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Dispatch from the Downton Abbey Diaspora #21

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.

This week it’s a video clip fest! As we approach the January 5th premier of Season 4, Masterpiece continues to serve up some tantalizing video hors d’oeuvres for our viewing pleasure. So, here’s a mini-film festival Thirteen-style…

Preview of Coming Attractions: Edith finally gets a little something something! Alert the media! Oh wait, she is the media. Why do we know it will end in tears? There are lots of teases in this fast-paced preview: Kissing and tears, laughter and cups of tea, and it leaves us with lots of questions too, like, why is Cousin Oliver saying ‘Welcome to Downton’? That’s Cora’s line! And why are she and Robert giggling and holding hands? Why is Daisy crying? Why is Bates crying? Why does Branson look so serious? Was he molested by another pushy maid? What’s the deal with those pushy maids anyway? And by the way, that’s a rather racy dress Edith is wearing, isn’t it? Are you tapping your toes in anticipation? I know I am!

Turning Point: This video features some of our faves speaking about their characters’ most defining moments. I loved hearing their takes on what has shaped their characters’ personalities and choices. But to me, the one who is missing here; the one I am most curious about, has to be O’Brien. She is the one whose turning points I’m really interested in. I want to know what made her the way she is. Last season we got to see the real pain of the person behind Thomas’ moustache twirling. It made him more real and even though having been a victim is no excuse for becoming a victimizer, the added complexity of Thomas means there’s more to mine in the emotional story, and that’s a good thing. The same goes for O’Brien; I often wonder what makes nasty people tick and how they live with themselves, and I think that if we never get to see that fleshing out of O’Brien, I will think of it as a missed opportunity. Oh yes, and Bates. Why does he have those ‘I am nothing’ self-esteem issues? What happened there before he limped through the back gate in Season 1? But in any event, watch these great interviews:

Countess Confessions: Lady Carnarvon recently revealed some of the odd requests made by the crew filming in her humble abode. No, nothing like demanding she remove all the red M&M’s from the candy dishes, but when you’re living and working in a house full of priceless treasures, requests like, ‘Can I please light a candelabra under your highly flammable Van Dyck?’ might be a little nerve shattering, don’t you think?

There is Nothing Like a Dame: Dame Harriet Walter, whose face is easily recognizable from Sense and Sensibility, Law and Order UK, and countless other roles, takes on the gig of appearing in Downton Abbey as Violet’s friend, though she seems to have mixed feelings about its representation of Britain’s class system and what it all means. Having come from a family similar to the Crawleys, in real life, her take is an interesting read.

Long Day’s Shiva Into Night: Once again, the producers (and Julian Fellowes) peek out from under the tables where they’ve been hiding since The Splat Heard Round the World unleashed the Sturm und Drang of ten million tweets wailing ‘Whywhywhy??!!’ to the heavens, to say (as poignant music plays in the background) just how much they really, really, really did love Matthew and Dan. Really. Can we come out now?? It’s OK guys! You can stop apologizing already! Really! I’ll miss Matthew too, but I look forward to what comes next. So far Mary is two-for-two; both men she’s slept with have died untimely yet creative deaths. Will Season 4 bring a hat trick? Time will tell.

Dress Me Up: What’s a costume drama without the costumes? The cast and costume designer from The Paradise talk detail. And it is really quite remarkable the amount of detail that goes into the costumes on these shows, but I suppose that with HDTV, more detail is required than in the past. Bonus: If you are like me and adore British Isle accents of every variety, in these interview snippets you’ll find it interesting to hear the difference between the native accents of Elaine Cassidy (Katherine Glendenning) and Emun Elliott (John Moray). And am I the only one who thinks Elaine looks like she just stepped out of a Degas painting? Perfect for the part.

The Ties That Bind: There are times when corsets can be fun, but I sure am glad I don’t have to wear one every day! In the past we’ve heard Downton Abbey actresses talk about how difficult they were to wear in the early seasons, but it sounds like the ladies of The Paradise are loving them. Watching an actress tighten her own corset makes you wonder how we, as a species, didn’t evolve with shoulders and elbows that bent in the opposite directions. I never realized that a woman could even tighten herself into a corset like that. Sometimes it’s hard enough to have a dress that zips up the back (I hate to have to ask my doorman to help me get dressed, don’t you?) – so I don’t know how they did it!

Retail Therapy: Every once in a while we are reminded that everything we take for granted, every modern convenience, large or small, things often so common we don’t even give them a thought, started as an idea in someone’s imagination. In some cases that thought is daunting. I still remember when I visited Disneyland for the first time and the thought I had when I looked around at that overwhelming place was, this whole, big thing started with a little drawing of a mouse! If you missed the show Secrets of Selfridges, I’d suggest to watch it when it is rerun – or online (or pledge for a DVD). It was absolutely fascinating! Fascinating just how much of our modern day retail culture, from the countdown of how many shopping days til Christmas, to the layout of department stores (with the fragrance and cosmetics right up front), were innovations of Harry Gordon Selfridge. There is so much more to his story than we have seen so far in Mr. Selfridge (though who knows what is in store for season 2?!) It was incredibly sad what happened to him in later years, and that after everything he built he died penniless, but his was a creativity worth remembering!

Downtonian Schedule Alert: As you are planning your Thanksgiving holiday, don’t forget that WLIW will be running a Downton Abbey marathon all day! Feast on a full course of Seasons 2 and 3. Dee-lish!

LATE BREAKING NEWS: As we gear up for Season 4, Downtonians everywhere will be happy to hear that it was just announced this weekend that Season 5 is already in pre-production! That’s right, now we can have no fear; because we know when we get to the last episode this winter, it will not be the end, not even the beginning of the end; it will be merely the end of the beginning. Raise a glass!

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About Masterpiece
As the longest-running primetime drama on American television, MASTERPIECE celebrates its 40th-anniversary season in 2011, bringing viewers the best in literature-based drama, mysteries, and groundbreaking contemporary works. Watch Sundays, 9PM ET/PTVisit the Masterpiece Website
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