Devoted fans of the now-departed Downton Abbey will likely never settle for anything less, but creator Julian Fellowes and Amazon have a soft tonic to ease the discomfort. Debuting on May 20 on the streaming service after having played in the UK earlier this spring, Julian Fellowes Presents Doctor Thorne is a standard English period piece straight out of the best parts of the 1850s.
Based on the third novel in Anthony Trollope’s beloved Chronicles of Barsetshire series, the Fellowes-adapted four-episode Doctor Thorne is, like its title character played by Tom Hollander, defineably pleasant and full of comfort — no more and no less.
Led by frothy but fun prologues and epilogues by Lord Fellowes of West Strafford himself in full Alistair Cooke-Masterpiece Theatre mode, Thorne tells a posh love-triangle tale. Also starring in AMC/BBC’s The Night Manager right now, Hollander is his usual admirable self, and Alison Brie sprinkles spiked sugar as an American heiress on a tour of English country homes and potential husbands.
With the clash among true love, the aristocracy and the newly gained fortunes of the industrial revolution, plus illegitimacy, loyalty and inheritance, Doctor Thorne is still no Brideshead Revisited, the 1981 serial setting the gold standard for such manor born shows. Nor, as I say in my video review above, does the lush Niall MacCormick-directed miniseries strike the wit and scope of Downton at its best. But, with a soaring scoundrel of a performance from Ian McShane as the drunkard and rich Sir Roger Scatcherd, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter because with Amazon already home to all six seasons of Downton Abbey now, the target market will feel right at home with Doctor Throne.
And isn’t that the kindest comfort of all?
Take a look at my video review and tell us if you are preparing for a visit to a country estate this weekend.