I am among the millions of fans who will mourn the season finale of "Downton Abbey." I happily anticipate, yet dread, the end of Season Three on February 17 when the show goes on hiatus until January, 2014. Here is what I will miss most during the long eleven months we are apart:
1. The opening montage richly depicts scenes of both upstairs and downstairs in the manor house. Creator Julian Fellowes earned an Oscar in 2002 as the screenwriter for the feature film Gosford Park, a movie known for its exquisite details. Though created for the small screen, "Downton Abbey" does not disappoint with its finely-crafted setting.
2. While soaking in the opening credits, the gorgeous orchestration of the theme music by British composer John Lunn summons me to listen to the program's thoughtful dialogue and array of accents.
3. I lust over Downton Abbey's interior design, dreaming of sweeping staircases, vaulted ceilings and beautiful table settings. While I will never live in a home like this, every Sunday I am able to dream.
4. Watching the interpersonal dynamics of Downton Abbey presents vivid examples of parenting do's and don'ts. The world may have changed much in the last ninety years, but the challenges of parenting remain unaltered.
5. Every "Downton Abbey" episode is a lesson in British history. The writers have already covered WWI, the influenza epidemic, the decline of the landed aristocracy and the formation of the Irish free state. I'm certain there is more to come.
6. "Downton" has an expertly-drawn cast I love visiting every week. Fellowes made them all real to me, and I am invested in the lives of both the gilded Granthams and the downstairs help.
7. Not taking this show for granted, I recognize it as a rare, quality costume drama. I watched every episode of "Brideshead Revisited" and many fondly remember "Upstairs, Downstairs." But those shows were televised in 1981 and 1971. Success like this does not come around often.
9. The ladies' period costumes are stunningly beautiful. From wedding gowns to sleeping attire, the luxurious fabrics and intricate accessories are breathtaking. Watching the show feels like playing dress-up. If "Downton Abbey" starts a trend in long leather gloves, I will happily succomb to the temptation.
10. Maggie Smith, whose lines alone make the show worthwhile, dominates each and every scene. I lean into the TV whenever she appears to make sure I don't miss a word (although I can count on seeing her in a Monday-morning meme with the best zinger of the previous evening.)
11. Spoiler-alert: if you have not heard this already, regrettably, Dan Stevens' Matthew Crawley is departing the series. As I write this, I have no idea what torture the writers have created for Mary and Matthew. Happily-ever-after may not be written into the Season Four script for our favorite upstairs couple.
12. Discovering a show that both my husband and I enjoy is a gift. We watch together even if it means one of us must wait for the other to be available. In our almost empty nest, enjoying "Downton Abbey" has turned Sunday evening into a new date night.