The show you could never quite kick the habit of. The show you tried to replace with “The Crown” or “Call the Midwife” or “Peaky Blinders” or, God, “Poldark.” But nothing, it turned out, could quite fibrillate your atrium like that first sight of Downton Abbey every Sunday evening, framed against a blue sky by a yellow lab’s twitching haunches, and bringing with it the promise of gorgeous, onrolling misery for every character, upstairs and down.
Quietly, stubbornly, you kept the flame alive, trolling the show’s Wiki forum, lunging at every report of a possible film version, plotting your make-believe itineraries to Highclere Castle, where most of the show was filmed. And now your faithfulness has its reward. The Abbey — or, at least, “Downton Abbey: The Exhibition” — has come back to you.
Housed in a Victorian-era building near Columbus Circle, this exhibition, which opens Saturday and runs through January, is a kind of theme park for re-addiction, a cleverly immersive experience mounted with the same exacting care as the show itself. It gives “Abbey” addicts both the short-term injection they need, and the reassurance that nothing from their favorite show has ever been thrown away.
All the old habitats, including Mr. Carson’s pantry, the servants’ dining room and Lady Mary’s bedroom (faintly scandalous with its memory of Kemal Pamuk’s coital demise) are painstakingly recreated, right down to the forks and spoons arranged just so on the Crawley dinner table. Behind the green baize door lies the servants’ quarters just as you left them, along with Mr. Carson’s old desk, complete with period-era bills and correspondence, and on the far wall, the immortal bell board, spontaneously erupting with some mysterious new summons from abovestairs.
The sense of arrested time grows particularly acute when you wander into Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen, that realm of shining wooden surfaces and ceramic bowls and copper pots, one of which sits even now steaming on the stove. “It’s all exactly the same,” marvels the actress Sophie McShera, who has come to New York on promotional duties and who, as dim Daisy, cut up six seasons’ worth of produce on these very chopping boards — with this very knife. Also on hand was Mrs. P herself (or Lesley Nicol, as the real world insists on calling her) who admitted to getting “a bit gulpy” at being surrounded again by the old props. (In the same breath, she confessed that she didn’t do much actual cooking on the show. “I did what Gordon Ramsay did. I just tasted and swore.”)
Where the exhibition surprises is in its high-tech flourishes, which include a CGI clip-loop with scenes from the original show in the library and interactive stations designed to test your fitness for a servant’s position. (How fit were the actual servants, I’m trying to remember?) You might, in passing, spare a thought for poor Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), who was discombobulated not just by electricity but also by swivel chairs and who might have given up the ghost altogether at the sight of Mrs. Hughes’s beaming hologram.