't found a DVD. Was pretty intriguing watching for someone who spent 5 years at a choir school

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Reese Rickards
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Reese Rickards

The plot lines of Downton Abby often parallel those of Upstairs Downstairs from the 1970s. I don't remember what they did upstairs, but Mr. Hudson the butler always began meals in the downstairs kitchen with grace.

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Nancy Platt
Guest

Then there was Lady Edith's non-wedding right inside a lovely C of E church.

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Anne Bay
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Anne Bay

I discovered "The Vicar of Dibly" a few years ago. Typical English humour. So much church humour in it with regards to vestries, the relationship of the clergy to the laity, and trying to maintain a good relationship with the small community. I haven't watched it in quite a while, I'll have to get it out again. It's good for a smile.

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George Henry
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George Henry

Go to "Vicar of Dibly" for your religion/C of E fix. (With an ever so slightly irreverent edge to it.)

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David Allen
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David Allen

Soon to be the Bishop of Dibly!

http://metro.co.uk/2015/01/11/the-tv-vicar-is-returning-dawn-french-to-make-a-comeback-as-the-bishop-of-dibley-for-one-off-comic-relief-special-5017734/

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Nancy Barnard Starr
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Nancy Barnard Starr

Ah, well, yes. I much prefer the movie 'About Time' with engaged Tim & Mary asking the 'yellow-toothed' vicar to celebrate their wedding at the local church. Blessed by torrents of rain!

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Gary Paul Guilbert
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Gary Paul Guilbert

The 1980s were the Golden Age of British television. Brideshead Revisited is a classic, from the music, the writing, and the acting. Religion features in it. Downtown Abbey, on the other hand, is forgettable. They have Maggie Smith, but they do not use her well other than to have her deliver some witticisms. One of the worst episodes was Downtown Abbey does the Spanish flu. Within so many minutes, one of the dinner guests falls ill and dies. The plots nowadays seem too speeded up, whereas forty years ago character development was more important. If you want Anglicanism represented, then go to Barchester Chronicles, on youtube. Donald Pleasence, Alan Rickman, Susan Hampshire, and Geraldine McEwan are excellent.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=355TusWksTI

Gary Paul Gilbert

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Anne Bay
Guest
Anne Bay

I was slow to warm up to Downton Abbey. I enjoy the production effort made to be true to the way it was. I come from English heritage and relate to the British ways and traditions. My dad said his aunt made the tea so strong it "could walk."

I never even noticed the omission of C of E presence or quite frankly, the deal with no grace at meals. Downtown Abbey is about the personalities and the differences in the British system at that time. So I am glad the focus is not on religion. And we have said grace at our table thousands of times, but being English, we wouldn't think of saying grace in Latin!!!

Unless there is a really good reason that is a part of the plot of a script, and there are people who know the religious/religion world well, I think it's great to avoid it. That could be another series perhaps.

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Philip B. Spivey
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Philip B. Spivey

I'm much more interested in why family members waltz in and out of each other's boudoir's without knocking or announcing themselves. Is that an aristocratic thing?

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Paul Woodrum
Guest

And there was the baptism of the daughter of the lady and the Irish chauffer. Of course, it was in the Roman, not the Anglican, tradition to the mild consternation of the upstairs crowd.

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Nancy Platt
Guest

They are however seen leaving the church and they do have the clergy for dinner....... hopeful?

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Jay Croft
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Jay Croft

They have the clergy for dinner--

Roasted, broiled, sautéed or deep-fried?

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JC Fisher
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JC Fisher

LOL, Jay!

The only religious controversy I recall on the show was Tom Branson's decision to have his infant daughter (after *sniffle* Lady Sybill died in childbirth) baptized Roman Catholic. But I think that was more an IrishPride! thing, not a theological decision...

But as far as "God written out", we might compare this to the new English controversy, of several major theater (um, theatre) chains' decision to not accept a new advert, "Just Pray" https://youtu.be/vlUXh4mx4gI

On both sides of the Pond, we have to accept that there is increasing anti-theism, and respond to it (Please dear God, NOT defensively!).

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Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

“I think that the view was that we’d leave religion out of it..." Are you kidding me?

Soap operas, and Downton is without a doubt the classic soap opera format albeit with Victorian costumes, are all about the gods. The plot line is taken from classical divinities and their interactions with mere mortals.

In fact, a soap opera based on the Victorian British class system is a perfect send up of the division between the gods and mortals. So while period social rituals like grace before meals ( more about manners than piety) may be absent, viewers are buying into the tragedy-comedy arcs of the gods 'lite'.

Downton, Days of our Lives, As the world Turns, Person of Interest, these are all variations on Olympus, on the pantheon. It's all the same song. In some ways it a double entendre,. The joke is on those who think this TV show is not about religion in the global sense or something other than just a gum chewing soap opera in fancy duds.

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Leslie Marshall
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Leslie Marshall

I remember when Lady Mary was praying to God in a genuine, albeit tentative way for the safety of Matthew. It was a meaningful scene, that showed faith.

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Paul Woodrum
Guest

Of course if the family were Roman Catholics instead of mere, dull C of E, upstairs and downstairs would no doubt have been shown gathered for evening prayers in Latin.

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