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Is The Halcyon The New Downton Abbey?

Posted in Media Spotlight, and Television Reviews

When Downton Abbey first hit the screens, it was an immediate success, and no one ever wanted it to end, but it had to. I watched the first series, but after that it never quite kept the original pace it started off with. The ending disappointed me, and for those who miss Downtown, The Halcyon, a period drama on ITV, makes for pretty good viewing. Naturally there will be comparisons between the two, and I decided to wait to until I had watched two episodes before I reviewed it, but it was watchable even if some things were a little predictable.

*SPOILERS ~ This is a review after all*

Set in a luxury London hotel during World War II, the series follows the lives of the owners (the Hamiltons) and the staff in the hotel. While there are some that whine about the same kind of story lines (affairs, scandals,sibling rivalry, money, aristocracy, love, and betrayal), the fact is most films and television shows have those common themes. The casting is a mixture of established actors with some new faces, and the only bit of over acting comes from Kara Tointon whose character as the resident chanteuse, Betsey Day seems implausible. Her wanton swagger encourages her best friend, Emma Garland (receptionist and daughter to the manager) to pursue her childhood friend Freddie Hamilton (who has become Lord Hamilton). Meanwhile, Steven Macintosh holds the lead as the manager Richard Garland. He hears, sees, and knows everything, but the recently widowed Lady Hamilton (played by Olivia Williams) despises him because he covered up her husband’s affairs. He is charming, and subtle, but has a murky past that even his daughter knows nothing of.

I do have a few issues with the plots, mainly because in that era (and still today in some circles) mistresses were commonplace, and the wife accepted it and stayed in the country. Lady Hamilton could hardly expect Garland not to support his employer, thus it was a weak scene and it became obvious she would try and get rid of him if she could. There were also a few flaws, in that when Lord Hamilton dies, the son would have inherited and not the wife, therefore, Lady Hamilton would not have had control, it would have been her sons decision whether or not to fire Garland or not, and as he was in love with Garland’s daughter it was unlikely he would have done so.

The costumes and scenery are excellent, from the décor, and hairstyles of the day. Some plots are predictable, (the firing and rehiring of Garland, the mistress being a nuisance, and Garland gambling), but the actors carry the lines well. I have to admit the Royal Suite looks a bit cramped, but the rest of the hotel looks pretty authentic—in fact some hotels still have remnants of the same décor. Like Downton, the characters are what makes the show, and they are slow to develop. The only characters I like so far are Garland and his sidekick, the concierge Dennis Feldman, played by Mark Benton who is the eyes and ears of the hotel. The other characters have yet to impress; in Downton, Maggie Smith was the reason many people watched the show, but who will be the most loved or hated characters in The Halcyon?

The Halycon is currently showing on ITV on Monday nights at 9 p.m.

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