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Blu-ray Review Downton Abbey: Season 5 Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

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Downton Abbey: Season 5 Blu-ray Review

For a program that began its life intending to be merely a seven-part miniseries which ended on the brink of World War I (and which won six Emmys), Julian Fellowes' Downton Abbey has become instead an international phenomenon. Now prepping for its sixth season, the series has been a runaway hit around the world and has brought domestically PBS the highest ratings in its history. The fifth season of the historical melodrama continues along the lines of the previous seasons advancing a year in time and following through with the almost one dozen storylines creator Fellowes must juggle dexterously each season.



Studio: PBS

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA

Subtitles: English SDH

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 8 Hr. 45 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

keep case with leaves in a slipcover

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 01/27/2015

MSRP: $54.99




The Production Rating: 4/5

Season five is highlighted by romance in the air for couples both upstairs and downstairs during the year 1924. Season four had ended with Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) being pursued by two suitors: Lord Tony Gillingham (Tom Cullen) and Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden), and there was more than a suggestion that Tom Branson (Allen Leech) was more than intrigued by local schoolteacher Sarah Bunting (Daisy Lewis), but they aren’t the only two who must confront unexpectedly amorous feelings: Dowager Countess Violet (Maggie Smith) comes into contact with an old Russian flame, Prince Kuragin (Rade Serbedzija), ousted by the Russian Revolution. Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) is still the focus of Lord Merton’s (Douglas Reith) serious attentions, and even Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) gains an admirer, art historian Simon Bricker (Richard E. Grant). As for the downstairs staff, there’s a surprise engagement by the end of the season as well as a romantic conundrum for footman Jimmy Kent (Ed Speleers). Among the heady cast of Downton Abbey characters, there’s also a wedding during the season that includes an incredible amount of drama behind the scenes as people objecting to the match do their utmost to prevent it from occurring.

But there is more to the season than romantic dalliances. Lady Edith’s (Laura Carmichael) illegitimate daughter Marigold had been brought to a tenant farm on the property for the couple there to care for her, but the lure of motherhood is too strong and she makes a nuisance of herself assuring that new arrangements will have to be made at some point in the season. The specter of doom which seems to continually hover over Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and John (Brendan Coyle) Bates continues as new evidence emerges in the investigation into the death of Mr. Green who had raped Anna in season four and then later died in London under mysterious circumstances. The police interview not only the Bateses but also other members of the upstairs and downstairs groups pertaining to the movements of the unlucky couple during the period of the murder (information about Anna’s backstory emerges during these investigations which had heretofore not been revealed to loyal viewers). Assistant cook Daisy (Sophie McShera) decides she wants to further her education in order to get by in the rapidly changing world and enlists the aid of Tom’s schoolteacher friend Miss Bunting. In fact, many in the downstairs staff begin making tentative plans for new lives in case their employment during changing times is terminated. And everyone’s favorite snake Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier) once again gets himself into trouble and must be aided by the woman with whom he was locked in mortal combat for much of season four, Miss Baxter (Raquel Cassidy). He does, however, (in addition to performing an act of bravery in the season premiere) finally use his considerable skills at chicanery to, for a change, aid the family rather than begrudge them during the season’s final two episodes.

There is no denying that writer Julian Fellowes’ skill at juggling these and other storylines during the course of the season’s nine episodes is pretty amazing, but often there are frustrations in stories not being developed in depth or running off the rails due to nonsensical plotting. Lady Mary’s quest to solve her dilemma of whom to choose as her next husband, for example, is intriguingly daring by 1924 standards, and great preparations are made for her to be able to be certain of her choice. But after her grand adventure, there’s precious little explanation as to the reasons for her decision. Miss Bunting’s socialist views voiced loudly and obnoxiously at every Crawley family gathering become rather tiresome after a time since logically the young lady would never have been allowed back after her first indiscretion and she herself should have had the graciousness to keep her contrary opinions to herself when the guest in someone else’s home, especially the home of the man with whom she was so infatuated. In the latter half of the season, Lady Violet’s new maid (Sue Johnston) has a running battle with Violet’s longtime butler Spratt (Jeremy Swift) which wears out its welcome long before the end of the season. On the other hand, there is certain to be more in season six concerning Isobel’s thwarted romantic feelings, Edith’s continuing drama with her child, a possible new man (Matthew Goode) in Mary’s life, and Lady Rose (Lily James) and her recalcitrant mother.

The set contains the season’s nine episodes (which includes the Christmas episode “A Moorland Holiday”) on three Blu-ray discs.


First Look


Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

Though the liner notes claim the resolution is 1080i, these are 1080p transfers (AVC codec) framed at the widescreen television aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Sharpness is usually excellent (only an occasional shot that’s less than exemplary) with gorgeous color and believable and appealing flesh tones. Black levels are outstanding with very good shadow detail, and contrast is consistently maintained. Overall, these transfers offer better clarity and detail than the high definition television broadcasts.



Audio Rating: 4.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo sound mix offers a full and surprisingly enveloping listening experience. Dialogue has been superbly recorded and has been placed in the center channel. The music by John Lunn and the sound effects in both London and Yorkshire are well placed and never intrude on the dialogue.



Special Features Rating: 3/5

Behind the Scenes Day 100 (10:14, HD): on the one-hundredth day of filming, actresses Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes) and Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore) take us through their day beginning in hair and makeup and then later on as scenes are staged and rehearsed and later shot. Other members of the cast and crew also comment on the day’s activities.

