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I just finished watching the first series of "Downton Abbey" and now, looking at the episode summaries on Wikipedia, I see that each episode was set in specific months in time. While watching the series, I never caught on that much time was passing between episodes. Then in the series one finale, it's suddenly 1914 and two years have passed since the first episode.

If each episode is set in a specific month, why doesn't "Downton Abbey" tell you this at the start of every episode? Is this information readily available in the UK, but not on US Netflix Instant Streaming (where I watched it)?

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Your premise is wrong. How can you say this? Some episodes are adjacent in time and some are many months apart. In some cases, a character has just become pregnant and then all of a sudden she is in labour. WWI lasted over four years. If you didn't notice this, you can't blame the series. – ThePopMachine Apr 11 at 18:06
Actually the writer gives a lot of clues about the period of time passed between events, as stated before, births, seasons, historical events, etc – DanielV Jul 26 at 21:14

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Period pieces depend quite a bit on the innate knowledge of the audience to place the time accurately for understanding of the story. Usually the director or writer assist by leaving breadcrumbs within the story to acclimate the audience. A show that does this extremely well is Mad Men which usually chronicles a national or well-known local event within the episode.

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