In the fading hours of 1925, the Siskel and Ebert of “Downton Abbey” table their bickering long enough to ring in the new year.

“We’re going forward to the future, not back to the past,” chirps Isobel Crawley, raising a glass to her bosom buddy.

The Dowager sniffs back: “As if we had a choice!”

If that exchange from Sunday’s episode doesn’t provide a bright enough signal that time stands still for no one on the Yorkshire country estate – and that this is the final installment of the most popular series in PBS history – perhaps these excerpts will do the trick:

“If there are changes to be made, we mustn’t be afraid to make them.”

“The more adaptable we are, the more likely we are to get through.”

“Bother! Parting is such sweet sorrow. But stick around. New episodes of ‘Sherlock’ to come!”

OK, I made the last one up, but the line wouldn’t seem terribly out of place in creator Julian Fellowes’ dialogue, which has leaned heavily on cliches since the manor’s doors opened in 2010. (The exception: Maggie Smith’s Dowager, whose ways with a putdown suggest she may be Don Rickles’ great-grandmother.)

Character and plot haven’t turned out to be Fellowes’ strengths, either.

When the show arrived stateside in 2011, I wrote that it offered more twists and turns, backstabbing and heroics in its initial four installments than you’d find in a full season of “NCIS.” I heaped so much praise on the second season, set during World War I when the mansion was transformed into the waiting room at Seattle Grace hospital, you would have thought I was on the payroll for rural England’s tourism department.

But around the fourth season, I started to lose interest. I suspect Fellowes did, too.

Watching Mr. Bates and his wife, Anna, face one murder charge after another became a running joke. Mary’s courtship of potential suitors quickly turned into a dismal cycle of “The Bachelorette.” Torturing poor Edith became so mean-spirited that a stint in Guantanamo Bay began to look like sweet charity.

It’s not giving too much away to reveal that Edith finds happiness in Sunday’s episode – as does just about everybody else in the series, with the exception of the family dog, who had the misfortune of being named Isis.

Fellowes seems determined not to upset the crumpet cart. A fatal disease turns out to just be a cough. Mary does a good deed. Robert Crawley settles into retirement like a snowbird who just mastered the art of shuffleboard. Even duplicitous footman Mr. Barrow turns out not to be such a bad bloke, after all.

In the end, Fellowes was less interested in people than in gadgets. It wasn’t until the finale that I noticed the opening credits have never featured any faces, only inanimate objects – a copper pot, a dusty chandelier – that will begrudgingly make way for modern contraptions like hair dryers and electricity.

The show’s most fascinating and complex character turned out to be the automobile.

Yes, wheels brought together progressive Sybil and chauffeur Tom Branson, the series’ most likable human. It also led to the death of Mary’s first husband.

It’s only fitting, then, that a car plays a pivotal role in the finale, one last reminder that it’s time to put the horses out to pasture.

In the end, what appeared to be a feast turned out to be an afternoon tea. The routine will be missed, but one wonders just how much more memorable the weekly gathering would have been if Fellowes had spiked the pot with a bit more brandy.

The real downer isn’t that “Abbey” is shutting the doors; it’s that new episodes of “Sherlock” aren’t expected until January of next year.

Bother!

GET YOUR ‘DOWNTON’-ERA FIX

Visiting pre-World War II England will become more difficult after Sunday’s series finale of “Downton Abbey.” Chill, Anglophiles. Similar adventures abound via these recommended movie and TV titles, all available either on DVD or through various streaming services:

“Upstairs, Downstairs” (1971-75): Spy games and sordid love affairs bring disorder to the house in this surprisingly edgy phenomenon that was based on the same kitchen maid’s memoirs that inspired “Downton.”

“Brideshead Revisited” (1981): Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud popped by to add class to this adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel that pulls off the miraculous feat of turning a thesis on Roman Catholicism into an engrossing soap opera.

“A Room With a View” (1985): For those who find the pace of “Downton” all too hectic, there’s James Ivory-Ismail Merchant’s take on the E.M. Forster’s novel about women trying not to melt under repression and snobbish airs of Daniel Day-Lewis.

“The Remains of the Day” (1993): Anthony Hopkins makes Mr. Carson look downright progressive in his portrayal of a loyal butler who considers the touching of a woman’s head a cardinal sin. The film was nominated for eight Oscars.

“Manor House” (2003): Hoping to capitalize on the rising popularity of reality TV, this British export challenged an upper-class family and volunteers servants to imagine life in an Edwardian mansion. The final product doesn’t quite match the drama of “Big Brother” due to a lack of eccentric participants and liquor.