So much buzz about Downton Abbey!
David Kern feels that Downton has jumped the shark and I find myself wondering what people expect from the show. Why did they feel betrayed?
As I mentioned last week, I do not watch Downton for the drama but rather for the 'feel' of the show. When it gets it right it is beautiful and when it gets it wrong it is easily discernible*. What other television show can offer even a glimmer of the excellence we sometimes see on Downton?
I was not that affected by the death of Matthew Crawley. I had heard he wanted out of the show and I went into the season with ambivalence toward his character. I often wonder what these actors expect out of their careers. How many times has a lead character on an popular show left for the sake of his career and how many times has that turned out to be a boon for him? Alistair MacKenzie left Monarch of the Glen to become a bit player in American police dramas. Every once in a while we see him as the murderer on Psych or Castle. He left a highly popular show in height of its glory with more fame than he deserved and ended up nowhere.
Matthew MacFadyen left MI-5 or as the British call it Spooks to play Mr. Darcy next to the single worst Elizabeth Bennett ever. Now the BBC gives him permanent work on various series which makes him look rather silly.
How can a 13 week season cramp the style of an actor? How arrogant is it to think your career will be better when you are already on the most watched show on television around the world?
I suppose this all has something to do with the race for the next Bond which always encourages British actors into making stupid decisions. I feel no sympathy for Dan Stevens and I do think Downton can survive the loss. Neither he, Matthew Macfadyen or Alistair Mackenzie will be Bond, so what exactly are they after?
Downton Abbey will survive the loss of Matthew Crawley. I suspect the death scene which many resent comes down to Julian Fellowes holding out hope that Stevens would change his mind. I thought that last dull kiss was proof that Dan was indeed leaving and had already left in spirit, and seconds later, hair blowing, it was over.
Downton Abbey is what it is: a beautifully done British period piece. It tries to give us real glimpses of different parts of life during those lost times and in doing so it sometimes pushes the limits of drama. I am ok with that. I like looking back in time. I like to escape to tea and sympathy. Take me out to the cricket match and invite me to the Ghillies Ball. Every once in a while give me a superb death bed scene like Lady Sybil's where we absolutely enter the room and feel the sheer panic of the family and the helplessness of science. Give me a Mrs. Hughes who lets me know that no matter what all will be well.
Come next January I will still be watching Downton Abbey. I will still deeply mourn the death of Lady Sybil and I will still feel like it was good riddance to Dan Stevens but mostly I will be absorbing the beautiful replicas of another era: England before the Estates (tenements). Downtown Abbey is a series of successful vignettes some much better than others but all easy on the eyes and many deeply moving.Well worth my time on a Sunday evening.
*Lord Grantham's ridiculous statement about Barrow being 'born that way.' In spite of the BBC's stellar attention to period detail they cannot escape the post-modern take on homosexuality.
"St Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it.11 Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought.12 When the age for reflective thought comes, the pupil who has been thus trained in 'ordinate affections' or 'just sentiments' will easily find the first principles in Ethics; but to the corrupt man they will never be visible at all and he can make no progress in that science.13 Plato before him had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting and hateful."
CS Lewis The Abolition of Man
CS Lewis The Abolition of Man