The Roaring Twenties (26:32, HD): most of the cast along with creator/writer Julian Fellowes, production designer Donal Woods, executive producer Gareth Neame, and historical expert Alistair Bruce comment on the season’s highlights including the fire, the hunts, a racing sequence, and the climactic wedding preparations.

A Day in the Life of Lady Rose (7:52, HD): actress Lily James takes us through her day with wig and costume fittings during the preparations for the wedding episode, and we meet her new inamorata Atticus Aldridge played by actor Matt Barber.

Visit Britain (1:03, HD): a brief montage of sights to see on a Great Britain vacation.



Overall Rating: 4/5

Season Five marks another successful and satisfying season of Downton Abbey with enough high-toned comedy, drama, and romance to please just about anyone who enjoys these stately historically set programs. For those who have already succumbed to the allure of the Crawleys and the characters orbiting around them, missing their further adventures would be unthinkable. Recommended!


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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Mark-P

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This is the first year I decided to forgo watching it on PBS and just purchase the Blu-ray instead.
 

bujaki

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At least you'll see it complete. PBS cuts all episodes (as they do with Mystery!, and all other series); a real shame, and a reprehensible practice.
 

Steve Tannehill

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Actually there's a cut in the UK version that appeared in the PBS version. This cut was also in the iTunes version, which claims to be the UK version. The cut scene is where Jimmy says goodbye to Anna and Mrs Hughes in the stairwell right before he expresses a rather fond farewell for Thomas as he helps Jimmy get into his carriage . Is this scene on the U.S. Blu-Ray?
 

Matt Hough

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Steve Tannehill said:
Actually there's a cut in the UK version that appeared in the PBS version. This cut was also in the iTunes version, which claims to be the UK version. The cut scene is where Jimmy says goodbye to Anna and Mrs Hughes in the stairwell right before he expresses a rather fond farewell for Thomas as he helps Jimmy get into his carriage . Is this scene on the U.S. Blu-Ray?
Watched in a marathon session over two nights, I'll have to rewatch episode 2 and report back tomorrow.
 

Steve Tannehill

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Thanks. Most of the cuts are a snippet here or there, like bits with the schoolteacher and Daisy. The one with Jimmy was just kind of odd since the broadcast PBS version had more than the home video version. And the only reason I noticed it was because I had just seen PBS ep 2 followed by iTunes.
 

Bryan Tuck

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Thanks for the review, Matt.


I guess if it's 1080p, that means it's slowed down. I'm still very annoyed by this practice, but it appears to be standard procedure now on US releases of British television.


Does anyone know if the versions streaming on Amazon Prime are uncut or not? I wonder why PBS feels the need to edit the shows; do they normally run over one hour?
 

bujaki

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Steve Tannehill said:
Thanks. Most of the cuts are a snippet here or there, like bits with the schoolteacher and Daisy. The one with Jimmy was just kind of odd since the broadcast PBS version had more than the home video version. And the only reason I noticed it was because I had just seen PBS ep 2 followed by iTunes.
Interesting information, Steve. I'd read something akin to this on previous versions of the series. So how many versions of the series exist? With a cut here and a cut there, they're basically creating alternate versions of the episodes. I wish they'd stick to one edit and be done with.

I still find it reprehensible that PBS chooses to cut their programs to fit the hour slot, with time to spare to fill the hour. PBS claims not to be commercial TV, but sometimes they act the same way, with announcers' voices over the final musical (!) numbers of shows, etc. Very tacky and irksome.
 

Matt Hough

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Steve, the farewell between Jimmy and the ladies is not in the Blu-ray episode 2. It was easy to check since it happens right at the beginning of the episode.
 

Mike Frezon

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bujaki said:
Interesting information, Steve. I'd read something akin to this on previous versions of the series. So how many versions of the series exist? With a cut here and a cut there, they're basically creating alternate versions of the episodes. I wish they'd stick to one edit and be done with.


I still find it reprehensible that PBS chooses to cut their programs to fit the hour slot, with time to spare to fill the hour. PBS claims not to be commercial TV, but sometimes they act the same way, with announcers' voices over the final musical (!) numbers of shows, etc. Very tacky and irksome.

A big +1 to both of those points.


I could go on at length about my feelings about PBS being "non-commercial" and it's place in our culture...but here is not the time nor place.
 

Steve Tannehill

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So now PBS is not the lesser of the broadcasts. Can we turn this around and detect where definite edits have occurred? The Jimmy scene was cut on the blu-Ray and the iTunes and the iTunes claims to be the UK version.
 

The Obsolete Man

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Steve Tannehill said:
So now PBS is not the lesser of the broadcasts. Can we turn this around and detect where definite edits have occurred? The Jimmy scene was cut on the blu-Ray and the iTunes and the iTunes claims to be the UK version.
The UK version is the the definitive version.


If it didn't happen in the original ITV edit, it didn't happen. And the ITV edit is what's on DVD (or Blu)


Here,


http://www.hometheaterforum.com/topic/328823-downton-abbey-back-for-a-5th-season-in-2015/


go down to post 12, and the explanations start for why the UK version is one edit and the PBS version is different, and just what counts and what doesn't as far as being canon for Downton.


/though I still wonder why there isn't an extended edit made for DVD that includes all footage from both UK and PBS edits.
 

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