Downton Abbey is not an easy act to follow. However its creator Julian Fellowes is a mastermind that can do no wrong – let's just forget his Titanic series for a second – and his new three-part lavish adaptation of Anthony Trollope's Doctor Thorne is the talk of Twittersphere since gracing the small screen on Sunday evening (6 March).
Fellowes' new period drama is not unlike Downton, with its conniving old aunties, wealthy heiresses and handsome young men with little prospects all tied together with a lusciously profligate country estate backdrop. But its slightly ingenuous, almost dumbed-down delivery hasn't rattled any bones, with its first episode filled with explanatory details, sluggish introductions of characters and minimal action apart from a few intense glares and a teeny fracas towards the end.
The first episode focused on the young Frank Gresham's unrequited, then banished, romance with the pretty yet penniless niece of Dr Thorne, Mary Thorne, and their impertinent out-of-hand "love-making," according to the avaricious Lady Arabella (Frank's aunt). This leads to an awkward door-slamming altercation between her and the infuriated Dr Thorne, who defends his young niece and unleashes his controllable wrath at Lady Arabella (cue raised voice and door-slamming). And by "love-making," we mean having a chat on an impeccably trimmed lawn about fancying one another.
Aside from the exhausting politics of social standing and ostentatious bonnets – we're looking at you, Cressida Bonas – there is much to be said about the Weinsteins-produced costume drama with its colour-enhancing cinematography, beautiful wardrobe and tranquil gardens that makes a stark contrast from the talk of money and marriage in parsimonious cut-glass voices.
We're not sure if the production sincerely encapsulates the intelligent vigour of Trollope's witty and wordy original – the third novel in Anthony Trollope's series, The Chronicles of Barsetshire – but we can only hope it lives up to the Downton-style hype it has received as the drama unravels. It is certainly a Sunday evening must-see.
Judging by the reception it garnered on Twitter, it hasn't fared too badly in the opinion of one of TV's most beloved celebrities, John "Boycie" Challis. He wrote...
The general public seemed to love it too, with one writing: "Loved #drthorne last night too, looking forward to the next episode," whilst another quipped: "I have a new Sunday-night period drama! Tom Hollander is the cutest, costumes are pretty, houses are stunning and Frank is Marius #DrThorne."
One viewer was just happy to have a period drama back on the small screen, writing: "Sunday night period drama comfort viewing is my crack. #DrThorne."
The blurry plot and interesting dialogue was picked up by one Twitter user, however...
All in all, the general and mostly positive consensus regarding ITV's new drama should give you enough incentive to shun the Sunday night ironing in favour of a cuppa in front of the box.
Doctor Thorne will be available on DVD and Digital Download from 21 March, courtesy of Universal Pictures (UK).