Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Lord Grantham on the Roof

After I posted the last bit about Downton Abbey, I realized that I hadn't made my prediction about Lady Sybil. Will she marry Branson, the IRA-sympathizing chauffeur?

Well--who else is there for her? How many men can these women even meet? And then it hit me--Julian Fellowes is mining Fiddler on the Roof for his plot points! Think about it--a man who has no sons, but too many unruly daughters.

Daughters of Downton

Fiddler's Daughters

In Fiddler, Tevye arranges a very lucrative and socially desirable marriage to the somewhat unattractive butcher for his oldest daughter Tzeitl. However, Tzeitl is in love with another man, and so doesn't want to marry the butcher. Lady Mary isn't actually going to marry Sir Richard, not while she is really in love with Matthew. It's just not going to happen, and I'll put money down on it.

Tevye's second daughter falls in love with a revolutionary, and when he is captured and sent to Siberia, she goes to him, leaving behind the comforts of her family. Lady Sybil isn't the second daughter, but she is totally going to commit to Branson, and they will be work to create the modern world.

Poor Lady Edith--Tevye's third daughter elopes with a non-Jew, and Tevye cannot accept the marriage outside the faith. He loves her, but treats her as if she has died. I can't quite make this one fit the template, since the Granthams aren't the least little bit religious, and I can't see what Edith could rebel against that had similar impact on the family.  Maybe she'll fall for "Peter Gordon" and emigrate to Canada?

We'll meet back here at the end of the series--or even series 3--to check on how well my predictions turned out.

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.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Ice Cream Koan

The other day, Sursels offered me the following:

If you have no ice cream, I will take your ice cream.
If you have ice cream, I will give you ice cream.
This is an ice cream koan.

Delivered with her bright blue eyes sparkling and wide open, the rest of her face completely dead pan--which it never is, except when she's doing stuff like this--it totally cracked me up. The secret of comedy is in the timing, and timing is very difficult to deliver in print.

I was thinking of this as I made tea for myself this morning. I have a nasty cold coming on, and although I am drugged to the gills, symptoms are sneaking through and making me both grumpy and a bit loopy. I put a large white mug of water in the microwave to heat, and when the timer beeped, I noticed for the first time that the display doesn't just show numbers at that point, but converts to a scrolling message. I noticed this as I already had my hand on the door handle and pulled it open, this preventing all the text from scrolling across the small screen. The message that did make it across was:


Sometimes, having a cold makes the world seem a little surreal. It's nice to have that kind of reassurance on a day like today.