Downton Abbey Dish #2

Brian Santalone | October 6, 2012

How are you Downtonians enjoying the rerun of Season Two of Downton Abbey? It’s a great way to start the season, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter that I’ve already seen it and I know what’s going to happen. I still jumped at the sight of O’Brien appearing all in black, like an apparition, outside the ‘secret’ soup kitchen at Crawley House. I suspect that any time something bad is about to happen (anywhere, anytime, anyhow), O’Brien appears. So keep an eye out to be forewarned: If she ever pops up on a weather map, grab a flashlight and some canned goods and lock yourself in the cellar. I’m also re-watching Season Two in the hope that I will finally figure out the riddle of the Sphinx (i.e., what the heck is the big secret that’s at the base of Mr. Bates self-esteem issues?). I’ve gotta say that this mystery is one that really drives me nuts.

If you are someone who is just now catching up with Season Two of Downton Abbey, and watching it for the first time, welcome to the party! It’s about time you got here! We’ll have Carson set a place for you at the dining table. And if you’d like, you can follow along, episode by episode, with The Downton Dish.

Downton Abbey continues to make news here in the States and you can file this bit of news under ‘Be Still My Heart’: Have you heard that, come this autumn, the adorable Dan Stevens (aka Matthew Crawley) is going to be spending time in our fair city!? It was recently announced that he’ll be starring in the latest Broadway revival of The Heiress. He just can’t get away from those posh types now can he? The character he’s playing sounds more like Sir Richard than Matthew, but let’s not quibble when he’ll be live on-stage in all his Prince Charming-y-ness. The Heiress opens in October, though the theatre hasn’t yet been announced (likely at the request of the NYPD who don’t want the line to start forming five months early). Check back here for updates: As soon as I hear anything more, you’ll be the first to know!

Photo courtesy of Hugh Bonneville.

And brace yourselves Downtonians! Thanks to the runaway popularity of Downton Abbey, there’s a British Invasion coming to our shores this summer. If I was a paranoid conspiracy theorist (the best kind!), I’d wonder if all this fabulous telly they are sending across the pond isn’t just a stealthy attempt to retake the thirteen colonies. Wait a minute: thirteen colonies? THIRTEEN? Hmmm… sounds suspicious if you ask me. The last time I was up at THIRTEEN’s offices, there were some people in red coats. And here is more evidence: This picture at right was tweeted by Hugh Bonneville from outside the White House, still in Washington, D.C., where (as mentioned in my last dispatch) he was a guest at the recent State Dinner for British Prime Minister whatshisname.

But let’s forget politics and instead recognize the staff in THIRTEEN’s programming department, who are like the British telly equivalent of truffle hounds, and they have been extra busy sniffing out some great new programs. (And by the way, can I just say right now that I find it annoying that my spell check does not like the word ‘telly’?) Anyway, this summer there are some great, new and original programs, as well as the return of some faves from Old Blighty.

If you’re like me, you’ve always harbored a secret fantasy that someday, someone was going to knock on your door and tell you that you were some long lost royal, a descendent of a royal who got lost and ended up in a shtetl, and they’ve come to take you to your palace. I’ve accepted now that that’s never going to happen to me, and I’m not really a tiara person anyway, but I love watching anything about the British Royal Family. So I’m happy to see the return of the great docu-series Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work. This fly-on-the-wall series was the result of the filmmakers being granted exclusive and unprecedented access inside the palace. When I watched this program the first time, among the many fascinating things was witnessing preparations for a royal visit; how everything is spruced up and cleaned. The whole world must smell like paint and cleaning chemicals to them, mustn’t it? And if I’m not mistaken (and when am I ever?), this is the documentary where we get to see the Queen being photographed by Annie Liebovitz, where Annie asks the Queen to remove her crown because she wants her to look less dressy. Her Madge’s reaction was priceless. Too funny! Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work airs on THIRTEEN Sunday, June 17th and 24th  at 7 p.m.

Close your eyes and think of England — actually, don’t do that. If you do, you might miss Queen Victoria’s return to PBS. Queen Victoria’s Empire looks at how this queen transformed, not just the monarchy and the push-up bra, but also the small island that is England, into an empire on which the sun never set. And part of the story is told via the help of personal accounts, which always adds a special dimension. Queen Victoria’s Empire premiers Tuesday, June 19 at 8 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

Even if you don’t like Spam, you’ll love the return of Fawlty Towers to THIRTEEN. It seems like everything John Cleese does is infused with a gleeful subversiveness that is irresistible and funny, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Monty Python was my first big immersion into British humor. I started hearing the records on a small FM radio station back in junior high (long before the TV show ever got here), and I’m not quite sure I ever recovered. As a lifelong lover of comedy, up until then, my frame of reference was mostly borscht belt. John Cleese and his cohorts opened a whole new window of absurdity — sort of a posh Marx Brothers, but with a twist. And that absurdity continued with Fawlty Towers. All summer long, you can take a staycation by checking into Fawlty Towers on THIRTEEN every Saturday night at 8 p.m. starting June 16th.

It’s going to be a ‘put your feet up in front of the telly’ kind of summer here thanks to those THIRTEEN truffle hounds. I think they deserve a nice treat, and maybe a play date with Isis, don’t you?