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Mid-Season TV Crush: The Guys of PBS’ Downton Abbey 

Photo Credit: CBS

Warning: Slight Spoilers Discussed

We’ve always been fans of Masterpiece, but neither one of us watched season one of Downton Abbey when it first aired on PBS. But we both heard so many great things about the show that we had to marathon the episodes to see what all the fuss was about. And we’re so glad we did. We fell in love with the Granthams and their servants. As Americans we don’t fully understand the whole upstairs downstairs phenomenon but we do find it fascinating. And at the end of the day, maybe we see a bit of ourselves in the Granthams. They’re just a family trying to make their way in the world. They experience love and loss just like the rest of us, but they do it with a lot of style and panache. And who wouldn’t fight for Downton Abbey? It’s got history and we love that these quirky characters are lucky enough to call it home. We’ve been breathlessly anticipating Season 2 so we thought we’d revisit some of our favorite (male) characters.

Photo Credit: PBS

Actor: Hugh Bonneville of Daniel Deronda and countless British films and TV series

Downton Abbey Character: Robert Crawley, Earth of Grantham

Downton Abbey Assessment: Bound by duty and honor, we learned that Robert Crawley married his American wife for her money, which he needed to maintain Downton Abbey. He loves her (now) and their three daughters and at the end of Season 1, he was determined to do his part for the war effort.

The Crush Factor: The first time Hugh Bonneville came to our attention was as Henleigh Grandcourt in Daniel Deronda, which came out ten years ago. He was such a nasty piece of work but we remember him because a) he’s very attractive and b) he’s a great actor. We’re sure we’ve seen him in other roles, but this one stuck with us. What makes him so attractive? Part of it is the accent, part of it is his talent, and part of it is his looks. We love a man with a proper British accent. He can say anything and we would be rapt. We like that he’s had a long and varied career, although we wish he’d do more work in the American market so we can see him more than every once in a while. And he’s aged very well over the years. We guess we can leave it at that since you’ve got eyes and can appreciate him for yourself.

Photo Credit: PBS

Actor: Dan Stevens of Masterpiece’s Sense & Sensibility
Downton Abbey Character: Matthew Crawley, Manchester solicitor and heir to Downton Abbey
Downton Abbey Assessment: At first played for a fool by Lady Mary, Matthew couldn’t stop himself from falling for her as he came to really know who she was. He wants to marry Mary but withdraws his proposal when she waits too long to give him an answer. In Season 2, he’s engaged to someone else.
The Crush Factor: We like men who embrace characters in period pieces and Dan Stevens has certainly done that. He first came to our notice for playing Edward Ferrars in Masterpiece’s Sense & Sensibility. When we learned he was in Downton Abbey, we were excited to see him on the small screen once again. We like this blond-haired, blue-eyed actor for the obvious reasons but we can’t deny the fact that we love him with Mary. It’s great to see them in scenes together and we love the way Dan Stevens plays Matthew Crawley.

Photo Credit: PBS

Actor: Rob James-Collier from Shameless (UK version) and Coronation Street
Downton Abbey Character: Thomas Barrow, a closeted former footman at Downton Abbey
Downton Abbey Assessment: On the verge of getting fired for lying and scheming with O’Brien to get Mr. Bates fired, Thomas resigns from Downton Abbey to join the medical corps.
The Crush Factor: It’s almost too hard to look past the scheming, duplicitous nature of this character to see the hotness of the actor. Almost. Rob James-Collier is new to us but we could look at that face for days. We hope the war changes his character for the better (although we won’t hold our breath), because he’d become even more attractive.

Photo Credit: PBS

Actor: Thomas Howes from the 2011 TV film, United
Downton Abbey Character: William Mason, second footman
Downton Abbey Assessment: He’s a bit awkward and a little geeky and he’s completely in love with Daisy. For much of Season 1, he was heartbroken as he had to deal with his mother’s death as well as the fact Daisy was seriously crushing on the evil Thomas. But now Daisy’s well aware of the scoundrel Barrow is so we have high hopes for William to have a happier Season 2.
The Crush Factor: William is simply the adorkable one of the Downton Abbey staff and we love him for it. Thomas Howes plays him perfectly. He makes you root for William and that’s such a beautiful thing.

Photo Credit: PBS

Actor: Allen Leech who starred with fellow Downton stars Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville in the 2009 film, From Time to Time

Downton Abbey Character: Tom Branson, chauffeur

Downton Abbey Assessment: The Irish chauffeur is a bit of a rebel, both political and on a more personal level. Because of him, the youngest Crawley daughter, Lady Sybil, is inspired to rise up for injustice, especially as it has to do with the changing political climate. While this does end up getting her in trouble, she fiercely comes to Branson’s defense when her father threatens to fire him. At the same time Lady Sybil and Branson share a nice chemistry. We wonder if their flirtation will become something more in the future.

The Crush Factor: Allen Leech didn’t start until later in Season 1, but we’re glad he did. He’s hella adorable. He helps make Branson fun, flirty and unpredictable. But the chauffeur’s also this solid presence who’s much more than his looks. There’s a depth there and we hope to learn even more about the Irish native’s backstory sooner rather than later. And should Branson and Lady Sybil ever get together, we have no doubt the two will be fiery, passionate protesters for whatever cause they choose.

Photo Credit: PBS

Actor:  Iain Glen of Game of Thrones and MI-5
Downton Abbey Character: Sir Richard Carlisle, a newspaper tycoon who pays court to Lady Mary
Downton Abbey Assessment: Sir Richard Carlisle is ruthlessly pursuing a better position in life. He feels entitled to be amongst the ruling class and he sees the Granthams as his entree into that life.
The Crush Factor: We sat up and took notice of him on Game of Thrones last year, but he’s been on our radar since his played a bad guy in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. We like seeing him in period pieces – in Game of Thrones he gets to suit up as a soldier and in Downton Abbey, he gets to suit up as a gentleman. Of course we like the accent, but there’s just something about him we find so sexy.

Photo Credit: PBS

Actor: Brendan Coyle from the British miniseries North and South and Masterpiece’s Prime Suspect 7: The Final Act
Downton Abbey Character: John Bates, Lord Grantham’s Valet
Downton Abbey Assessment: Bates quickly became a fan favorite during the the show’s first season. Wounded in war, Lord Grantham’s new valet walked with a limp. This disability made him a target for two of the more nefarious members of the Downton Abbey staff, Thomas Barrow and O’Brien. Their constant machinations threatened his job on a frequent basis but he persevered. He also had a quiet flirtation with Anna, the head housemaid, that was sweet, romantic and heartbreaking all at the same time. His shady past became an obstacle that Anna was determined to overcome.
The Crush Factor: There’s something about Brendan Coyle’s performance that makes Bates an utterly crush-worthy character. In combination with the excellent writing, we came to know the valet as a man that’s insecure when it comes to his own matters but is willing to stand up for those who can’t help themselves. He’s honorable, trustworthy and lovable. It didn’t matter that Bates served time in prison — he did it to prevent his horrid wife from going instead. There’s something to be said about a man with unwavering principles. He has a hardcore sense of honor and duty and displays a nobility that’s intriguing especially since he’s one of the servants of the house. Yeah, we’re crushing on Bates (and the actor who portrays him) pretty hard.  

Season 2 of Downtown Abbey premieres tonight at 9/8c on PBS.

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