5 Reasons Why People LOVE Downton Abbey

 downton abbey season 3
Downton Abbey

This is sort of hard for me to admit (since I am straight guy) but  I like watching the wildly popular TV show Downton Abbey.  For those that don't know Downton Abbey is British TV show that airs on PBS and is written and created by Julian Fellowes.  The show revolves around a British great house and estate, Downton Abbey, and the family and servants that live in it.

The show has been ratings gold for PBS and there has been a lot of talk about why the show is so popular.  There are a lot of reasons why the show is excellent.  It includes a great group of actors including  Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Dan Stevens, Michelle Dockery, and others.   As well the writing by Julian Fellowes seems to be quite well researched and well done.

While I am not a psychology expert or TV junkie, this is my list of 5 Reasons Why People LOVE Downton Abbey:

1. Not Working Appeals to Us

One of the reasons Downton Abbey appeals to people is that the show revolves around British Lords and great estates.  These British families were so rich and well-off that they didn't have to work at all.  They inherited money and land which made them fabulously wealthy for generations.  Being known as a “Gentleman” basically meant you didn't work.  Working was seen as something only lower and middle class people did.  In the show this is reflected in many smart quips and lines.  Essentially the servants do most of the work running and maintaining the house while Lord Grantham and the Crawley family don't do much.  This lifestyle quit appeals to men and I assume women too.  Imagine not having to clean your house? Cook dinner? Wash dishes? That would be totally awesome and isn't something that American are use to seeing much.

2. The House

HighClere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed, is an amazing and impressive house and estate.  No matter what people say, everyone has thought or dreamed about what it would be like to live in a big and beautiful house.

3. Soap Opera

The best way to describe Downton Abbey is sort of like a soap opera, without the bad writing and bad actors.  Some of the plots and stories are a bit annoying but you watch, enjoy the show, and have fun anyway.

4. Time Capsule

Considering how advanced society and technology is in 2013 it is fun for people to get a glimpse into a different time period.   In the Downton Abbey Season 1 they installed electricity in the house as a ‘new thing' and later thee house had phones installed.  Seeing what technology was cutting edge back in the day is fun for a generation that is plugged in so much.  You always wonder, “How did people live without the internet ”  Hey, know you know.

5. Everyone Else is Watching

Basically everyone you know is watching and talking about the show.  So you got to keep up with pop culture, watch the show too, and say you like it.

highclere castle
Highclere Castle aka Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey is now in Season 3 and takes place after World War 1.  Here is the description for Season 3 from the PBS website.

Downton Abbey has weathered the war, and the prospect of an impending wedding for Mary and Matthew brings great anticipation, as well as Cora’s mother from America, Martha Levinson. New World and Old World are about to clash as Martha tests tradition at Downton, and the patience of the formidable Lady Violet.

Aside from the sparks upstairs, a very real crisis threatens the foundation and future of Downton. Great houses have been crippled psychologically and financially in the wake of World War I, and Downton may not be exempt. In response, Robert clings decisively to his duty to maintain the home at all costs. But in this changing landscape, nothing is assured, and even the Crawleys may be faced with a new battle to safeguard their beloved Downton.

You can catch the show on PBS on Sunday nights at 9PM.  Next week is the last Downton Abbey episode for Season 3.

What do you think of my list? Do you agree or disagree?  Do you love or hate Downton Abbey?  Leave a comment below and let me know!

The Power of Habit Review

the power of habit

Charles Duhigg's “The Power of Habit” is a fascinating book about the sometimes interesting, strange, and damaging habits of people. Have you ever wondered why Celine Dion is so popular and you hear her song everywhere? (Even though you probably hate her!) What makes Alcoholics Anonymous such a successful program for millions of people with drinking problems? How Target is such a profitable company? Why Michael Phelps wins so much? Why Rick Warren's church is so big? Why is Febreeze popular? Why people love Starbucks and what justifies them charging so much for coffee?

All these questions and more are explained by Duhigg, a reporter for the New York Times, in ‘The Power of Habit.'

