Downton Abbey Dish #7

Deborah Gilbert | October 9, 2012

There is nothing like a Dame: I know that all Downtonians are of two minds this morning after the Emmy Awards. On one hand, we are thrilled that Dame Maggie Smith won a well-deserved Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Emmy for her brilliantly layered portrayal of the Dowager Countess Grantham (including Hugh Bonneville, who tweeted that he was “Thrilled for Dame Mummy”). But we feel a bit cheated that she wasn’t there to give an acceptance speech, don’t we? At the very least they should have allowed someone else from the cast to accept for her. The generic ‘we accept this award on her behalf’ is no fun at all. But more than that, we are also disappointed that Downton Abbey was shut out of all the other awards. Harumpf! Awards show watchers knew it was going to be dicey going in to the acting categories because Downton Abbey actors received multiple nominations in those categories, and award show prognosticators are always saying that when more than one actor from the same show or movie are nominated in the same category, they cancel each other out, lowering the chances of winning. Even Hugh Bonneville was so sure he would not win that he vowed to eat his toe if he did. While Dame Mummy triumphed over such prognostications, the others fell like William on the Somme. And Downton Abbey not winning the Emmy for Best Drama Series was a bigger crime than the wrongful conviction of Mr. Bates! I say we get our pitchforks and torches and storm the Academy. Are you with me Downtonians?

Academy Governors Bob Bergen (L) and Lily Tomlin (R) present Benedict Cumberbatch with the Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie nominee certificate with Hugh Bonneville (2nd L) and Brendan Coyle (2nd R). Photo by Bucci/PictureGroup via AP Images.

Anyway, Hugh Bonneville could have won a separate award for giving the best good sport surprised face when he lost (and by the way, he should win some sort of award for his twitter feed). Ah well. You can’t win ’em all. Downton Abbey will just have to console itself with being the critically-acclaimed and highly rated obsession of the most discerning and intelligent telly viewers everywhere. As another consolation, they got a shout out from Jimmy Fallon, who used a clip from his Downton Sixbey parody to represent the best of his show for his nominee montage. And the run up to the Emmys did settle another vexing issue: Hugh Bonneville tweeted the picture above, showing he and Brendan Coyle playfully strangling Benedict Cumberbatch, from the Emmy Writer’s Nominee Lunch — once and for all settling all those tabloid rift rumors.

Regrets, I’ve had a few: They say that, in life, you only regret the things you haven’t done – and I believe that is true. My most recent evidence? Right now, I am kicking myself for not stopping by the boutique Jeffrey, in the Meatpacking District, during the recent Fashion’s Night Out. Why? Because Dan Stevens was there (with Jessica Chastain) and the crowds weren’t. How could I be so stupid, you ask? In my defense, I didn’t hear about it until about a half hour before the appearance and I had just gotten home from a horrible day at work and was all shleppy, with my bad hair day up in a bandana and I thought, I can’t go out and face those snotty fashionista FNO mobs looking like this. Turns out I should have gone. The mobs never materialized. The store wasn’t crowded at all, and my spy (my friend Fran) tells me that most of those who were there didn’t even know who he was. Those who did got a real treat. Fran reports that he was ‘nattily attired’ and very charming and sweet, always smiling and laughing. Damn!

He Drives Me Crazy: And speaking of fashion, it seems like just about every Downton Abbey star has been featured in fashion spreads lately. One British fashion magazine even featured three separate covers last month, each one graced by a different Crawley girl. But this one really caught my eye. It’s Allen Leach (Branson the Chauffer to you and me) modeling menswear for the online magazine Mr. Porter. Sybil is a lucky Lady (but then we knew that).

Fashion Trifecta: When Lord Grantham told Lady Mary that she should go to America and find a cowboy in the ‘middle west’, it seems that one very well-known Brooklyn-born cowboy was inspired: Ralph Lauren has signed on as a corporate sponsor of PBS’ Masterpiece Classic! Welcome to the party Ralph! And on behalf of all us cowgirls and boys, thank you for your support of excellent television!

