Sunday, March 2, 2014

Everything's Great When You're Downton

From this week's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

One of the things that bothers me about “Downton Abbey” is that you never see anyone coming out of or going into a bathroom. Or, in Brit, the “loo” or “bath.”

Even the privileged must go, no?

But maybe the lack of such hat-tips to necessities is subconsciously why so many of us doff our bowlers to “Downton,” the PBS series that shows us how the other half lives, 80-ish years ago across the pond in the historical Motherland, where conversation is polished and verbal insults are equivalent to modern day b-slaps, only much more witty, layered, and without the cursing. Pure joy.

A record 8.5 million watched Sunday’s Season 4 finale. If you interviewed them all, at least 8.4 million would say that Mr. Carson has the best looking ankles of any butler they’d ever seen. Who thought we’d ever see Carson’s ankles? And of those, who thought they’d look like they belonged to a “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit model?

You have plenty of time to catch up if you wish to be with the rest of us for Season 5. That ship doesn’t sail until January. The Brits are stingier with their TV series than they are with their ice cubes: eight episodes a year, that’s all you get. Take it or carry your Yankee Doodle Arse back to America.

A polite but gruff, tightly wound bunch, our British forefathers. Yet they have an Eleanor Roosevelt quality to them makes it impossible to look away. I have a friend who DVRs both “Downton Abbey” AND “Lizard Lick Towing.” Downton calls to both the prince and pauper.

Let’s tie up some loose ends quickly and look ahead, shall we?

Concerning new characters:

I hate the schoolteacher (Ms. Bunting) and Lady Rose, a homewrecker-in-training;

I really liked Mary’s two suitors, Gillingham and Blake, but now Lord Gillingham is so nice that he’s starting to get on my nerves;

Jury is still out on the new lady’s maid, Baxter; the storyline of her secret, which only valet/footman/under butler/professional smoker Tom knows, has grown stale; unless it’s revealed in Season 5 that Baxter was either once the shortstop for the Philadelphia Athletics or Jack the Ripper -- or the Queen of England -- I’ll be most disappointed.

Regulars who are starting to wear me out:

Bates. I’m trying, I really am trying, to like him again. And I am failing. Miserably. He is now the “Downton Enforcer.” Need a guy knocked off? A document forged? He’ll do it on the cheap. My guess is that next season, Edith is going to ask him to kill the farmer, Mr. Drewe, who now knows her baby secret. And Bates will agree to do that, but he’ll draw the line on doing bathrooms;

Edith. Like Bates, each of her lines demands it be delivered the same and with the same I-just-sucked-a-lemon facial expression. She wears me out more than the NBA. And I completely missed during the finale that she’d already had the baby girl, who has a life of privilege and frowns (bad) and pigs (good!) before her;

Characters I have hope for:

One word: Molesley. He is a born loser, but I have faith that he will not stay that way. He’s shown spurts of glory, but those are countered all to often with streams of idiotness;

Daisy is the kind of tart-tongued young gal I can root for day and night. From a distance. Because she scares me. I still sort of hope that, with Ivy gone to America, Alfred might either get Daisy on at the Ritz or decide chef life is not for him and return to Yorkshire to take on farming – and Daisy -- when the father of Daisy’s first “husband” dies and leaves the land to Daisy.

Best in Show:

Love Ms. Patmore, who reminds me of the tea kettle in “Beauty and the Beast.” Ms. Hughes is top shelf, sort of the working man’s Mary Poppins. Mr. Carson is a Hall of Famer. First ballot. Probably runs a 4.35 at the Butler Combine. And Maggie Smith is MVP, no question, as the Dowager; her verbal sparring with Ms. Crawley, who has grown on me, has the same entertainment value as Ali-Frazier.   

So, while you’re enjoying tonight’s Academy Awards, consider: How many people will Bates kill in Season 5? Will Mary learn to fry bacon? Will Lord Grantham realize that he’s all tux, no game? Most importantly, will Edith’s face freeze that way?

Please feel free to argue among yourselves; I’ll have the kitchen bring up some tea.