Essentially habits can be explained by daily cues, routines, and rewards we may or may not know exist. Habits help companies like Target determine what women shoppers are pregnant. Songs get popular because people like hearing familiar songs (habits) sandwiched between songs they already know. Habits give Paul O'Neil the power to turn Alcoa around and make the Tampa Bay Bucanners go from a terrible football team to being Super Bowl contenders.

In one chapter of the book Charles Duhigg explains how Starbucks can turn mediocre employees into integral parts of the coffee company by applying habits and the LATTE method: Listen to the customer, Acknowledge their complaint, Take Action by Solving the problem, Explain why the problem occurred. Starbucks uses so that employees have a clear habit when dealing with unhappy customers.

Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer, has specific sets of habit he does before a race. He eats the same meal, does the exact same swim warm-up, and listens to music the same way. This helps Michael Phelps have what is known as ‘small wins' throughout his day to make it seem like he has already won. Bob Bowman, his coach, instilled these habits so that he would be able to win consistently.

Febreeze, the air freshener that can get smells out of anything, was supposed to a big hit for Proctor & Gamble. However, when it initially launched Febreeze was a marketing flop. The marketers and researchers assumed that the fact that it got the smell out of anything would sell Febreeze, but they were wrong. They realized they needed to create Febreeze into a habit for people to use by encouraging them to use after they were finished cleaning and not before.

Another interesting part of the book was about Keystone Habits. These Keystone Habits can make all the difference in companies and this was demonstrated in the chapter about Paul O'Neil and Alcoa. O'Neil didn't worry about the bottomline but changing the companies focus on safety. When O'Neil created a better and safer working environment, employees trusted him, word traveled faster up the chain of command, and the company become more profitable due to better efficiency and less material loss.

One part of the book I found a bit scary but fascinating was how a Target researcher was able to figure out when women customers are pregnant based on shopping habits and patterns of what they are buying. Target tracks customers with a seemingly with accuracy and precision that edge on the side of Big Brother using emails, browser cookies, coupons, store cards, and more. Target utilizes all this information to automatically send pregnant customers specific coupons for baby products they know a pregnant women would be interested in buying.

Since I don't have kids I wasn't aware that the babies are a very profitable industry for a companies like Target. (On average people spend $6,000+ on baby gear and products.) The thinking for companies like Target is you can get parents shopping at Target for a baby or babies, they will certainly be buying other products there, creating profitable shopping habits.

The book offers even more examples, stories, and insights. After reading ‘The Power of Habit' you come away with a more keen sense of your daily habits and routines.

One question people wonder while reading ‘The Power of Habit' is, “How can I change my bad habits?” Not surprisingly at the end of the book Charles Duhigg uses his own example of eating a cookie everyday around the same time. He identified the routine, experimented with rewards, isolated the cue, and had a plan to stop his cooking eating. This made him (and it seems his wife) happy since he was able to change this habit by simply replacing it with what he knew the reward he needed was, which was interacting and talking with fellow reporters and journalists.

“Replacing bad habits with good habits is the only way to make a change. What drives people is a cue, routine, and emotional reward that one receives from a specific habit.” says Duhigg in The Power of Habit.

While the end of ‘The Power of Habit' does give clues on what you can to change bad habits, don't expect to find any ways to truly turn your life around if you searching for self-help or are experiencing serious problems (drinking, gambling, etc.) that are having a negative affect on your life.

Duhigg weaves a book that will leave you thinking long after you put it down. Many parts of the book are quite entertaining. However, some parts of ‘The Power of Habit' didn't need to be in there. For instance he included a portion of the book about Rosa Park, while interesting, I didn't think added much value to the book. Also Alcoa and Starbucks are not just successful from habits but a company culture.

While the ‘The Power of Habit‘ had it's shortcomings it is definitely worth a read for those interested in learning more about what makes people do certain things, habits.

Visit Charles Duhigg's website to learn more about him and The Power of Habit.

Like this review? Think someone might find it insightful? Please share it if that it the case and leave a comment below if you read the book.  I love hearing other people's opinions about books.

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