Tea and toilet water

As a long-time fan of Masterpiece, I am trying hard to like Downton Abbey. I saw a few episodes from the first two seasons, including the infamous moment when Lady Mary found a formerly lustful Turkish diplomat dead in her bed. But I just couldn’t seem to care.

With all the folderol in advance of Season Three, I thought I’d have another go at it, as one of the characters might say. I admire the costuming, the language, the settings, the vintage autos and Maggie Smith’s tart tongue. Even Mr. Carson’s clinging to the bouillon spoons of the past is fine, if a little foolish.

But, when it’s all over, you say, “What was all that about.?” Much of the plot is banal, laughable or too obviously playing at the heartstrings. Look at last night’s highlights. A handsome new footman makes the ladies gasp, a wayward son-in-law roots for the wrong country, and the estate charges the tenants too little. This is the stuff of everyday, not great drama. Great drama is meant to lift us out of the mundane or offer catharsis. Nothing like that happens here. It’s not even good soap opera. Dallas is soap opera; Downton Abbey is toilet water.

In order save you watching the next episode, here’s what will take place. A tray of cucumber sandwiches will go sour. Lady Edith walks to the village and marries the first man she sees. A dog gets the mange. Bates loses a tooth and puts it under his pillow, but before the tooth fairy comes, jailers barge in, search his sheets, find the tooth and throw him into solitary for cannibalism. Mrs. Hughes puts a lock on her door to stop Mr. Carson’s intrusions. It rains for a while and then stops.

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