I have always been a day late and a dollar short…sometimes thousands of dollars short.
Thus, I have resisted the steady drumbeat in support of another PBS show, which I took to be “Downtown Abbey.” It took me several years to learn that people were actually extolling the virtues of “Downton Abbey.” Since it was a show about snobbish English gentry, all of whom spoke like David Grima, I resisted, mightily. Another “chick flick.”
But these are the shut-in days.
One morning this week, I rolled out of bed at the crack of noon, finished the newspapers and various crossword puzzles, and then plopped down in front of the television. I now have something called “streaming” movie services and hundreds and hundreds of choices. It is quite boggling.
After viewing the latest SportsCenter (must see TV.) I scrolled across the available shows. There it was. Let’s see what the fuss is about. How could a show about landed gentry in England hold any appeal?
I watched the entire first year in a day, eating my spaghetti and meatball luncheon glued to the set. I had no idea. Watching an entire season, without commercial breaks, is fabulous, of course.
Let’s drop in on Boston Globe television critic Matthew Gilbert. He said, “This extraordinary upstairs-downstairs drama, written by Oscar-winning “Gosford Park’’ screenwriter Julian Fellowes, is a dramatic, intelligent, soapy, comic, and wise piece of work, one that explores social shifts on the eve of World War I while delivering a remarkably engaging cast of characters. “Downton Abbey’’ was a ratings hit when it aired in the UK last year, and I completely understand why. I loved it.”
For those as ignorant as I (doubtful), the first year follows the Crawley family from the sinking of the Titanic (which eliminates the rightful heir) in 1912 to the start of World War I in 1914.
I expected the filthy rich (kind of) Crawley family to be my natural enemies, since I was raised on steady contempt of the English and their domination of Ireland. You must know that they actually exported food from Ireland to England during the great famine.
I expected to side, naturally, with their servants in their hatred of the ruling class. Halfway through the first year, they hired a fiery Irish lad as a chauffeur. I rooted for him from his first appearance.
With the designated heir lost at sea, the Crawleys must marry off one of the daughters, presumably Mary the eldest, to produce an heir ASAP and save the estate.
I must admit my interest was waning until a dashing Turk; Mr. Pamuk came for a visit and went fox hunting with Mary and the gang. Pamuk was so entranced (and bold) that he continued his hunt into Mary’s room in the middle of the night. The virgin Mary held Pamuk off briefly, then said “why not?” In the first season shocker, Pamuk suffered enormous performance anxiety and dropped dead of a heart attack…in Mary’s virgin bed. Her mother and sisters hustled over and took the dead body back to Pamuk’s room to avoid a scandal.
The servants have nothing to do but watch the actions of the Crawleys and one spotted the midnight movement of the late Mr. Pamuk. If the scandal breaks, no one will want to marry the soiled Mary and the heir will never be found.
Naturally, the scandal seeps through the servants quarters and eventually gets to London.
Actually the intrigue, plotting and backbiting in the servant’s quarters is far more interesting that the idle rich, scandal or not. Both groups are trapped into their classes by the rigid dictates of their separate societies.
I could not turn it off. First of all, the set is fabulous and the photography is lush. The writing is first class and there are very few dead scenes. There are so many family clashes going on that it is often difficult to keep up. Maggie Smith is triumphant as the obnoxious mother-in-law.
I am totally hooked and will soon rack up season two on the “streaming” system, whatever that is.
But first I shall make a very large pot of tea.
One lump, or two?