"If I should search for logic, I would not look for it among the English upper class" -- Violet Crowley, D-Countess of Grantham
At just one hour run time, one shouldn't expect this program to offer a complete guide to acting like an aristocrat. However, it does offer some fairly nice detail that illustrates the complexity of Edwardian age manners vs. a world beginning to modernize. It is hosted by Alastair Bruce, historic adviser to the production. Yes, he is also of the famous family line Bruce. Here are all the main topics with just a few highlights of what was discussed in each:
HOW TO EAT: "Nothing succeeds like excess" -- Ritual of the Dining Room -- Setting the Table -- Service Procedure -- Table Conversation -- and we thought a 6 place setting was complicated. Try 6 spoons just to start with! One might think the intricacy of the table would be boring, but this ballet of table service was amazing. Not designed to teach you to set your table though.
HOW TO MARRY: Coming Out in Society -- The Season -- Lineage & Burk's Peerage (Posh Bible of lineage) -- Aristocrat Courtship -- Staff Courtship
HOW TO BEHAVE: Social Etiquette -- Cool Reserve & Manners to Protect Position -- Manners of Staff -- The mention of how the French Revolution affected British Aristocratic Behavior (to protect position) was quite interesting, though brief.
HOW TO DRESS: Dressing to Make a Statement (I don't work, people help me dress, I am in charge) -- Tiaras and Gloves
HOW TO MAKE MONEY: Old Money (and the failure of the old way) -- New Money -- Knowing Your Place -- Stewardship of the Aristocrat for his land and tenants
This program uses scenes from the show and behind the scenes footage, almost exclusively, as Alastair discusses the various topics. With only a one hour run, there was the obvious danger of being superficial, useless or trite. However, I thought the goals were very well defined and ultimately realized. It's detailed just enough to drive the point home. It makes you feel the complexity of that world without having to explain every detail. I was also struck with how many choice one-liners Maggie Smith is given in the show, like when she asks awkwardly "What is a week-end?" Those quotes are replayed frequently in this documentary, and it's great!