Dispatch from the Downton Abbey Diaspora is written for THIRTEEN by Deborah Gilbert, a British television maven and editor of the E20 Chronicles, a free, weekly EastEnders e-newsletter, and an EastEnders column in the Union Jack Newspaper. Check back for updates.
Recently, at work, I met a British man who was visiting New York and we started chatting (I don’t know about you, but whenever I meet a Brit, I try to keep them talking just so I can listen to the accent!) Anyway, as Simon and I chatted about the recent news, the talk went from the new Royal baby, to primogeniture and those big country estates like (the allegedly fictional) Downton Abbey - at which point he mentioned a seriously interesting thing about his own family history: His great grandmother was a scullery maid at one of those grand estates. And not only that, her story sounds a bit close to what might have happened if Lord Grantham had continued on his dalliance with Maid Jane. As the family story goes, Simon’s great gran became pregnant by the Lord of the Manor, a cousin of Queen Victoria, and to get her and the inconvenient baby out of the way and keep it all quiet, he convinced her to marry the chauffer and bought them a house in London, where they settled and avoided a scandal of Pamukian proportions. It sounds just like it could have been ripped from the pages of a Downton Abbey script, doesn’t it? All the details of this story will be fodder for a future Dispatch. I want more dish and pictures, don’t you? So stay tuned… Unfortunately, there’s nothing that interesting in my own family tree – mostly just running from Cossacks. Oh well.
They Scrub Up Nice (and drop 20 years)!: As the publicity push begins for the fourth season of Downton Abbey, some of the ladies recently appeared at a press event in Los Angeles looking every bit the Hollywood Red Carpet veterans they now are. When watching Downton Abbey, it is easy to get absorbed in it (in no small part because of the fact that, thanks to PBS, we get it commercial-free), that it is always a bit startling to see any of the actors walking around out in the world in contemporary clothes! The women of Downton especially look so much better as themselves that it always shocks (and I don’t know why), with the exception of Michelle Dockery, who is allowed to look good on the show. But look at Phyllis Logan, in a lovely flowy, pink dress that would make Mr. Carson have a stroke, and looking (easily) 20 years younger than Mrs. Hughes. And there’s Laura Carmichael AKA Lady Edith looking gorgeous (is that piano dress a clue to a theme for Season 4?)
He’s Really Most Sincerely Dead: The 5 Stages of Grief: When I find myself in times of trouble, Lady Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, ‘Oh crap!’ Spoken like an actress who doesn’t want to lose her steady gig! Lady Mary is now Mother Mary, and from a recent interview it looks like both Michelle Dockery and Lady Mary have had to work through the same five stages of grief as every Downtonian, due to Matthew’s sudden demise, though it looks like Michelle has gotten her way to stage 5, acceptance, while Mary and many of the rest of us are still dealing with stages 1 through 4. Stage 1 is denial (maybe the accident wasn’t as bad as it looked, maybe it’s all an elaborate ruse, a dream induced by the anesthesia of delivery), but it seemed like many Downtonians jumped over stage 1, right to stage 2, anger (I’ll never watch again!) Are they still there or has the long off-season softened their threats? Maybe, but I suspect that, as the season nears and the siren song’s strings and piano waft through the air and that familiar doggie tail starts wagging, they’ll be back. They won’t be able to help themselves. Stage number 3 then is bargaining and I have a friend who’s in that stage. Her idea? The story should skip to decades ahead into the future so Dan Stevens can play Matthew & Mary’s son. Somehow I don’t see that happening (though, if we want to talk about skipping ahead, I’ve always thought that after Season 5, when Lord Fellowes says the series will end, he should have a little R&R for a few years, then bring the show back, skipping ahead to the late 1930’s when Mary, Edith and Sybil’s children are coming of age. What? But Edith doesn’t have a child you say? In my scenario she has an illegitimate daughter (or son) with her Editor, who has the same chip on her/his shoulder towards Mary’s son that Edith had towards Mary. Downton: The Next Generation.) But back to the stages: Some are still in stage 4, causing much chocolate to be consumed. I suspect that many a Downtonian will blame Matthew’s death for an extra ten pounds and spend Season 4 watching while peddling a stationary bike. Then there is stage 5, acceptance, where Michelle is – and where I am too. As much as I will miss both Matthew and Sybil (whose death, to me, was more shocking), I’ll look on the bright side and look forward to the new twists and turns available to the story in their absence. Can. Not. Wait.
