Downton Abbey Dish #5

Deborah Gilbert | October 7, 2012

For all you Downtonians out there who are lamenting the long wait until Season 3 of Downton Abbey gets to PBS, I say don’t fret. If the autumn speeds by as quickly as the summer has, January, and the Crawleys, will be back here before you know it! Til then…

Ode to Joy: The cast of Downton Abbey was invited to opening ceremonies of the London Olympics Friday night. Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham) and Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore) tweeted these pictures of the gang from just outside the Olympic stadium, with Hugh’s tweet saying, “Team Downton Abbey invade the Olympic Park.” It looks like they’re having fun together, but couldn’t you just picture them all arriving together in that cute little bus that Mrs. Hughes takes to see Ethel? And what would the Dowager think about all this mixing of Upstairs and Down in such a casual manner? And out in public no less. Disgraceful! Then again, if Elizabeth Regina II can parachute in with 007, I say all bets are off. And speaking of Ethel, note that Amy Nuttal is there with the group. Do you think this means that Ethel found a way back to Downton in Season 3? And if so, will the baby be with her? Or did her dire circumstances force her to give him up to Major Bryant’s horrible father? Sigh.

Hugh Bonneville expressing his political beliefs.

And speaking of clues and speculation… By now I’m sure you’ve all seen the press reports from the recent Television Critics Association (TCA) convention in Los Angeles where Downton Abbey was one of the more buzzed-about programs. The cast made quite an impression there as they started cranking up the publicity machine for Season 3. It seems that the big highlight was at the press conference when Hugh Bonneville tore open his shirt, Superman-style, to reveal a “Free Bates” t-shirt underneath.

Mystery: There was a lot of press coverage of this event but something that I haven’t seen considered anywhere is the new, official cast press photo; a variation from the one they’ve used the previous two seasons, with all the characters lined up in front of the house. Each season nearly the same picture, dominated by the house, but made different only by the characters lined up out front, and the sky in the background. So forgive me as I go all Miss Marple on you, but it is the look of that sky that I am studying for clues.

For Season 1, that sky behind the house was a morning sky; an optimistic light blue with sunny edges appropriate for the new beginnings as we were just getting acquainted. For Season 2, it was a stormy sky, all dark greys and reds, which matched the season perfectly as WWI dominated the story. But the Season 3 picture features a night sky, dark indigo blue with some stars, which has left me wondering what it all could mean? Are there clues in that sky that fortell what will transpire this coming season?

Now true, I am someone who spent quite a bit of time, in sixth grade, studying my Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover for clues confirming that Paul was dead, so this sort of hunting isn’t entirely new to me. But I am wondering why no one else has picked up on this, and what does it mean? Is it simply a glamorous, starry evening sky that reflects a return to pre-WWI opulence? Or a midnight sky, hinting that someone is going to turn into a pumpkin when the clock strikes twelve? And if so, whom? (I’m thinking that if there’s to be a gourd-related injury, it would have to have something to do with Lady Edith.) Midnight is both an ending and a beginning – but is the bell about to toll for the house of Grantham? And what kind of creatures would go bump in that night? Given how many people have died in that house, one would think they’d all be sleeping with one eye open, wouldn’t you? Then again, the creepiest creatures to haunt that house are still alive – better to sleep with both eyes open. January is just around the corner. Can’t wait! See all three pictures and compare for yourself.

They’re Playing Our Song: Have you heard anything familiar while watching Masterpiece Classic’s Little Dorrit on WLIW, THIRTEEN’s sister station (airs Monday’s at 9 p.m. through August 6)? Call me kooky, but I would swear that the music they play whenever Amy has her dreams dashed is very close to the same music played on Downton Abbey when Matthew and Lady Mary are having one of those conversations (you know, the ones full of longing disguised by indifference). Anyone else notice this?

See You In September: Last week, I was lucky enough to be able to screen the first episode of Call the Midwife, the new six-part Masterpiece Classic period drama from the BBC that THIRTEEN will be broadcasting in the fall, and I have to say, you are going to love, love, LOVE IT! It is set in London’s East End (hello!) in the 1950’s and is based on the trilogy of memoirs written by Jennifer Lee Worth, who was a real midwife, practicing there. Think of the early days of EastEnders, how it was so dreary and gritty – only multiply it. The main character, Jenny Lee, is a young idealistic nurse who qualifies as a midwife to help the poor in the East End, where the filthy, grinding poverty seems more reminiscent of the 1850’s than the 1950’s. Jenny’s idealism initially crashes into revulsion of the people and the Dickensian conditions they live under, and she has to learn to reconcile that to be able to serve them. It’s another one of those dramas that could never, would never, be produced for commercial American TV.

Call the Midwife is just what we love about British telly: It has an intelligent script and is chock full of wonderful character actors and offers Brit telly lovers quite a few familiar faces, including Judy Parfitt who has starred in many dramas, most recently as Mrs. Clennam in Little Dorrit; Cliff Parisi, who plays Minty on EastEnders, and Miranda Hart, star of the Britcom Miranda, to name just a few. This series was a huge hit in the UK. In the all-important UK ratings race (our friends across the pond take this stuff seriously – even the bookies get in on the action), it broke Downton Abbey‘s record for grabbing the largest audience for original drama on the telly in recent years – and now we’ve got it! Call the Midwife premiers on THIRTEEN in September. Watch a preview online.

That’s all for now. I’m going to go back to trying to play my Sgt. Pepper’s albums backwards, which you should join me in because (I swear) if you do, you’ll hear the voice of Carson saying, “O’Brien did it!” As Sir John of Liverpool would say, ‘Goo goo g’joob!’