Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Downton Abbey, Now You Are Just Being Silly

Back in the 1980s, the heyday of American nighttime soaps, an entertainment writer made a cogent operation. You could instantly convert trashy television melodrama into respectable cultural fare simply by pronouncing it with a British accent. The most effect example was to take the campy histrionics of Dynasty and turn it into BBC-quality material by pronouncing it "DIN-a-sty."

Try it--it works!

(And Krystl in a Henry VIII costume! Of course it's classy!)

But the trick is not infallible. Exhibit A: Downtown Abbey, season 2. Okay, the first season was perhaps a bit to heavily salted with uncomfortable silences and suggestive glances. So much so that the Red Nose Day parody hit best with close ups of eyes shifting around.

This week--this week we got too much all at once, and all of it of equal import. The worst offender is, of course, The Return of the Lost Heir. Amid all the handsome and dapper officers convalescing at Downton--perhaps their mustaches were suffering from exhaustion?--comes a single man whose grotequely bandaged burns are matched only by the ugliness of his "Canadian" accent. With 60% of his face obscured by gauze, a deformed ear, oddly lashless and bulging eyes--and yet a full head of unsinged hair!--this grotesquerie claims to be Peter Crawley. You don't recognize him? Well, why should we--he never actually appeared in the show. He was just the heir, engaged to Lady Mary (who did not love him) and lost on the Titanic.The first we heard of him was the report that the Titanic sank.

Of course, "Peter Crawley" of season one was just a plot device to introduce the missing demongraphic--middle class Matthew Crawley came in to bridge the social classes of aristocracy and servant contained inside Downton itself, and Peter Crawley disappeared from the narrative. Until this week's episode, where he was ghoulishly resurrected, shamelessly manipulated poor Edith, and then disappeared. Meanwhile, Matthew's paralysis might be less than permanent, Bates' wife has complicated the divorce plot (reported by reading a letter) and then gotten herself killed. Edith--the ruined maid and single mother--learned her baby-daddy also died in the war, again by a report from a letter. And Lord Grantham gathered all the Downton residents: family, servants, convalescent officers--into the hall to mark the end of the war. He called for a recognition of the sacrifices made by the soldiers, and the moment of silence lasted the length of the clock striking 11. A longer pause was taken to mark the decision by the butler, Carson, to leave Downton and serve Lady Mary in her new home. Because war? and butler? Same dramatic impact.

Will I continue watching it? Possibly. Depends on my schedule and whether reading recaps is faster and as satisfying. I will make a few predictions.

Daisy will continue to refuse her widow's benefits from the deathbed marriage to William. Edith will claim it instead.

Thomas (who for some reason is always hanging around in the servants quarters, even though he's employed by the army) will find some way to stay at Downton, and will continue to not be gay. (This was the source of his evilness in Season 1--now it just seems that his scheming is caused by smoking too many cigarettes.)

Bates will be accused of his wife's murder, and Anna will stand by him. Neither of them will be allowed to be happy.

Mary and Matthew will lose their inconvenient fiance(e)s, but will not marry until at least the end of Season 3.

Edith will continue to be ritualistically humiliated for her unloveability and will never find a suitable husband.

"Peter Crawley" will never show up again.


Little Black Car said...
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Little Black Car said...
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Little Black Car said...

Ooh--Good one about Ethel claiming the widow's benefits! I didn't think of that. Could she do that without record of a marriage? I admit it would annoy me, though: She got no less than she asked for.

My predictions at the end of the first season were:

1) Matthew would be maimed in the war so he and Mary would be equivalent "damaged goods" and suitable for one another (check).

2) Mrs. Bates comes back and makes life miserable for Bates and Anna (check).

3) Sybil runs off to America with the chauffeur (eh, close enough. Check).