Now I can’t help but tune in weekly to public television to see what’s afoot at Downton Abbey.
Does Matthew love Lavinia or Mary? Will Mr. Bates get out of jail? Did he really kill his wife? How many English servants does it take to screw in a light bulb?
These are things I need to know now.
I’m a latecomer to watching this retro-hip series. I was having lunch with my friends last month and the talk was all about “The Abbey” and I was out of the loop. After shoving yet another piece of sushi in my mouth I stupidly asked, “What is Downton Abbey?”
They looked at me as if I had lobsters crawling out of my ears.
They then proceeded to give me the low down on the biggest hit to come out of Great Britain since Mr. Bean. I was informed that I was already two seasons behind and had some serious catching up to do if I wanted to be up to speed by the new year when season three debuted. I could either tune in to Hulu or borrow the dvds of the first two seasons, which they all owned.
I’m not usually a TV drama fan, but I do like period themes and the show is on PBS so it has to be distinguished, right? I opted to borrow the dvds since the Progressive insurance lady has already become a frequent extra in my dreams.
While working on some Christmas sewing projects I tuned in to the dramatic antics of the entitled and endowed Crawley family and their doting house staff.
I got hooked.
Oh, I want to smack Mary! She’s such a spoiled brat and hardly deserves sweet Matthew, especially after getting jiggy with the Turkish ambassador. And she’s so mean to homely Edith, who suffers from a serious case of middle sister syndrome just like poor Jan on The Brady Bunch. Whether it’s “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!” or “Mary, Mary, Mary!” the jealous rivalry is the same.
Why is the middle sister always the pathetic one?
As a middle sister, I resent that.
Anyway, the house staff’s mischief behind the scenes of the high society they serve is no less dramatic. Thomas the footman and O’Brian the lady’s maid are self-serving villains who are always either scheming together or plotting against each other to advance their own purposes.
The show is full of pomp and politics, tradition and rebellion, love and hate, affairs and elopements, miscarriages, mistaken identities, and murder. They even reincarnated Shirley Maclaine in the cast as an American heiress come to England to try the nerves of proper British society.
As I’ve allowed myself to get attached to these characters’ tangled lives and twisted motives, I was haunted by a teenage addiction. Oh no! This show is a freakin’ SOAP OPERA!
It may be set in early 20th Century England and aired on PBS under the hoity-toity title of “Masterpiece” like it’s all cultured and highbrow, but the fact is it’s really nothing more than a snooty soap.
This epiphany came to me as I watched an episode where a long-lost, thought-to-be-dead heir showed up at Downton to claim his birthright by trying to convince the neglected and vulnerable middle sister that underneath his disfigured-in-the-war face wrapped in bandages is the man she once loved, he just couldn’t remember who he was for several years because he got amnesia after sinking with the Titanic.
I’d been duped.
Confession: I was a Days of Our Lives junkie for three years in high school.
Every day after school I would call my mom from my friend Nicki’s house to tell her we were studying together, then we’d scoop up huge bowls of ice cream, douse them in chocolate syrup, and park in front of the tube to watch “Days.” Over those three years, I watched tortured, beloved characters go on and off the show and come back as other people, then be mistaken for themselves and surgically changed to be someone else only to be killed by their evil twin, which was played by the same person.
I know a soap plot when I see one, folks, and Downton Abbey, even with all its period pomp and circumstance, is seriously sudsy.
I managed to wean myself off of “Days” in time to grow up and go to college in order to develop my mind to higher intelligence and refine my taste to prefer elevated, cultured entertainment, only to be sucked back down the drain twenty six years later by a PBS packaged melodrama ploy!
Isn’t PBS supposed to be educational and cultured? Aren’t we supposed to tune in to PBS to rise above the onslaught of mind-numbing smut on cable? I trusted you, Public Broadcasting! You were supposed to save me from myself and now you’ve caused me to fall off the wagon!
I can’t stop watching Downton now. I have to know what happens! Mary and Matthew finally got married because Lavinia croaked during the Spanish flu epidemic. Downton is on the verge of ruin because Lord Grantham’s investments went bust, but Matthew might be able to save it with the fortune he could inherit from his late almost father-in-law who didn’t know Matthew secretly loved Mary. Mr. Bates is still in jail for possibly baking arsenic into a lethal pie for his former wife, and Mrs. Hughes’ lump might be cancerous. Edith is so desperate not to be an old maid that she’s throwing herself at an old, maimed, rich geezer, and who knows when Mangleface is going to show up again to wreak havoc on everybody’s lives!
“This program was made possible by a grant from the National Brainwashing Association and viewers like you.”