Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Downton Abbey Jumps the Shark

Seven Late Takes - The Downton Abbey Edition

1. It is with a heavy heart that I state the unvarnished truth: Downton Abbey jumped the shark Sunday night. It's been coming since Edith decided to cap up off a long day at the farm by kissing a married man far beneath her in social rank (and -- let's just be brutally honest here -- a not very attractive man at that).

How else has this series gone astray?

2. The cat fighting between Cora and Isobel was contrived from the word go. Why did Isobel then run off to France?

3. I could see the growing chemistry between Sybil and Branson in Season 1, but this once fetching couple now does nothing but hang out in the garage tossing barbs at each other. Do they have a relationship? Can't they drive off to Ripon for -- I don't know -- bandages or something, and actually interact like normal people? Sybil tells Mary, "You can talk to the chauffeur. He's a person." But they never talk. He's getting more grating by the episode, but it seems a fait accompli that they will run off together. Does he have a first name or will she call him Branson at their wedding?

4. These odd looks between Lord Grantham and Jane? If they take the most decent character on this show and have him embroiled in some tawdry romance, I'll occupy Downton.

5. If only to lend the above scenario a little context, Cora is constantly dismissing Robert, leaving him on his own for luncheon (war is hell, as the saying goes), and blowing off dinner parties. Again, it doesn't ring true. These were difficult, trying times. Would this formerly loving couple not turn to, hmmmm, each other for strength and comfort? Guess not.

6. The plot line that has the entire downstairs crew bullying Daisy into marrying William seemed forced. Over and over and over again, everyone but the cat got his two cents in. I didn't get that.

7. Finally, the Patrick Gordon construct is ripped straight from that pivotal episode of Dallas. Painful, painful, painful. Oh Jullian,  you've let us all down! When I've heard Downton Abbey compared to a soap opera, I've bristled a bit. The elegance, the pace, the acting -- these made Season 1 something beautiful to watch. Yes, there were twists, but none that so lacked believability.

Mary rocks this season, as do Sir Richard and Mathew. Their performances are stellar, and their choices are believable (even if painful). I was heartened to see Thomas, the evil footman, gain a modicum of humanity. O'Brien , too, seems more developed. Her compassion for Mr. Lang was genuine and understandable. Mrs. Pattmore is in top form (except when badgering Daisy). She's more than the stereotypical grumpy cook. Like Maggie Smith, she's just plain funny.

So we're left with one essential question:Will I continue to watch? The answer is yes, of course I will.

(Visit Betty Beguiles for more Seven Quick Takes!)


Kelly said...
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christinelaennec said...

I missed all of the first two series so am still catching up on DVD, a Christmas present from my husband. So I rather skimmed your post, for fear of spoilers.

But I've never heard the phrase "jumped the shark" before - what exactly does it mean? (And can you give me a few more examples of usage?)

Kelly said...

Christine - Clearly you didn't watch enough trashy t.v. in your earlier years. "Jumped the shark" refers to an episode of Happy Days. Fonze was in Hawaii doing skiing acrobatics. He jumped a shark. The term has come to identify the point at which a series departs from what made it interesting or funny or smart and takes a significant turn for the worse. Ratings usually plummet (though Downton's won't).

Brian, Laura, Felix & Ezra said...

I stumbled onto your blog, and agree with all of your points! It's a great show, despite the hyperbole this season. The costumes are still beautiful, and the dialogue rich. I'll continue to watch--of COURSE!
ok, the Branson thing gets on my neres too! What does Sybil see in him??
Funny note--I watched the whole first season on netflix after my (now 6 mo old) son was born, usually while nursing. And now when I sit down to nurse, I always get a hankering for Downton Abbey. I trained myself like a Pavlovian dog. Why am I posting this on a stranger's blog? I don't know, sorry for this. But thanks for your post, and enjoy the rest of the season!

Christine Laennec said...

Thanks for clearing that up for me, Kelly! It all makes perfect sense now. :-)

Kelly said...

Brian, Laura - Thanks for visiting! I watched Monk marathons while 39 weeks pregnant with my now two-year-old. I associate OCD behavior with timing contractions. I get it.

Elisa said...

After all the chatter about this show in the blogosphere, I thought I'd catch Episode 1, Season 1. I got almost through that episode, when low and behold...two men are about to kiss on the screen in my room. I turned it off. That is the last of that show for me. Not sure why so many Catholics kept watching beyond that episode.

Kelly said...

Elisha - That's the only graphic scene in two seasons, but it's a doozy.

I kept watching because the series has many elements that show devotion, beauty, heroism, repentance, and humor.