Have You Been Watching… Titanic?

"Are you sure we should be wearing these sacks stuffed with bricks, captain?"

First of all, a confession. This article asks “have you been watching” and although my answer is “yes, of course I watched Titanic Episode One, TV Event of the Year”, I’d also have to mutter “But I was playing Skyrim at the same time so I’m slightly confused about the vast numbers of ice trolls and draugr below decks. And why those dragons kept hampering rescue attempts”.

So any inconsistencies in this series catch up are my own. In fact, let’s pretend they’re intentional comedy asides, so please chuckle accordingly.

First of all, Titanic (or ‘Drownton Abbey’ as Twitter wag MrsStephenFry cleverly titled it) plays fast and loose with linear storytelling and perhaps it’s still too soon in the series run to see whether it really works. Read more of this post


Downton Abbey Series Blog- Series 2 Finale

Last week, we tied up the second division plot strands, leaving us a final, 90-minute (or, if you prefer, 15 minute + ads, cheers ITV) bonanza of metaphorical- and literal- coitus interruptus.

As we’ll see, some of the characters take “sorry dear, I’ve got a headache” to frankly extreme measures.

The key plot drivers, then, are sex and Spanish flu, two things I always try to keep separate. To be fair, as the epidemic overruns the Abbey, sex is the last thing on the minds of most of the invalids.

The same can’t be said for Lord Grantham, whose dalliances with Jane (“I think you know how much I want to help, my Lord”), if ultimately unconsummated, are a rather rum show while Cora writhes in bed for entirely more vomity reasons.

Disappointingly, ingrained chivalry eventually gets the better of him, which is a shame for those of us who heartily share in his taste and were looking forward to this moment, and packs her off the only way he knows how – out of his service, with a hefty chunk of hush money weighing down (but, alas, not all the way down) her petticoats.

You know, written down, that almost makes him seem like a bounder. Cuddly Sir Hugh? Never! Read more of this post

Downton Abbey Series Blog: Episode 7

The penultimate week of Downton Abbey should mean delicious tension ratcheted up before a grand finale, leaving us panting with anticipation/raising one quizzical eyebrow over a cup of Darjeeling in the small library.

Instead, this week’s episode saw each of the more tedious plot strands and characters get way too much air time.

First there’s Ethel. A combination of hard-faced misery and blinkered desperation may be de rigeur on the X factor, but in Edwardian Yorkshire it will only get you so far. It also it wouldn’t have hurt to give her some likeable trait for us to be condescending about.

So when she bursts into the family’s dinner (supper? High tea? Masqued sex banquet?) as they host the parents of deceased bounder Major Bryant, it’s as awkward for the viewer as it is for the guests. Poor Ethel is summarily dismissed by the most apoplectically bristling moustache we’ve yet seen.

And, of course, there’s Thomas. At least he’s a recognisable trope, though you get the feeling that he perfected one particularly triumphant sneer in series 1 only for the wind to change.

His black market scam had potential; but the opportunity for slapstick (“Cousin Violet bites into flapjack made of fag ash and trench foot”, LOLs all round) was inexplicably passed over and what should have been a genuinely hubristic scene -Thomas flailing about covered in white powder like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas- was hurriedly stuck on the end of the programme. Read more of this post

Downton Abbey Series Blog: Episode 6- “Swooning Ladyhamster”

I watched this week’s Downton with my other half, who’s been out of the country for the last three weeks.

In this situation, I’d expect to give her the occasional plot update, maybe a slightly patronising explanation of, say, how a swooning ladyhamster like Lavinia brought down the government. Something like that.

But Downton has become such a parody of itself that she managed not only to figure out everything that was going on (“Why do I feel like I’m watching Home & Away?”), but also pre-empted every single plot twist.

She deserves a co-writing credit on both this article, and the series itself.

The episode was brought to you by the letter F: for family, for fraud, and for what Sir Richard is going to do to the Grantham family if Lady Mary so much as chuffs in the marital bed.

In family terms, the law of thermodynamics keeps things on an even keel, with the departure of Mrs Crawley balanced by the arrival of “Patrick Crawley”, Titanic survivor and heir to the Downton estate. Yep, him, remember: the cause of all those trembling upper lips in series 1, before the servants got uppity and the Tsar got it in the face.

The fraud was perpetrated by one of Gunther Von Hagen’s plasticised corpses trying to pass himself off as the Lost Heir. That or the make-up department, crazed on power (and/or brains) after their undead-Matthew triumph of last week, decided it was time to take it to the next level (of Zombie Apocalypse on the Xbox, by the look of it). Read more of this post

Downton Abbey Series Blog: Episode 5 – Over the Top

Downton Abbey: it’s a DRAMA, people, not a soap, not a comedy. And not a documentary either, (I’m looking at you, Daily Mail).

As such, it has to have its moments of poignancy. We’re not talking subtlety and nuance, of course: it’s Downton Abbey after all.

So, due to a surfeit of melodrama, overacting and zombies (more on that later), this week’s episode is  subtitled “Over the Top”.

It starts as Blackadder finished, with Matthew leading his plucky Tommies into no-man’s land where he and brave, innocent, inevitable-cannon-fodder William are bombarded with some prime-time special effects.

William, tragic hero that he is, takes some Jerry ordnance smack in the chest, in the process shielding Matthew from certain death. Well, the top half of Matthew, anyway.

Back in the Abbey, the scriptwriters toy with another inter-series linkup as both Daisy and Lady Mary channel “Most Haunted” rather more convincingly than Derek Acorah ever managed. As the shell eviscerates Matthew’s sperm and William’s lungs, both women claim someone is walking on their grave. Read more of this post

Downton Abbey Series Blog- Episode 4: A NEW HOPE

by Biondino

"Mrs Patmore, you seem to have forgotten something. Salad is usually served in a bowl"

After allowing  the plot only the briefest glimpse above Highclere Castle’s parapets over the last three programmes, Sunday’s episode had an awful lot of catching up to do, and flicked from plot strand to plot strand at a rate likely give older viewers (i.e. me, you, everyone else) epileptic fits.

At Downton, the motto continues to be “plus ça change, c’est la même chose”.

Roles flutter and swirl as war and social change turn everything on its head. And yet, and yet… The coarsening of the Grantham family continues apace this week. The scheming O’Brien somewhat surprisingly transforms Lady Cora into a Menial Labourer when she reveals the existence of the illicit soup kitchen, which, by my count, leaves Lord G as the only proper toff standing. Read more of this post

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