Monday, January 07, 2013


DOWNTON ABBEY had become a sleeper hit. Who knew this Edwardian ITV costume drama would attract such a following across the pond? Season 3 began here in the states last night. From what I understand the UK has already seen it. So that no spoilers alerts are necessary, and for those who have never seen the show, I’d like to do a scene that I would have liked to have seen in season one.

If you watch Downton Abbey you can just skim the next paragraph.  

To get you up to speed: Early 20th Century. Downton Abbey is Hearst’s Castle but in England owned by this one family. The series focuses on the five family members and eight or nine of their thirty servants. The family is concerned because a distant cousin (Matthew) is due to inherit the whole schemer (it’s a long story why). The family looks down on Matthew. He’s not an aristocrat. He actually works for a living. He’s a lawyer. To them that's like Joe the Plumber inheriting the Trump Tower. But Matthew proposes to the oldest daughter (Mary). The family stands to keep the estate if this marriage takes place. But due to complications not worth spelling out, Mary is hesitant. She asks for the summer to think about it. And when Matthew finally confronts her in the fall she is still on the fence. That’s where my scene would begin.  (By the way, I've become quite fond of Mary.)


MATTHEW: So Lady Mary, the absolute love of my life, the angel that makes life itself worth living -- have you made your decision? Will you make me the happiest man on earth?

MARY: I’m afraid I have not. Not yet. If you would be so good as to grant me another month, I will surely tell you then.

MATTHEW: Another month? You had the entire summer, my precious.

MARY: Yes, but I was pre-occupied with so many activities.

MATTHEW: What activities?

MARY: Dear sir, are you questioning my integrity?

MATTHEW: No. Seriously. I want to know what you do all day. You don’t work. You don’t cook. All of your meals are prepared. Have you ever once made a bed? You don’t even dress yourself. What do you do?

MARY: Well… I ride.

MATTHEW: You ride. Once every few months for three or four hours you ride. The one activity the entire family participates in is killing innocent animals. Bully! What about the rest of the time?

MARY: I sit on benches in the garden a lot.

MATTHEW: Wow! I hope you take the weekends off.

MARY: Are you mocking me, good sir?

MATTHEW: Do you have a friend? Do you ever sneak off and sit with her on her bench?

MARY: I don’t need friends. I have two sisters. Oh wait. That’s something else I do. I scheme against them. Yes, that takes up time. And for your information, the servants are my friends.

MATTHEW: They’re paid to be your friends.

MARY: Some are nice to me on their days off.

MATTHEW: Can you even name the servants?

MARY: I can name about eight of them. The others don’t speak – they’re more in the background -- so I don’t know. The cook is… Mrs. somebody. Begins with a P.

MATTHEW: Yes, and about that – don’t you ever get tired of big fancy meals? Aren’t there nights when you want to say, can we just order a pizza? Or here’s a crazy thought – Sloppy Joes?

MARY: What pray tell is a Sloppy Joe?

MATTHEW: And why aren’t all of you girls 300 pounds? I’ve never seen you exercise.

MARY: We have servants who exercise for us.

MATTHEW: What if you don’t like stuffed pheasant and that’s what they’re serving? Are you allowed to ask for a tongue sandwich?

MARY: Of course. What’s tongue?  Where do you eat?

MATTHEW: Do the servants always have to preside over every meal? Can the cook ever say, “Hey, we got a smorgy tonight! Grab a plate and help yourselves!

MARY: What’s a smorgy? Matthew, you’re beginning to scare me.

MATTHEW: Speaking of the servants, I’ve seen their quarters. They’re tiny and two to a room. This house is bigger than Luxemburg. There must be a hundred rooms. You can’t toss six or seven guest rooms their way? There are five people who live in this fortress. Unless you’re having the entire population of Ireland over for the weekend, you’re not going to run out of room.

MARY:  What is a "weekend?"

MATTHEW:  Dear God!

MARY: We’d be happy to give the servants bigger quarters but they spend so little time in them. We work them twenty hours a day.

MATTHEW: How considerate of you.

MARY: They have to polish all the bannisters and wash the paintings. 

MATTHEW: Uh huh. Well, let me ask you, my spoiled goddess – how do you heat this place in the winter?

MARY: What?

MATTHEW: It’s a train station with chandeliers. How do you heat it? I see maybe three fireplaces.

MARY: I don’t know. It always seems to be summer.

MATTHEW: And you must have thirty acres here.  Who mows the lawn?   You have four footmen to dish out soup and not a single gardener.  

MARY:  I'm sure we have them.   They must mow at night. 

MATTHEW:  Well, dear lady of entitlement, I'm afraid I must take my leave. I’m due in court in an hour. I’m guessing whatever school you went to didn’t have a Career Day.

MARY:  We had tutors.  Mrs. Doubtfire taught me the essentials -- posturing, dramatic exits, and celibacy.

MATTHEW:  What did you take for shop class? (beat)  Well, I'm off.

MARY: Matthew, wait. I’ve made my decision. I do want to marry you.

MATTHEW: Yes, well, now that I know a little bit more about you and your life I need some more time.

MARY: What? How much time?

MATTHEW: Can I get back to you in thirty years?   Or when you put away your own shoes -- whichever comes first. 

MARY: Oh my God! You’re rescinding your proposal?

MATTHEW: I’m terribly sorry but yes. I’m running screaming as we common people say. I’m afraid I require someone a little more… interesting.

MARY: Ha! In this town? You’ll never find one. I’m still the best you can do.

MATTHEW: Oh, I’ll find a girl more interesting.

MARY: Really? Where?

MATTHEW: The Jewish mixer! Good day, m’lady.

MATTHEW runs screaming. On MARY’S reaction, we:



Robin Parker said...

The BBC might be synonymous with period drama but this airs on commercial network ITV1 in the UK.

Tracy Austin said...

Ha!I also wondered why they never got fat! They do get smushed into those corsets, but that can only do so much. Of course, that would make you feel like eating less! :)

Anonymous said...

For me, Downton Abbey is a show where I'm not interested in the story, I don't give a fuck about the characters, but I love just how well everybody seems to be acting and any awards they may win for doing so are very well deserved.

Brian Phillips said...

Good Heavens! Is the Earl of Pomerantz privy to this?

Johnny Walker said...

Haha! Very funny!

I fell absolutely in love with Downton Abbey when I first started watching it. Then, during episode three, it stopped being a low-key, somewhat schmaltzy, but otherwise incredibly realistic, and most importantly, utterly engrossing slice of pre-war life, and turned into Dallas.


I'm referring to, of course, the plotline that seemed rather silly when it was used in "Sibling Rivalry" back in the 90s. (Apparently its use in DA was based on a real event -- but any drama that features characters moving dead bodies around in the middle of the night immediately falls somewhere between a soap and farce to me. I'll give it another go eventually, but I was so disappointed, and I hear Season 2 becomes completely preposterous.)

Mac said...

They started a new one on Sunday - Mr Selfridge - about the American businessman who started Selfridge's shop in London. It's all lace bonnets, well-turned ankles and ladies blushing and swooning all over the place.

*tarazza said...

Huge Downton fan and this made me laugh! Been wondering where that missing scene is!

Tom Quigley said...

Ken, you just did a fantastic job of turning it into a cross between a Merchant Ivory film and and a comedy by Neil Simon... Not sure if this'll persuade me to watch (have never seen the show), but at least I know there's someone out there who can enjoy British TV drama without succumbing to the pretentiousness of it.

Anonymous said...

What IS a smorgy?

Rampant Yeti said...

"What is a 'weekend'?" is an actual line from the first season, delivered deliciously by Maggie Smith.

Ane said...

It's not such a long story really. "Girls can't inherit". That's why Matthew gets it all. Short and sweet.

What does Mary do all day? Sucking up to Carson and making Anna fix her hair, I guess.

henever Cora or Mary are in a scene, I spend two minutes trying to figure out which of them it is. Seriously, those two look more like twins than mother and daughter...

RCP said...

Quite amusing! Love the line, "What pray tell is a Sloppy Joe?"

I thoroughly enjoyed last night's episode, and was relieved that Shirley MacLaine resisted falling totally into camp. The ageist insults between her and Maggie Smith were great:

MacLaine: "I do so love to be in the sun."

Smith: "So we can see."

Paul Duca said...

Smith: "You Americans will never understand tradition"

MacLaine: "Yes we do...we just don't let it rule us"

John T said...

Friday question: I would like to get a copy of a script for a spec I am writing. Who exactly should I contact to accomplish this?

Weaponized Awesome said...

Very funny! FYI, if anyone has the appetite for another 200 pages in this vein, there is a book-length parody called Downturn Abbey on Amazon:

"Long before he and his mother came to Downturn, I knew the name “Dratyew Crawly.” Everyone did; he was the North’s preeminent omnibus-chaser, and his bally great advertisements were everywhere. One couldn’t go five steps without Dratyew’s sand-haired dimly handsome noggin grinning toothily at you.

Contact Dratyew Crawly, Esq.
The North’s Finest Personal Injury Lawyer He will fight for you!”

P.S. Even though I'm not the author, I am aware that it is hugely repellent to co-ops another person's blog in order to promote something else entirely, so I hope Mr. Levine will delete this if he's offended.

P.P.S. If it makes a difference, I DID just buy Ken's books of travelogues.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I liked season 1 but thought it showed how much extra Robert Altman brought to GOSFORD PARK. S2's plotlines were so ludicrous...and I bailed on S3 after one episode (I did want to see Shirley MacLaine and Maggie Smith face off).

I also have this little problem that seems to bother no one else: Lord and Lady Grantham both have brilliant blue eyes. @All three daughters have dark brown eyes. Genetically impossible. I keep waiting for a plotline to hinge on the fact that they cannot possibly be legitimate daughters of this pair of parents.


Sebastian Peitsch said... linked to this:

An entire Tumblr full of images of Downton Abbey's Lady Edith Crawley with googly eyes.

Anonymous said...

Well, Matthew is just as posh and aristo as Lady Mary so this doesn't quite work. I can imagine a chat like this between Lady Sybil and FormerChauffeur!Tom "Irish" Branson. Pity we won't get to see more of their arguments, because they probably went a lot like this.

olucy said...

Have you guys seen the hilarious Downton Abbey/Breaking Bad cross-over, brought to you by Stephen Colbert? The entire clip is great, but the sketch itself is 1:45 - 5:40.

olucy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Walker said...

@sebastian, That's funnier than it has any right to be! :)

Kaleberg said...

Wendy Grossman: The eye color thing can really color a movie. Check the genetics in Twice in a Lifetime. The brown eyes explain a lot about why the older daughter had such a big problem with the divorce.

I rather like Downton Abbey. We bought the DVD from Amazon UK, so we've already seen it. Basically, it's Jane Austen with Vampires. Downton Abbey is sucking up fortune after fortune as Mathew inherits. It's kind of creepy. I'm hoping Mathew drives a stake through the heart, but I have my doubts.

Anonymous said...

Downton Abbey is a poor copy of the original, Upstairs Downstairs. In Downton there are no barriers between the Family and the servants, which is very disturbing.