I have seen the future and it’s fabulous!: I am lucky enough to have gotten an advanced peek at the first two episodes of the Upstairs Downstairs Season 2, and I can report that it is Terrific with a capital T! I have to honestly say I thought the first season was just OK, so I approached season two with some trepidation. I sat on the screener for almost a week before sliding it into my DVD player. But as soon as it started, I saw my worries were for naught. It is simply fantastic!

As season two begins, the run up to WWII has begun in earnest and residents of 165 Eaton Place are in the throes of it all. Our hero, Sir Hallam, is surrounded by the appeasers of Neville Chamberlain’s government, but steadfastly refuses to go along, despite the entreaties of his co-workers, friends, and even his wife, Lady Agnes, who argue that to appease Hitler is to have an easier life. Since the 1930’s is so much more the recent past than the 19-teens of Downton Abbey, and it takes place in a familiar-looking town house rather than a posh estate, it doesn’t have that fairy tale magicality of Downton Abbey – but it makes up for it in other ways. And interestingly enough, with this series, it is the men’s fashions that are the most eye-catching, with all the men dressed like Hubbell Gardner (I’m sure Ralph will be smiling at that).

In this sophomore season, it seems that Upstairs Downstairs has taken some cues from Downton Abbey in the way they tell the stories – including how they utilize secrets as a plot device. As the season begins, two major characters are missing (it is explained that one has passed away and one is ill). And a surprising secret affair is revealed; it’s one of those secrets – a big one, that we just know is a time bomb set to go off later at some inopportune moment, and waiting for that to happen will be jolly good fun. On top of that, the production design has kicked up a notch. The cinematography is more beautiful than I remember from season one, and often ethereal. Bold faced names of the day move through the lives of the residents of 165 Eaton, from the Duke of Kent to Ambassador Joseph Kennedy and his young son Jack, and butler Prichard brings a Carson-like nobility to it all, with lines like, ‘When one follows one’s conscience, pain is usually felt by other people.’ Upstairs Downstairs season two premiers on Masterpiece Classic Sunday, Oct. 7 at 9 p.m. You can get caught up on season one, which re-airs on THIRTEEN Sunday, Sept. 30 at 9 p.m. & 10 p.m. Find out more.

Call the Midwife: I reviewed this series in a previous Dispatch, and this is just a reminder that it premiers this Sunday, Sept. 30 at 8 p.m. on THIRTEEN. Call the Midwife is based on the true memoirs of a nurse who worked in London’s impoverished post-war East End of the 1950s. It is gritty and unique, brilliant and surprising – and you do NOT want to miss it (especially those of you who love everything EastEnders!). Call the Midwife is not part of the Masterpiece franchise, so it will be running concurrently with Upstairs Downstairs on Sunday nights: Call the Midwife at 8 p.m., and Upstairs Downstairs at 9 p.m.. That is almost two months of intensely British Sunday nights across the Colonies. Please do write in with reports about the quizzical looks on the faces of your coworkers as you show up Monday mornings with a British accent.

Third Time’s a Charm: The third season of Downton Abbey premiered two weeks ago in Britain, and I made the mistake of clicking on a link to a British paper and saw a couple of big spoilers from the first episode. I won’t ruin it for you by sharing what those spoilers are, but I will say that right out of the gate season three starts off with a bang (actually two). When I read this, at first I thought, ‘how crazy is that?’, and then I remembered that the first two seasons also each started with a bang (except in the case of Pamuk who, technically, ended with a bang), with all the characters spending the rest of the season dealing with the fallout. So if you don’t want to stumble across any of these spoilers, I recommend you stay away from reading the British tabloids online. Of course, there are many, many reasons to avoid the British tabs. This is only one of them.

No justice, No peace: In the eternal fight for truth and justice there is one lesson that can be drawn – one cannot fight for justice without the proper signage. So to make the fight for the freedom of our erstwhile hero Mr. Bates more efficient (and to give you a giggle), please download and display this sign. ‘Keep Calm and Free Bates.’ That is our mantra. Carry on.