Downton Abbey Dish #26

Deborah Gilbert | April 29, 2014

Greetings Downtonians!

It’s been weeks since Carson and Mrs. Hughes waded into the rolling deep and the picture faded to black, leaving us bereft and wondering what happens next. Winter is gone now, spring has finally sprung (it had to happen eventually!) and this is the time of year when faithful Downtonians start to look forward to the next season – Season 5, premiering on PBS in January 2015! (Don’t sigh, it will be here sooner than you think.) But for now, these are the hopeful months when we have no clue what is to come and we can imagine our own storylines for our favorite characters (and isn’t that part of the fun when characters are as brilliantly drawn as these?). Yes, it’s that heady time before our vicarious hopes and dreams are crushed under the weight of the dramatic necessity that will come with the next season. I know, I know. But drama requires… well, drama.

For now though, we can imagine all the happy endings; it’s like when you’ve bought a lottery ticket and are spending your newfound fortune in your head, before that witch Yolanda Vega pulls the wrong numbers and takes it all away from you. Yeah, it’s like that. We can imagine Carson and Mrs. Hughes jumping the broom, Thomas getting a boyfriend, Edith and Editor Charming raising their daughter together, Green being crushed under the wheels of a bus in perpetuity, Bates being innocent, and Mary, Anna and Daisy opening a chain of successful pancake restaurants. Who knows? It could happen. Until January, we’ll have to be content with the bits of Downton you’ll find here and the other amazing British programs coming to THIRTEEN this summer.

Hope Springs Eternal

We all have our own hopes for what Season 5 might bring us, but what does the cast hope for? In these spoiler-free video clips, you’ll see what a few of them have on their wish lists. Of course, once again, here’s Rob James-Collier being his charming and funny self, making it so tough to dislike The Evil Thomas.

Across the Pond

The cast has already been filming Season 5 for a couple of months. Highclere Castle only just reopened for tours (almost a month later than it did last year) because of the filming schedule. Lucky for me they finished the first block of filming earlier last year because last March I took a once in a lifetime trip to London where, among other things, I visited several of our favorite PBS program touch stones; I strolled the grounds and drawing rooms of Highclere Castle, I saw Mr. Selfridge made out of jelly beans, and I even visited Albert Square (I went to Belgravia section of London looking for 165 Eaton Place, but it doesn’t exist). If you missed the Dispatches where I wrote about my fabulous London adventure, you can read them here: Part 1 Part 2 The trip was absolute magic. I’d love to go back sometime – if only that didn’t require getting on a plane! Sigh.

Marathon Man

If you are a runner and are going to be in the UK on May 11, here’s an even better way to see Highclere Castle: Run Highclere. It’s a 10K run on the grounds of the castle to benefit Parkinson’s UK. Personally, I do not run marathons, though I have been known to carbo-load in solidarity, but this looks like fun. The website does not say if anyone from the show will be there, but there is an endorsement from Laura Carmichael, whose grandmother had Parkinson’s.

Read All About It

OK, so you’re an obsessive Downtonian, but you feel you need to give your DVD a rest for a little while; what do you do? How about kickin’ it old school and reading about the saga of your favorite English country house and its inhabitants? There are some great Downton Abbey books out there, and the top three that come to mind are all from St. Martin’s Press: Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey, The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, and The World of Downton Abbey. These beautiful books are a fan’s delight. They are chock full of photographs, behind the scenes glimpses, and trivia about the show; all the places, the costumes, the production design, and the people – both the fictional characters and the real people who walked in their shoes a hundred years ago. Read these books, then pull out your Downton Abbey DVDs again for another watch. There is that famous quote that is often used in connection with The Queen and royal family, ‘We must not let in daylight upon magic’, but that does not apply here at all. Reading about the inner workings of the production of Downton Abbey only enhances the experience of watching it – especially when you are watching it for the umpteenth time! These books are fun, fun reads and will make watching an even fuller experience. And with Mother’s Day coming, they make great gifts for your Downton-lovin’ Mama!

Road Trip!

Next weekend, why not have Mrs. Patmore pack the picnic hamper with some cucumber sandwiches and set o! on a jaunt to Wilmington, Delaware? I know what you’re thinking, “Delaware?! What could possibly cause one to do something so drastic?” Here’s what: Right now the Winterthur Museum is featuring an exhibit of the Costumes of Downton Abbey where you can see 40 of the show’s costumes up close and personal. Every stitch; every bugle bead is right there to be communed with.

