• All roads [viewing figures] lead to Rome [Downton Abbey]


    Above, actress Joanne Froggat as Anna and actor Brendan Coyle as John Bates.

    There is a certain priggishness, sometimes fraudulent, of certain commentators rubbishing popular drama or art. By popular, the British Gazette means large numbers of ordinary people viewing, buying, attending or otherwise indicating their approval.

    These commentators like to indicate their supposed “intelligence” and “education” by praising art that is “high brow” and disparaging art that is seen by them as populist. Some of these are fraudulent in the sense that they claim to appreciate “high brow” but secretly enjoy “low brow.” Indeed we know of a person – who shall remain unidentified – who seeks to show off their literary bent by buying the Booker Prize books and putting them prominently on display in their living room, whilst never reading any of them!

    The British Gazette is not among these and can report that we look forward to the forthcoming Christmas Special of ITV’s prime time Sunday “hit,” Downton Abbey. Yes, there are a few issues, some silliness in the some of the plots but more relating to attention to detail – the odd phrase which is from the wrong time period for instance. Overall however both series (numbers one and two) have been very good family entertainment for a Sunday evening. The screening post 9:00PM “watershed” being necessary due to some of the “content”.

    For those readers of this organ who have not watched the series we can happily report that the “content” in question was not tasteless and ghastly simulated sex scenes, but scenes – reasonably realistic but not brutally so – of the fighting in the trenches during the Great War and other scenes – illness and so forth. True, it was the case that there was a “bedroom scene” in last night’s series finale but it was not a tasteless exercise in simulated copulation but a simple – almost tableaux – scene of a husband and wife in a bed on their wedding night. There was nothing “that could frighten the horses” involved.

    What has been particularly enjoyable is the absence of four letter words which sadly seem to make up so much of the dialogue of so-called “gritty drama” – especially from the USA where the happy reduction of simulated copulation (in comparison with British productions) has been unhappily offset with a surfeit of obscenities, presumably to compensate. So far, Downton Abbey has been free of both. Long may this continue!

    What is absolutely clear is that Downton Abbey has been a huge success for ITV with huge viewing figures. It is particularly pleasing to see that the Brussels Brainwashing Commissariat on the receiving end of some punishment. There is to be a series three to be shown in the autumn of 2012. It is said that this is to be set in the 1920s.

    So far as the Christmas Special is concerned, the cliff-hanger is Mr Bates (a valet) being arrested for the “wilful murder” of his first wife and set for a possible dénouement (for Bates) on the gallows.

    It is likely that the producer will use the opportunity presented by this Christmas Special to “set the scene” for the third series. We will be hoping that the Christmas Special will depart from the usual format and instead be largely concentrated on the murder trial of Bates. Mr. Fellows has spun a far fetched but entertaining yarn which will make for an excellent murder trial. This is where Mr Bates had been “trapped” in a marriage to an intensely jealous and bitter wife. Having previously been wrongly imprisoned for a theft (of regimental silver) which had been carried out by this wife, Mr Bates was involved in a bitter divorce. Finding her plans to ruin her estranged husband’s happiness with his new love (Anna, a maid) thwarted, this bitter woman decides to commit suicide but in such a way as to falsely implicate her husband in her murder by using as her “way out,” some rat poison that had been innocently purchased by her husband and by not leaving a suicide note but instead a letter, posted to a friend to arrive post mortem, which appears to indicate she feared for her life – from her husband.

    • Both series now available in box-sets HMV doing offers. Can fully endorse above comments. A very enjoyable series, various nit-picking comments in the press and media need to be ignored, after all, it’s only a ’story’. Some people need to get a life if they can’t enjoy Downton for the costume drama it is.
      Jo, Middlesex

    • Missed every episode……after reading your critique maybe I should have made some effort. But then,…

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