The Market in Ripon is Never Going to be the Same: Downton Abbey has become such a juggernaut that it was inevitable that the commercial products would follow in its’ wake (too bad Thomas tore up his shed). Very soon, if you’ve got a few bobs in your pocket, you’ll be able to smell like the Dowager Countess, adorn yourself like the Crawley girls, and get drunk like Molesley. For starters, the Queen’s favorite shop, Marks & Spencer, is launching a line of Downton Abbey beauty products, which will include soaps, body lotions, nail polishes and lip balms, packaged in a ten piece gift collection. Then, the 1928 Jewelry company, which was already making lovely costume jewelry (that looked like it belonged on Edwardian earlobes), is coming out with a line linked to the show (can’t wait for THAT!) And the company Wines That Rock, who have made wines for fans of the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead, is releasing a collection of Downton Abbey wines that will be reminiscent of the type imported by the British aristocracy in the early part of the last century. I’ve seen Wines That Rock before; someone once gave me a gift of one of their Rolling Stones wines. I don’t drink, but their bottles are great! They have great labels and I’m guessing these will be collectibles. With all this it looks like it’s going to be very easy to shop for any Downtonian this holiday season. On the other hand, if you’re waiting for Mr. Carson action figures, it looks like you’ll have to keep waiting.
Changing Rooms, Changing Centuries: Ever want to give your humble abode that light and airy(?) look of the servant’s quarters? Or maybe, Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen? Now you can because Mylands, a paint company formed in 1884, which supplies paint to the Pinewood and Elstree studios (ie; the walls of every Bond film, Mr. Selfridge, Harry Potter and Downton Abbey), has made the paint colors they created for the Downton Abbey set, available to the public. It is interesting to note that the company’s founder, John Myland, used paint recipes from a lot of really old colors, some dating back to Georgian and medieval times, and the company is still using those paint recipes today; recipes that are still made the way they were one hundred years ago, with earth pigments. Two colors are now available; Empire Grey, the color of Mr. Carson’s pantry, and Amber Grey, the color of Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen. This brings a question to mind: If one paints one’s kitchen the color of Mr. Carson’s pantry, will it peel off the walls when you try to use the toaster? That remains to be seen. Call me kooky but I’m thinking that paint the color of those green silk walls in the sitting room, or the Wedgewood-y blue wall color from Isobel’s parlor would be more sought after, but those aren’t from a set that was created in a studio. They are from real historic homes, but then Mylands is a historic paint company, so maybe they’re coming down the line at some point anyway. In the meantime, as you come home to your teeny over-priced New York apartment, from your dreary under-paid job, you can now envelop yourself in the surroundings of drudge laden workers of a century ago, who had it a lot worse. So, it really could be quite the pick-me-up – if you can go to London and shlep a few gallons home in your luggage. (I can just see it now…wait for it… Downtonians trying to bring some cans home to the US, being stopped at Heathrow and detained, accused of being paint bombers.) Oy!
Fernando’s Hideaway: Let’s Tango: Before Downton Abbey returns, Thirteen will be bringing us another Best of British import, the BAFTA Award winning series Last Tango in Halifax. It sounds really great and was inspired by a true story (aren’t those the best?) It revolves around a couple of childhood sweethearts who reunite and get married after sixty years apart. PBS has this to say about it, ‘The six-part series is an uplifting comedy/drama about romance and second chances. Full of zesty humor, great characters and glorious dialogue, it’s about timeless love in a modern setting.’ It premieres Sunday, September 8 at 8PM. Mark your calendars kids!
Midwives in the House: And yes world, you may resume spinning: A third season of Call the Midwife is coming! The ladies and gentlemen of Nonnatus House return – so it looks like those surveyors didn’t knock down the old place yet! With all the change in the air in the early 60’s, Nonnatus House remains a constant and there’s still much work to be done; many babies to be delivered and slices of cake to be pilfered from Sister Bernadette’s cake tin. We reassemble in the East End of London this September!
It sounds like our Sunday night plates are going to be full again this fall on THIRTEEN (and following that, on WLIW). So get your bikes set up in front of the TV and start peddling!
Stroke of Brilliance: And by the way, before I close out this post I have to ask, have you see the incredibly cool vintage-look t-shirts that THIRTEEN has on offer this summer? If you haven’t, check them out! I ordered one a few weeks ago and I just love it! Too cool! (Am I a total geek if I think PBS t-shirts are cool?? Just asking – no need to answer). And I have to say, when I sent the t-shirt web page to a friend, he didn’t just want a shirt, he was also quite taken with (in his words) ‘the ginger hottie’ (who’s modeling one of the shirts)! Unfortunately, you can’t order the ginger hottie, but you can get a shirt! Only $25 and it goes to support all this great programming here on THIRTEEN. Such a deal!
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