But hey, if you don’t want to go all that way for your Downton Abbey glamour fix, you could just go to Bergdorf Goodman’s Downton Abbey‘s jewelry designer, Andrew Prince, has designed a new collection that is there now. Here’s a picture from his Facebook page. There’s enough bling here to keep all the Upstairs ladies happy. I don’t know about you, but after seeing this picture I desperately need a tiara. If I had a tiara, I would wear it to work. I would wear it to Trader Joe’s and get into the express lane with more than ten items. I would care not for the stares of jealous non-tiara-wearing strangers. I would wear it everywhere. What about you? Where would you wear your tiara?

And if you are like me, Yolanda Vega hasn’t called your numbers yet or are you are on a Downstairs budget, there’s also PBS’s Downton-inspired bling.

Yes, We Have No Bananas

But we do have Bananagrams. What are Bananagrams you ask? Bananagrams is a word game created by Rena Nathanson, an admitted Downton Abbey freak, and coincidentally, a game played by the cast the Downton Abbey on set in their down time. Rena is an American who originally moved to London for love, about 25 years ago, and is still there. She and her family just wanted to have a game for all the generations to play together. Like many success stories, it started with friends and family, and then people said, ‘you should do something with this’, so they tried producing 50 of them to see what would happen and they sold out right away. Next they produced 500 and the same thing happened. Then Rena saw that the International Toy Fair was coming to London and they haven’t looked back since.

So what is it like when a small entrepreneur sees a picture of the stars of her favorite show playing her game? “I was ridiculously excited. It was awesome. It was the best. I mean there have been a few pinnacles in our lives and that is definitely one of them. I adore Downton.” In the British press there have been a bunch of mentions of the cast playing it and both Michelle Dockery and Penelope Wilton have mentioned it in interviews. Rena went on to say, “I know that Dame Maggie Smith is a big fan. She and Dame Judi Dench are very good friends and there’s this story about when they were filming The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in India. They were staying at a hotel where there was a moat around each of their quarters, and they would swim to each other’s rooms each night, across this moat. And the story goes that Dame Judi swam over to Maggie Smith’s room and Maggie said to her, ‘well, where are the Bananagrams?’, and so she swam back and put a scarf over her head, tying the Bananagrams on top of her head, and swam back across the moat. I was lucky enough to meet Dame Judi and she said it was absolutely true.” I wondered about the cast playing on the set and I heard that it was Tom Cullen (Lord Gillingham) who got them started, so I tweeted a question to him and he tweeted back the response you see here.

Going Postal

The Downton Abbey licensing juggernaut rolls on. If you happen to be in Grenada or Antigua and feel inspired to send a little ‘Wish You Were Here’ card, or even a Valentine back home (don’t forget Mary!), you can now do that with a Downton Abbey postage stamp! (Silver mail delivery tray and letter opener not included).

Selfridge and Bletchley and Midwife, Oh My!

So yes, it’s going to be a while until Season 5, but until then, there is so much else available on PBS. Do you love the new seasons of Call the Midwife, The Bletchley Circle and Mr. Selfridge?? And speaking of Mr. Selfridge, did you watch the documentary about the real Harry Gordon Selfridge? I did and I cannot get the picture out of my head of the elderly, penniless Mr. Selfridge, after being dismissed by the board, coming to stand in Oxford Street daily, to gaze up at his beloved store. So sad. But enough of that; there is plenty more coming!

Those Lazy, Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

The long range forecast says it’s supposed to be a hot summer. What better reason to stay inside, in front of the telly (and the air conditioner) with THIRTEEN Sunday night line-up. In June, former Doctor Who David Tennant debuts as the brilliant defense lawyer dubbed The Escape Artist, and Detective Constable Morse returns in Endeavour. And in July and August, look for the return of Hercule Poirot, and something completely new — Breathless, set in 1961 and from the previews looks to be about a surgeon who is the medical counterpart to Don Draper. Find out more here.

So there is a lot to look forward here until Isis wags her tail again. What are you Downtonians looking forward to the most? I hope you’ll keep checking back in for new Dispatches to keep up with it all!