‘Downton Abbey’ dethrones ‘Mad Men’ as the go-to historical party theme

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"Mad Men" reinvigorated the cool style of the '60s, leading viewers to host hip shindigs and cool cocktail parties. The show inspired a slew of retro cookbooks and viewing parties. While "Mad Men" approaches its sixth season, "Downton Abbey" remains fresh, exciting, exotic, and somewhat distant. It is the new historical go-to party theme.

Historic fascination

The 2011 wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William, Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee, and the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster fuel royal mania and a fascination with the era. The nostalgia of the 1960s simply does not compare to the romantic ideals, exotic locations, scenic views, and powerful characters in "Downton Abbey." The '60s are cool, but that era is very familiar to audiences who are already knowledgeable about the music and history, watch the many reruns of classic TV shows, or can flip through family photos from the past.

Real life meets fantasy.

It's easy to incorporate the "Mad Men" fashion, pop culture, and make-up styles into a modern lifestyle. Sleek suits with thin lapels, A-line skirts, bright red lipstick, retro undergarments, and a cool soundtrack of songs, like Beatles' tunes, are stylish choices acceptable to fans and those who don't watch the TV show. However, those living the typical 2012 lifestyle do not automatically understand the complexities of the entail or spinning desk chairs "Downton Abbey" fans need from a theme party to fully enjoy the show's historical era.

The event

Although new episodes of "Mad Men" are worthy of a celebration, new episodes of "Downton Abbey" are truly an event. The wait is longer, the show has a longer runtime with only a few precious episodes, and more plot revelations happen in a short time. There is twice as much to celebrate since fans can track down the British airing and compare it to the slightly edited PBS version with an introduction from Laura Linney.

Party menu

The "Mad Men" trips to posh hotels and restaurants provide ample fodder for a dinner party of beloved '60s dishes like Beef Wellington. Beverage options can be as simple as Don Draper's go-to drink, Canadian Club Whisky, or a selection of cocktails. Besides the wine, "Downton Abbey" menu options are more challenging, unless an experienced army of downstairs staffers is available. Get creative with the challenge and host a simple tea. After all, Lady Mary and Matthew did enjoy a late night meal of sandwiches.

For historical flair, choose dishes from the Titanic menu. By modern standards, they are rather affordable and simple to cook. Another easy option is to focus on a particular course from the 22 dishes sometimes served at Downton Abbey. Desserts are easy to prepare and sure to impress guests. Mrs. Patmore's vision problems and stubbornness kept the coveted Apple Charlotte off the menu in Season 1, but party hosts can adapt the rustic dish and prepare individual portions in ramekins.

No awkwardness

Like many current shows, "Mad Men" is sometimes difficult to watch or discuss with a diverse group of people. "Downton Abbey" deals with adult themes in a refined fashion without relying on a pair of amorous dogs. The beloved patriarch, Master Grantham, may be as much of a womanizer as Don Draper, Lady Mary loved Pamuk to death, and Thomas seems to be struggling with his sexuality; however, those subtle scenarios highlight the period's social confines and personal struggles.

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