We are getting very close to the Downton Abbey Season 6 premiere – Sunday, January 3 at 9pm on THIRTEEN – so close we can smell it from here! Now, the only thing that stands between us and Downton nirvana is a few pesky holidays – though one of those holidays, New Year’s Eve, can turn out to be fantastic (with an assist from THIRTEEN and the Crawleys). See the details below. And speaking of holidays, if you have any Brit TV-loving peeps on your holiday shopping list (and you must because, of course, you’re on your list as well), there are a few fabulous books you’ve got to have…
Celebrate Good Times, Come On:
Every year Jessica Fellowes has come out with a new Downton Abbey companion book, and this year is no exception. Just out now is the latest (and the best), Downton Abbey: A Celebration, companion book to all six seasons of the show. With a foreword from Uncle Julian, this gorgeous coffee table book is big and lush, just like Highclere Castle itself. It is chock full of recaps, detailed trivia and insights about all the people and places that have made Downton Abbey the compelling phenomenon it is. This book is a must-have for any Downtonian, and something you’ll refer to again and again. And next January (2017) when there is no Season 7 and we stare into the Downton-less abyss, you’ll be able to read it yet again as you sob softly into your pillow. OK, maybe I overstated the sobbing bit, but the book is fabulous. Get it!
Itty Bitty Witty:
Everything we love about Downton Abbey, every delicious moment of it, begins with a blank page and the words that Julian Fellowes’ imagination makes dance across it. Now you can have some of those words, in bite-size form, in this little gem of a book, The Wit and Wisdom of Downton Abbey. Organized by topic, it is full of quotes, and snippets from scenes, that will just make you smile. Even though they are by now very familiar from repeated viewing, somehow reading them makes them fresh. And while this is a hardcover book, it’s handbag-size, making it the perfect size to carry with you to read on the subway, making your commute infinitely more tolerable. It may even inspire you to use some of Violet’s bon mots on your fellow straphangers (and I’d pay to see that!)
Fires Flies, Take Flight:
After the Home Fires finale last Sunday I tweeted a good thought out into the universe; I said I hoped there would be a Season 2. It turned out that Julie Summers, the author of Jambusters: The Story of the Women’s Institute in the Second World War, (the book this fabulous series was based on) was on Twitter, saw my tweet and answered that Season 2 is on-set being filmed right now. Great news for all us Fires Flies! Personally, I’m hoping Season 2 begins with the Luftwaffe making a direct hit; dropping a bag of flaming dog poop on the head of Pat’s abusive husband, Bob. That’s another good thought I’m sending out there. Who’s with me on that? But till then, you can read all the true stories about the W.I. in Summers’ book. And by the way, how do you like the term ‘Fires Flies’? I just made it up as a nickname for Home Fires fans. What do you think? If it catches on remember: You heard it here first!
Here’s an interesting bit of trivia: In the UK, Call the Midwife is actually a bigger hit than Downton Abbey. It’s true. And now, actor Stephen McGann, who plays Doctor Turner on Call the Midwife, has written what is being called, ‘a nostalgic diary and social history narrative of what life was like for his character’. Dr. Turner’s Casebook will revisit some of the cases depicted on the show as well as real historical information about what life was like for a the East End of the 1950’s. You may be wondering if he has the chops to write such a book. He does. In real life, McGann graduated from Imperial College London with a Masters in Science Communication. So there. I haven’t seen this book yet, but it will be released until mid-January, just in time for the new season of Call the Midwife.
The Times They Are a Changin’:
Another book high on my recommendation list is The Poet and the Private Eye by Rob Gittins. As often repeated, the overarching theme of Downton Abbey, ever since the Titanic hit that blasted iceberg, has been change. And when a certain Robert Zimmerman decided to change his name to make it more marquee-friendly, he tipped his cap to poet Dylan Thomas, before he went on to write the classic 1960’s anthem The Times They Are a Changin’ – which means this book, a novelization of the last weeks of Dylan Thomas’ life, is separated from Downton Abbey by just three degrees. OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but this is a great read. Gittins, the BAFTA Award winning screen writer of many top British TV shows, including EastEnders, is a brilliant storyteller and this particular story, about the self-destruction of a genius, is all true. It takes place (mostly) in New York City, in 1953, during what turned out to be Thomas’ final trip here. Dylan Thomas died here in November of that year. The story is told in the voice of the private eye hired to tail Thomas, whose own life begins to dovetail that of his mark bringing with it the unexpected introspection and changes. It is an absorbing read, and for a New Yorker, there is the added bonus of the many places and names you’ll recognize (from the Hotel Chelsea to the White Horse Tavern, to BFFs Shelly Winters and Marilyn Monroe, to random New Yorkers), who crossed paths with Thomas on his trip, adding to the fun. This book is another great one for the commute, and it will also make you want to take another look at Dylan Thomas’ poetry.
And speaking of change, check out this fun compilation video which is a kind of change recap that crosses the (now) thirteen year sweep of the story:
Hey, wait a minute. As I typed that I just realized, Downton Abbey began in 1912 and will end in 1925. A thirteen year story. THIRTEEN; how perfect!
In June, Benedict Cumberbatch’s name appeared on Queen Elizabeth’s Birthday Honours List, and last week he went to the palace to get his gong from Her Majesty (a ‘gong’ is what Brits call awards). For services to the arts and charity Benedict was awarded a CBE. CBE is short for Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, which is an order of chivalry established in 1917 by King George V, and is just one notch below being knighted. As someone who pays attention to these things, it seems that most people in the arts who receive these chivalry honors get the MBE or OBE, which are designations below the CBE, so somebody at the Palace must really love Sir Cumberbatch. I keep hoping to be honored with an OBE or MBE for services to Downton Abbey blogging but so far, no dice. I’m sure my gong is simply lost in the mail. But this truly is a huge honor and it comes with a really cool medal. One supposes this means he gets to wear this nifty medal on his suit at all official events. And what else can we take away from this? The tidbit that the Royals watch Sherlock, just like us commoners. Watch the premiere of Sherlock: The Abominable Bride on air and online January 1st at 9pm on THIRTEEN.
Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot:
What are you doing New Year’s Eve? Please don’t say you’re going out. Everyone knows New Year’s Eve is amateur night. A much better plan is to avoid the crowds and stay in to watch the Downton Abbey Marathon on THIRTEEN! What’s better than relaxing for a Downton Abbey marathon? Nothing, that’s what. Whether you invite the neighborhood Lords and Ladies over for a Downton Abbey-themed viewing party complete with costumes, footmen passing canapés on silver trays and cups of kindness (with a side of sisterly recrimination), or you just curl up in front of the telly in your jammies, THIRTEEN will be the place to be: December 31 beginning at 11am. And by the way, if you do have a Downton-themed viewing party, please live tweet us the pictures! Do it for Auld Lang Syne!