If nothing else, HBO’s lush but excruciatingly inert five-hour miniseries “Parade’s End,” which has been faithfully adapted from a quartet of novels by Ford Madox Ford, makes clear just how much of a 21st-century invention “Downton Abbey” truly is.
Both dramas are about high-class problems of the British upper crust before and after World War I. But “Downton’s” story arcs come and go with the speed and silliness of today’s tweets. “Parade’s End” is about one gentleman’s domestic issues — he would like to have an affair with a woman he’s not married to — stretched out over five years and made worse by those around him clinging to their Victorian social mores while the rest of the world carries on and marches forward. (“Parade’s End” also makes “Downton Abbey” look like total nonsense, but then, what doesn’t anymore?)
HBO has nevertheless scheduled “Parade’s End,” which it co-produced with BBC, to air three nights (beginning Tuesday), right in “Downton’s” still mournful, Matthew-less wake. Anglophiles hoping for an easy, post-Crawley fix are in for an arduous journey. These two dramas just aren’t anything alike.