Downton Abbey Dish #23

Deborah Gilbert | December 10, 2013

In my last Dispatch I said I was going to try to spend the weekend getting ready for Season 4 by having my own marathon of Seasons 1, 2 and 3. Well, it was a valiant effort but I only got up to halfway through Season 2. Don’t you just hate it when work and responsibilities interfere with your Downton Abbey viewing? Ah well, this Sunday night we begin the final approach (as a group) as THIRTEEN begins broadcasting Season 3. But if you cannot bear to witness the traumas of Season 3 again all on your own, THIRTEEN is offering you another option…

Spot On: A spot of tea is always a splendid way to relax a bit and this week, if you’re in New York City, you might have the opportunity to relax with a cuppa courtesy of the official Downton Abbey Tea Truck. The Downton Abbey Tea Truck will be wandering about Gotham all week dispensing cups of tea & sympathy to dusty travelers wherever they find them. You can find out when the Tea Truck will be in your neighborhood by checking the map and schedule right here on our website. And please do take note of the very special stop the truck will be making on Friday, December 13: It will be parked right outside Thirteen’s Lincoln Center Studio all day (from 11AM – 7PM) while inside our cozy drawing room (AKA the studio) a marathon of Season 3 will be playing, so join us! True, it will be Friday the 13th but don’t worry, the worst has already happened (Sybil and Matthew have gone to that great country house in the sky, not to mention the torture by bagpipes), so what else could happen? (knock wood, kine hora, pooh pooh). There is nothing more fun than watching a show like this with a group. It just multiplies the fun! Or it can act as a support group, if you need it. One or the other. So pay those superstitions no mind (though feel free to bring a Ouija board if it will make you feel better). And also forget about putting the kettle on just this once and come have tea with us!

Jam Up and Jelly Tight: As the Season 4 premier gets closer, it’s time to prepare by laying in the proper snacking supplies. Naturally, this is very important, and I’m thinking that this would be the perfect spot for a Victoria Sponge. I believe I’ve mentioned the Victoria Sponge in the Dispatch before. I’ve been intrigued with the Victoria Sponge ever since I got into watching British telly and started hearing it mentioned. Yes, while most people are paying attention to the plot, I’m being sidetracked by the mention of cake – because that’s just the kind of gal I am. Anyway, have you never noticed hearing the Victoria Sponge mentioned on British telly programs? If you haven’t, now that I’ve mentioned it you will! It is a cake named after Queen Victoria, who liked having it with her tea and it seems to be the official cake of the United Kingdom. There are numerous variations but it seems the most common is a vanilla cake with strawberry jam and cream in-between its’ two layers and powdered sugar sprinkled on top. My plan is to make a Victoria Sponge with Strawberry Jam from Highclere Castle. When I visited there earlier this year, I bought some of their Strawberry Jam for just such a purpose. Here is a recipe for a Victoria Sponge from the BBC website (though you’ll need to convert the measurements) Hopefully, you’ll have a large cake budget because here is my calculation for what it will cost to make such a cake:


Airfare from JFK to Heathrow: £1340
Two nights in hotel: £242
Train fare to Newbury, Hampshire: £24.50
Cab fare from train station to Highclere: £22
Admission to Highclere Castle: £18
Miscellaneous baking supplies (flour, sugar, etc.): £5.25
1 Jar of Strawberry Jam from gift shop: £3.50
Total: £1650. (In American dollars that’s $2707.66)

The experience of watching the Downton Abbey Season 4 premiere while munching a Victoria Sponge made with Highclere Castle’s Strawberry Jam (that just might have been made by Mrs. Patmore, you never know):

Cousin Brucie: Details are so, so important to any production, but especially a period piece like Downton Abbey. If the details are correct one doesn’t really notice. It is only when the details are wrong that something stands out like a sore thumb. The fact that we can be drawn so deeply into the lives and the period, that it is a real world, speaks to the eye for detail of The Oracle that is Alastair Bruce, and in this video clip some of the cast speak about him. And here’s a detail I took away from these clips: The difference between the crew cut of Rob James-Collier and the full head of hair of Thomas. Is Thomas wearing a wig in Season 4? If so it’s a really good one! But onto bigger fish: Everything from etiquette to proper wording and inflection to how to walk to how the characters hold their utensils is all down to Alastair.

Isn’t That Right Daisy?: In this interview with Media Bistro, Lesley Nicol has a lot to say, including that being in America is a ‘breath of fresh air’, her casting as Mrs. Patmore was a lucky break set in motion by a chance encounter while walking the dogs, and while Downton’s famous fans include the Clintons, her own celebrity crush is Sir Anthony Hopkins. (When I think of him in Remains of the Day I have to agree! That scene where Emma Thompson is trying to take the book out of his hands has got to be one of the most powerful on film!) Lesley also teases that there have been rumors that there will be a theatrical film but no decision has been made. Hmmm…

He Sees You When You’re Sleeping, He Knows When You’re Awake: I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought that line was a bit creepy. Anyway, Jim Carter AKA our Mister Carson as Santa Claus? I’d say that’s perfect casting! And if you’ve ever wondered what Santa Claus would look like if he made a hostage tape, you’ll want to watch this viral ad he made for Greenpeace, which features him as not so jolly, old St. Nick, desperately trying to get the message out about what climate change is doing to his workshop at the North Pole. Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

Hello, My Name is Lady Edith and I’ll Be Your Server: Practically every week there is news of Downton Abbey cast members generously giving of their time to help others. This week brings news of something truly unique: Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith), Brendan Coyle (Mr. Bates), Jim Carter (Carson), Samantha Bond (Lady Rosamund), and Julian Fellowes are going to be acting as waiters for a benefit for Acting For Others, a group of charities in the UK that help ill, injured or elderly actors and backstage workers. No, they won’t be serving tea from the Tea Truck, but we’ll have fun anyway!

Windsor Not: As I end this Dispatch, I’ll leave you with this, which is both a question and a tease: Have you ever wondered why we haven’t seen any obvious connection between Lord Grantham, who (I’m assuming) is a member of the House of Lords, and any of the Royal Family? I can recall only two mentions of royalty across three seasons. The first was when Violet was telling Cora that it was OK for Sybil to be a nurse because they were seeing pictures of princesses ladling soup to some unfortunates, and then when Sir Rupert was threatening Mrs. Bates and said that if he saw Lady Mary’s name mentioned anywhere but the Court Circular (or something like that) there would be hell to pay. One assumes that ‘Court’ he was referring to was the Royal Court. Nothing else beyond that. But now comes a tease that this season’s finale may include the potential for a royal scandal. Double hmmm…
Tea anyone?…