It’s hard out there for a Downtonian. The end of Downton Abbey’s season 3 would have been upsetting enough without the double-whammy of Matthew’s little mishap. Clearly, no one ever fully explained to Matthew the most important aspect of the whole ‘stop and smell the roses’ concept (i.e. first, STOP.) These last couple of weeks have found you all coping (or not) in a myriad of ways: Not only has THIRTEEN’s Member and Viewer Relations Department received many angry letters, phone calls, emails, tweets, etc., we’ve heard stories of bereft Downtonians sobbing uncontrollably in the middle of business meetings; wandering the streets mumbling incoherently about cricket; and most disturbingly, hanging around dog parks, wistfully staring at the wagging doggy bums. What’s a downtrodden Downtonian to do? Let’s review…
Good night Sweetheart: All Good Things Must Come to an End
You Shoulda Put a Ring On It: The Accidental Feminist
Still Waters: What Becomes of the Broken Hearted
Matthew We Hardly Knew Ye: And in the End, The Love You Take is Equal to the Love You Make
But the immediate reactions to Matthew’s death were out-sized and a bit crazy. I’d seen the negative press and ‘fan’ comments directed towards the show, as well as Dan Stevens – for being the guy who broke up the band, so I thought I’d write him a letter of support. In the letter, that I dropped off at the stage door when he was appearing on Broadway, I wrote, in part, ‘I saw just part of the uproar and I’m guessing that you’re getting a bit of the Yoko Ono Treatment from people upset at your leaving. I suppose that is a testimony to you, as well as Julian Fellowes, that you’ve created this character that people care so much about and are so upset to lose. It would be awful if you left and nobody cared… So I hope you’re OK with it all!’ A few days later I got home from work and found a hand-written letter in my mailbox from Dan Stevens himself (his mama done raised him right!) In it, he said, in part, ‘I very much appreciate your support and encouragement, especially at a time when I am fielding a lot of quite negative feedback! I am excited about the future and am glad that you are too!’
You’ve got to feel bad for a guy who is doing what he thinks is best for his career and family and is met with a backlash. Hi-diddle-dee-dee, at times like these an actor’s life wouldn’t be for me. Imagine if you wanted to leave your job and a mob was screaming that you had no right – you had to keep the job they wanted you to have. It’s pretty weird. I wish Dan the best and look forward to seeing him in other things in the future – hopefully even on Masterpiece! Our Downton Abbey has survived a lot in these last eight years: Financial ruin and war; heartbreak and prison sewing circles; the Spanish flu and the American mother-in-law; and this too shall pass.
Ouija This: I See a Tall Stranger…
Oh yeah, and one other thing to think about in the Downton Abbey off-season: PBS has announced a bit of casting news for Season 4, and there are two items of particular interest; one, Shirley MacLaine will be back, and two, Nigel Harman, who EastEnders fans know as the dishy Dennis Rickman, will be joining the cast as a member of the downstairs staff. Is that a bit of salve for your wound, or what?
Downton City Marathon: Run to Your Telly!
As with any marathon, there will be some training and preparation involved – as well as some necessary carbo-loading. You’ll need to lay in some supplies, and have your cook fix you up with some tea and scones with jam, and maybe some finger sandwiches. And for those difficult moments, like when Sybil dies again or Bates has to march in circles again, have your butler prepare by decanting a bottle of red from the cellar. Maybe play a drinking game: Every time someone walks in on someone else without knocking, have a glass. You’ll be blotto in no time.
Of course, one supposes that all this Downton-based splendor might put a few of you in a fix, what with Sunday being the servant’s day off for many, and pesky family members selfishly demanding your attention – displaying a wanton disregard for your ‘Me Time’. How does one extract oneself from such situations to have the freedom to lock oneself away with the telly for ten hours on a Sunday afternoon? Might I suggest you think to yourself, WWTDD (What Would The Dowager Do?)? Then just throw some Cheerios on the floor and bolt the door behind you! You’ll now be free to put your feet up and enjoy!
The Great Beyond: Shop Til You Drop
And please keep checking back here as well. With the end of the Downton Abbey season, the title of this blog changes to ‘Dispatch From the Downton Abbey Diaspora’, and just like last year, I’ll be coming to you once or twice a month with updates and other juicy tidbits about British telly on PBS. So please join me and join in the discussion!
Downton Dish is written 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.