Downton Abbey Dish #34

Deborah Gilbert | December 22, 2014

It’s that time of year again, Downtonians – the time when visions of sugarplums dance in your head, and visions of Downton Abbey dance around Manhattan. Yes, last week Downton Abbey hit town like a Nor’easter bringing Hugh Bonneville, Lesley Nicol, Laura Carmichael, Robert James-Collier, Phyllis Logan (and her hubby Kevin McNally), producer Gareth Naeme, and Historical Oracle Alastair Bruce. It seemed like they were everywhere. If you are the landed gentry sort, you know, the type who doesn’t have to work for a living, you could have followed them around town and seen them appearing live in all sorts of places. Some or all of the entourage had luncheon with the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge, did shots with Andy Cohen, appeared at the Apple Store in Soho, turned up on the Plaza at Rockefeller Center singing Jingle Bells, and fended off the advances of a couple of actresses desperate to get off The View and on to Downton Abbey. In short, it was a surreal week.

One of the highlights of Downton being in town is always the annual preview screening and cast Q&A with fans. This year there were two. As fans poured into the Hudson Theater, they were greeted by a lobby full of (more than) life size cutouts of our favorite characters to pose with, and an open bar.

Here I am with my date for the evening. He may look familiar. He was a bit stiff, but all I’ve got to say is, “Mrs. Hughes, eat your heart out!”

And there is Lady Edith’s doppelganger posing with her nemesister Mary. Such love!

And from PBS’s Official Instagram feed, we see a couple of others who got into the act!

A few fans had a unique way of holding their seats.

Before the screening (which consisted of the first 45 minutes of the premier episode of Season 5), there was a preview for the Masterpiece programs coming down the pike this winter, and holy cow, is it some exciting stuff! The two standouts were Grantchester and Wolf Hall, but I am now anticipating ALL of them.

On Monday night, Alastair Bruce joined the group for the Q&A and I have to say, I could have listened to he alone all night long. He is both brilliant and brilliantly funny, and FYI: He has his own special called The Manners of Downton Abbey which will air after the Downton Abbey Season 5 premiere on Sunday night, January 4. I cannot wait to see THAT! As for the questions and answers, everyone was careful not to reveal any spoilers, but regardless, there were quite a few interesting tidbits: Alastair jokingly admonished the crowd for slouching and explained that people of that era did not slouch or put their hands in their pockets. To bring that rule home, Hugh Bonneville added that in Season 1 he was caught with his hands in his pockets and after that the Saville Row tailors who make his costumes made him a new white tie and tails with no pockets!But I’d say that one of the biggest takeaway tidbits came from Gareth, who answered a question about whether we will ever find out what happened to Edith’s Editor Charming. His answer, “Yes, we will.” Oh boy. What do you think Downtonians; is he dead or was he drafted by the Black Shirts? Or was the crazy wife story all a ruse and he just ran off with her (or someone else)? Whatever the answer, I think we can all agree that it will undoubtedly end in tears and tossed tiaras for Lady Edith. That’s not a spoiler. That’s a given.

The second Q&A event, on Tuesday night, was also streamed live online. If you missed it, you can still watch it. This was a livelier group and some of the questions made the moderator exclaim, “this is a randy crowd for a PBS event!” (I’m guessing the open bar in the lobby had a little something to do with that!) I thought about asking a question myself, though after last year when my mind went completely blank as soon as the microphone was placed in my hand, I hesitated too long and then it was over. Ah well. If you had been there, what would you have asked? Do you have any burning questions?

After the Q&A, a group of invited guests lined up for pictures with the actors and after all those camera flashes in their eyes I imagine the actors are all still seeing stars!

Every year the actor with the longest line is for the very funny and personable Rob James-Collier. When one of the handlers tried to end his photo session with people still waiting, Rob said, “but there’s still a cue of people. If it weren’t for these people we wouldn’t have a job!” You gotta love him! He stayed till the line was through, as did they all.

And what about the actual screening itself, (ie; that first episode of Season 5)? Well, it does not disappoint. There’s intrigue, hypocrisy, disaster – and that’s just at the Dowager’s meddling luncheon for Lord Merton and Isobel.  I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, the show is SO MUCH FUN to watch in a theater full of Downtonians! Hearing everyone laugh or gasp in unison only adds to the enjoyment. I wish we could all do it more often. This first episode established the stories that I am guessing we will watch play out across Season 5. It had heartbreak and naughty boys, tears and giggles; in short, it is classic Downton Abbey. So fasten your seat belts kids, January 4 is going to be a bumpy night!

Cupid, Draw Back Your Bow:

  With Downton’s answer to Sam and Diane, Carson and Mrs. Hughes, the Big Question has always been will they or won’t they?  When discussing this question on Monday night, Alastair Bruce was quite insistent, “There was no sex in the 1920’s!” and, “It has always been against the British mentality to accept human nature.” Harumpf! In this clip, Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan ponder the will they or won’t question themselves.

Burying the Lede:

Downton Abbey also collected a bunch of gong nominations (in the UK, they refer to awards as ‘gongs’). They got two SAG Award nominations, Maggie Smith was nominated for Outstanding Performance, and Best Ensemble went to the whole cast. See their reactions here. Then more good news: The Golden Globe nominations were announced and Downton Abbey was nominated for Best TV Series, while Joanne Froggatt was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Congratulations to all!

Phew! What a week! And don’t forget, between now and the January 4 premiere, both THIRTEEN and WLIW21 are broadcasting encores of Season 4. If you missed them, you can watch them online here. Then read my cheeky recaps here. And take heart, Downtonians, it won’t be long now!