See our Magnum Photos gallery on the English countryside.
Denizens of Downton,
On Lavinia’s stumble: I’m unable to attach any significance to the servants being out of the room at that moment, alas. It was surely a matter of convenience; Julian Fellowes needed a reason for Matthew to stand, so Lavinia trips; he needed a reason for Lavinia to trip, so a pouffe is left astray. (Were Mr. Carson standing next to Lord Fellowes at the moment he wrote that scene, I can only imagine the dismay with which he would respond to such catch-as-catch-can plotting.)
One of the silliest joys of Downton is, of course, the sheer quantity of plots advanced through characters loudly declaring secrets/kissing each other in echoey rooms, only to have someone else walk in or overhear at a crucial moment. “Like eavesdropping?” SNL’s fake Downton ad asked the other week. “Then this show’s for you!” One of the reasons I respect Thomas “Mean Guy” Barrow and Sarah “Super Bitch” O’Brien is that they’re the only characters with the good sense to plot quietly—notice, in their scene in the hallway, how they keep their eyes on passing maids and footmen as they speak.
Indeed, on the rare occasion that characters get to have a conversation without anyone else walking in on them—as with Matthew’s tête-à-tête with the dowager countess or Lord Grantham’s final encounter with Jane—I find it pleasantly surprising. Basically, Downton needs more doors.
June, your explanation of British Christmas specials was illuminating and somewhat sad. It makes me glad that, as Americans, we can watch football over the holidays, saving all our familial interaction for the occasional game of Celebrity. As Gumby Baby Charlie might say: I THINK TELEVISION’S KILLED REAL ENTERTAINMENT. IN THE OLD DAYS WE USED TO MAKE OUR OWN FUN AT CHRISTMAS PARTIES. I USED TO STRIKE MYSELF ON THE HEAD REPEATEDLY WITH BLUNT INSTRUMENTS WHILE CROONING.
While Downton Abbey is no Monty Python’s Flying Circus, I do hope it might interest a whole generation in other, better costume spectaculars the way Python got a whole generation into British comedy. As we prepare for the finale next week, I hope we all can take some time to think of recommendations: TV shows, movies, and books that might interest the Downton fan jonesing during the hiatus for more hot corseted action. And I hope our readers will make suggestions in the comments. Perhaps Downton might be the sprat that catches the mackerel.
ONLY MAKE BELIEVE THAT YOU LOVE ME (THUMP! THUMP!),
Editor’s note: For the benefit of American readers who haven’t yet seen Season 2 of Downton Abbey, please do your best to avoid spoilers for next week’s finale when commenting
TODAY IN SLATE
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Welcome to 13th Grade!
Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.
The Actual World
“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.