Sunday, January 05, 2014


DOWNTON ABBEY had become a sleeper hit. Who knew this Edwardian ITV costume drama would attract such a following across the pond? Season 4 begins here in the states tonight. I thought last season was very disappointing.  They killed off two of my favorite characters and made the patriarch of the family a buffoon.  So I will watch tonight, but with a more jaundiced eye.  And this is its last chance.   Still, when the show was good it was very good, and hopefully it will be very good again.  To get you back in the mood or to introduce you to the series I am re-posting this humor piece. 

If you already 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.  

(Note: for those unfamiliar with the show, they killed off Matthew in maybe the cheesiest auto accident since an Ed Wood production.)


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:



Andy P. said...

I really enjoyed the first season of DOWNTON. I hated the second season because it went from "period drama" to "soap opera." The third season was slightly better. I think that if the last ep of season three had been a series finale--and they'd never made the dreadful Christmas special where they killed off you-know-who--I would have been content. I'm refusing to watch the new season. They lost me.

Sheryl said...

Granted it didn't have to be done in such a cheesy manner, but Matthew was only killed off because the Dan Stevens left the show.

Ellen said...

Oh, Ken. This is excellent! Thank you for the morning laugh.

And I completely agree with you about last season, especially the finale. The car crash was preposterous--cheesy indeed. And couldn't they have found a way for him to die that was somehow connected to his character? Couldn't he have been killed protecting his family or working the land or something? I hated it so much I don't even want to watch the show anymore. They lost me.

But like you, I'll give it one more shot. Though I fear it will have to jump out of the screen and tap dance in my living room to win me back ...

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I thought season one showed how much Julian Fellowes benefited from Robert Altman's presence on GOSFORD PARK (which I loved). Second season was dire. Third season I only watched for Shirley MacLaine, and then I was (and am) done. And even those episodes were terribly disappointing: they had Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine together and all they could think of to do with them was a few lame, bland insults. Pah.


Greg Ehrbar said...

I read this aloud to my wife and, as Edie McClurg might say, "We lahhfed and lahhfed."

Will Matthew even be missed, except by the angry Irish guy? All he did was vacillate with Mary about getting married (as you depicted) and once they were married, they became the "solid but dull couple," like Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth on "Days of Our Lives."

We're looking forward to this season of Downton Abbey-Normal, though. And now that Dan Stevens is a big Hollywood leading man with stubble, he doesn't need those dodgy Granthams!

Anonymous said...

Dan Stevens has yet to appear in anything on the "big screen" since leaving Downton Abbey and I think he will regret having left so soon.

Paul Duca said...

I thought celibacy was a subject in which the girls at the Jewish mixer were instructed.

gottacook said...

"And couldn't they have found a way for him to die that was somehow connected to his character?"

Having him die that way didn't bother me at all, if he had to go. There are enough real fatal crashes that are just as sadly ludicrous as the one in the show.

In those days, it was a lot easier to die that way, of course. And most cars in, say, 1960 were hardly more safe than a car from 1920. No disc brakes, no radial tires, no energy-absorbing steering column, no steel beams in the doors, hardly any cars with safety belts or even dashboard padding. It took many years of resistance from the domestic U.S. automakers before cars generally started to become modern in terms of both crash avoidance and passive safety, but that's another not very entertaining story.

Hamid said...

Downton's not my cup of tea. Looks a very polished production but bland. In total contrast, I can't wait for True Detective, starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. Two fantastic actors, and the buzz is very positive.

RCP said...

I was riveted to Sybil's death scene this past season, but also began to tire of the pat resolutions to the latest family/servant dramas. I knew Matthew was a goner as soon as we saw him driving joyfully along. Still interested enough to tune in.

Love that line: "What pray tell is a Sloppy Joe?"

Kathy said...

Matthew runs out screaming...and gets hit by a truck.

Russ said...

RANT: I decided to quit watching Downton Abbey last year. I was almost an hour into the last episode and figured it should be wrapping up soon--kill off with Matthew, blah, blah, blah. Well, I was irritated to learn I had another hour of it to go. I don't really understand what the big deal is about this show. It's just a soap opera. Having seen and enjoyed the Forsyte Saga with Damian Lewis, I was kind of interested in Downton Abbey the first season. I think when I saw Matthew just get up and start walking around with no problem after being paralyzed for weeks or months--which is insane on the face of it as he would at least be very weak from all that bed rest whether paralyzed or not--well, this was when I realized this was just a ridiculous show. (I remember laughing out loud at that scene!) So I viewed it as an unintentional comedy for a long time. But I got progressively bored and annoyed with these rich, whiny, snobby people whom I think I was supposed to feel pity for, and I was mostly just indifferent to them all. Indifference turned to scorn which meant it was time to find better entertainment. Thankfully, Justified is on--a far more intelligently written show and just damned entertaining! Which is something Downton never really was for me. At best, it was just mildly amusing (and only in the first season.)