Tuesday, March 05, 2013
Anyway, these are my thoughts on the third season. What are yours?
I’m a huge DOWNTON ABBEY fan but was very disappointed in season three.
It got off to a very rocky start with Shirley MacLaine appearing as Cora’s mother. She’s done some fine work in the past, but I had no idea what she was playing. I have the sense she didn’t either. Surely, she could have drawn from all her many past lives and landed on some legitimate character. She also wasn’t helped by the script. Julian Fellows saw fit to make her one-note – the boorish American who just preached change and modernization. I resented that. We have other layers, Julian. We square dance. Shirley will be back next season, probably because prohibition is coming in the U.S.
I was also bothered that there wasn’t one scene between Shirley’s character and her daughter, Cora.
And speaking of Cora, it pains me to say the one cast member of the show who clearly is awful is the one American. Elizabeth McGovern has one expression, like she just bit into an olive pit.
On the other hand, Hugh Bonneville (who plays Robert) is, as always, marvelous. The first two seasons he provided stability and humanity to the series. And this season he’s Inspector Clouseau, bungling through every situation. He’s an incompetent businessman, makes the wrong call that costs his daughter her life, always says the wrong thing, is intolerant, out of step, and a lousy cricket player. Please restore him to the elegant patriarch of the family and not have him morph into Archie Bunker in tails.
When the series began I wasn’t a Mary fan and now I love her. I realize she’s the “Michael” of this Corleone family.
As you know I was devastated when Sybil died. But when Matthew bought it at the end of the season I was pissed. I certainly understand the reason for killing these people – the actors wanted out of the show. Or they questioned lines. And Julian Fellows said in an interview that offing them was not his preference. But since they were both members of the Crawley family, he couldn’t justify them going away and never returning, especially since they both now had babies. If it had been actors who played help they could easily just get other jobs at UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS and move away. But it’s a tougher buy with family members. He also said that he asked both Dan Stevens (Matthew) and Jessica Brown Findlay (Sybil) if they’d agree to come back for two or three? They both said no, they wanted a clean break. So off with their heads.
Unlike in America, actors in England don’t sign on for more than three seasons of a series. In the colonies they can be signed from five to seven years. Both Dan and Jessica said they wanted to take advantage of their popularity to strike while the iron is hot. But here’s the thing: They are only hot BECAUSE of DOWNTON ABBEY. In many ways they owe their careers to that show. So it doesn’t seem an unreasonable request to give thanks to the people who believed in you and hired you and built this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you by staying another season or two. And remember, they only film eight or nine a year. If you’re on a US hit drama you make 22-24. So what are we talking about? A three or four month commitment to make another season of DOWNTON ABBEY? You can’t still do your Broadway shows or movies? Watch. You’re going to see one of them in some awful TNT pilot or Katherine Heigl movie and say, “you left DOWNTON ABBEY for that?”
I also took issue with the way they killed Matthew. That whole two-hour finale was a snooze (nothing happened) with a ridiculous tacked on death scene. Hit by a truck? Really? That’s the best you could do? I had heard of Matthew’s imminent demise so my only question was how were they going to do it? Drive-by shooting? A trip on the Hindenburg? Beaned by a cricket ball? No. The way they actually did it was routine and boring. If you’re going to do that, why not just a meteor fall on the poor bastard?
By the way, when Sybil died, the evil side of me wanted to see Mary put her arm around Edith and say, “Well, I guess you weren’t the unluckiest sister after all.” Too soon???
Poor Edith just got the shit beaten out of her all year. Anytime she had even a shred of happiness it was yanked from her. She's left at the alter by an older man with a gimp arm! That's ten years of therapy right there. But ultimately, if you project thirty years into the future I see Edith living in New York, a titan of the publishing world, and married to a young Marlon Brando while Mary is running a bed & breakfast. Robert sells the estate and moves to Germany, which proves to be just his latest poor decision, and Cora chokes on an olive pit.
I like the support staff the best. Evil Mrs. O’Brien (first name: Cruella). She was a hoot as was conniving Thomas who is forever wrestling with his superiority complex, his inferiority complex, and his homosexuality. By the way, there are two characters named Tom – the sniveling servant and Sybil’s widower. With so many characters it’s not confusing enough that two have the same name? There are other great British names. What about Ringo? But I digress.
Daisy I just want to slap.
And I hated the whole Mr. Bates-in-prison storyline. He’s one of my favorite characters (how can you not love a man of honor, dignity, and rage?) and I want to see him at the McMansion. Seemed like a waste having him walk in a circle in the prison yard every week. Instead of slamming some jailbird bloke up against the wall, let’s see him stuff Thomas into a dumbwaiter.
My favorite character is still that old dowager herself, Maggie Smith as Granny. Has the best lines and has the best limp. Somehow I can’t see Lady Mary ever uttering droll remarks, and there won’t be a lot of witty badinage between Lady Edith and Brando (especially if he's been drinking).
The storylines seemed to wander this season. I thought it was waaaay too convenient that Robert’s investments go belly-up and he loses the family fortune but out of nowhere an acquaintance Matthew didn’t know dies and leaves him all this money. If they’re going to play it like that – when Sybil died why didn’t they just introduce Adele as the daughter Robert gave up at birth and now just happens to be in town for a golf junket?
I’m hoping season three was just a hiccup and season four rights the ship. It would be nice to see a little happiness in Downton Abbey. Oh, who am I kidding? Here’s what I really want – Lady Mary and Mr. Carson to hook up. Yeah! Now that would get me going to my phone and pledging PBS twenty dollars.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM