This is hard for me to admit but I’m a ‘Downton Abbey’ addict.
Good-bye ‘West Wing,’ hello 9 new episodes on PBS.
I watched part 4 of Season 2 that left me weeping uncontrollably over the plight of Matthew and William. I couldn’t even finish my package of Oreos so that should tell you something.
I know, it’s ‘Mostapeace Theata’ but believe me, it’s really ‘All My Children’ during World War I, don’t let those accents fool you. All they need is Susan Lucci stuffed in the drawing room.
I have to say, Maggie Smith steals every scene. Dame Maggie plays the ‘Right Honourable Violet, Countess of Grantham’ and boy, does she ever. Her expressions alone are priceless and the way she snaps at everyone, especially her boring cousin Isobel (Penelope Wilton) makes me want to break out in song.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, ‘Downton Abbey’ is the name of the estate where The Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), Violet’s son and his extended family reside. The first season starts the day after the sinking of the Titanic in April, 1912 and ends in 1914 when World War I begins.
Season 2, that began 4 Sundays ago again on PBS, is presently in the throes of what England called ‘The Great War.’
What would an English, upper crust soap opera be without its servants starting with Carson (Jim Carter), the Head Butler who’s almost grander than the Earl himself. It’s amusing not to mention educational watching him act as ringmaster to his coterie of psycho underlings.
We get a glimpse of all the downstairs drama which includes romance and envy, evil and intrigue and lots of good old fashioned ‘class distinction’ drivel.
My favorite member of the ‘Downton’ staff is O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran), Lady Grantham’s maid who’s so mean and manipulative that when she thought Her Ladyship, played beautifully by America’s own Elizabeth McGovern was about to sack her, she made her trip on a bar of soap causing her to miscarry the possible heir to Grantham. (What a bitch) That was toward the end of Season 1 and of course O’Brien was wrong about being fired so now she’s trying to repent for her sins, which isn’t quite working. I heard they might try an exorcism on her in Season 3.
The other interesting tidbit about Cora, ‘The Right Honourable Countess of Grantham’ is that she had all the money and Robert, her chubby Earl, the name. Edith Wharton wrote a great novel called ‘The Buccaneers’ about American women who crossed The Atlantic to buy their titles.
Julian Fellowes who writes the show, has a pleasing soft-porn imagination. Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) the eldest of the daughters, is canoodling in her room with some hot, Indian houseguest who inconveniently dies in her bed. With the conspiratorial aid of her mother and Anna (Joanne Froggatt), her personal maid, he’s carried back to his own room wrapped in a throw rug. My God, with the exception of Anna bringing up the rear, what would the servants think?
It’s so UTTERLY ridiculous that it’s fabulous.
One of my favorite story lines is the ongoing saga between naughty Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), her third cousin and presumptive heir to ‘Downton’ which at first I thought meant he was tubercular..lol. (consumptive, presumptive, tomatoes, tamatoes let’s call the whole thing off)
What this sort of means is, since The Earl, aka Robert Crawley, hasn’t a son the estate goes to the next male heir (Matthew) after the first one went down on The Titanic. (shades of Pride And Prejudice)
One minute Matthew wants to marry Mary but she can’t stand him, then she changes her mind only to find out he’s not really the heir which means he’s broke so she refuses him again right before we find out, by George, he’s the ‘heir presumptive’ after all; but now he’s had it with her. Can you blame him? I mean how much can a presumptive heir take for goodness sake?
Cut to Season 2 where Mary, who seems to have lost her bitchy swagger, is inconsolable because Matthew has now fallen in love with a little twit named Lavinia who her Aunt, Lady Rosamund (Samantha Bond) along with Granny, (Maggie Smith) tries to unsuccessfully ruin.
The war is raging, everyone’s cranky due to lack of butter and The Earl and Countess have agreed to turn ‘Downton’ into a way station of sorts where officers can come recuperate from their wounds. This act of generosity during wartime has Granny beside herself. “Downton has become like a second-rate hotel,” she sneers,” “people check in and never leave.” (how I love Maggie Smith whose blue-eyed glare could stop a train)
We have John Bates, Lord Grantham’s ex-con valet who limps like Chester in Gunsmoke. Vera Bates, his fat, blackmailing estranged wife.
Mrs. Hughes, the head Housekeeper who’s a bitch one minute, taking hampers of food over to Ethel the maid’s house the next. She fired Ethel after finding her in bed with one of the wounded officers who wasn’t so wounded after all. Did I mention Ethel got knocked up by her swain who now wants nothing to do with her? (the baby, who looks like an inflated, plastic prop, is still pretty cute)
There’s ‘Thomas the Terrible’ once a ‘Downton’ footman who after hastily enlisting, purposely had his finger shot off so he would be sent home. (where there’s a will there’s always a way)
We have Cook, who looks right out of Sweeney Todd and her little sidekick Daisy who acts like she has a chromosome missing especially after being made to marry William, another ex-footman turned soldier who proposed on his deathbed. Despite his impending demise, William was pretty chipper when the whole staff attended the ceremony after Maggie Smith threatened the vicar who didn’t want to perform the service at all. Poor Daisy, who I think had to be drugged, looked more shell-shocked than her soon to be dead husband.
Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findley), the youngest Crawley daughter who any minute is about to fuck Branson (Allen Leech), Downton’s in-house anarchist and chauffeur who has a Liam Neeson thing going on decided, to hell with being rich, I think I’ll be a nurse instead.
Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), the middle daughter and token ugly duckling of the herd who started off mean and miserable, had her life change when she learned how to drive a neighbor’s tractor.
There’s a sexy, ruthless newspaper owner, sirs and ladies up the wazoo, suicides, murders and Maggie Smith, who like I said, chews the scenery like Salt Water Taffy.
Rumor has it, none other than Shirley Maclaine is on deck playing Elizabeth McGovern’s American, aristocratic mother. That should be interesting. Maybe she reads palms.
I assure you there’s something for everyone at ‘Downton Abbey’ and please forgive me if I’ve given too much away but I just can’t wait for episode 5.
Matthew, who after being wounded last week and finding out he can’t have sex since his spine’s been severed by a bullet, has sent Lavinia back to London to forget him, “pretend I’m dead because in a way I am,” (well only from the waist down) which gives Mary the chance she’s been waiting for. Of course, I don’t think our Lady Mary, who we know has a randy streak, has thought the whole thing completely through but we do see her dutifully pushing Matthew’s wheelchair around the grounds in next week’s preview.
You know, sex isn’t everything, well it is, but maybe Mary could share the added benefits of Branson the Chauffeur with her sister Sybil. Matthew doesn’t have to know, besides it’s wartime, sex with the help is customarily one of the perks…