Farewell to “Downton Abbey”

 

mast-downton-s4-series-icon-hiresIf you were to draw a Venn diagram of two sets, with one representing male police officers and the other representing fans of “Downton Abbey,” I suspect the overlap would be vanishingly small. Some might consider this unmanly, but I’m proud to admit my membership in that sliver of humanity, and I will be a bit downcast Sunday evening as the show fades to black for the last time. Equally downcast will be Mrs. Dunphy, who perhaps represents a more typical demographic among the millions of people who today wonder how they will spend their wintertime Sunday evenings from now on.

Most of us take for granted the shows we watch on television, even those rare ones of exceptional quality like “Downton Abbey.” If a show is produced well, the viewer can immerse himself in the story and the characters while paying no mind to how it all came together. I once worked in television, spending a single season as a technical adviser on a network cop show, for which I also wrote an episode. The experience offered me an insight into how difficult it is to put an hour’s worth of drama on the air in the hope of attracting an audience. It takes scores of people to bring a television show into being, each of whom must be relied upon to do his job well and on time. And in a period drama like “Downton Abbey,” on which a mistake of seemingly insignificant detail results in a torrent of tweets and Facebook postings informing the producers that the buttons on the underbutler’s waistcoat were all wrong, or that the windscreen on a Rolls Royce was improperly positioned, or that the dinner’s second course was lacking an ingredient, attention to minutia is paramount.

And beyond the period details, there are the technical elements that the viewer perceives but does not notice: the set decoration and the lighting and the flow of action from scene to scene, all of which in “Downton Abbey” begins with the words on the page as written by Julian Fellows, the show’s creator. Fellows shared a writing credit on only two of Downton’s 52 episodes, both in the 2010 season, so for all practical purposes every word of every script is his. And it was he who assembled the cast and crew that made the show the phenomenon it became: a series beloved by millions, one whose ending is lamented across the Western world, even by a cop in Southern California.

For the cast and crew, Downton’s finale is surely bittersweet. Even in my brief experience in television I learned of the friendships that form among those who work the long days required to produce a show. How saddening it must be to know that this talented assembly has dispersed for the last time. Many of them surely will go on to other successes in the business, some even to stardom, but they know, as they must know, that whatever successes they might enjoy in the future, “Downton Abbey” was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

American fans of “Downton Abbey” know that the show has already run its course on British television and that a simple Internet search will reveal the details of the show’s ending. I have assiduously avoided even a hint of how it all concludes, the better to enjoy speculating on the matter with Mrs. Dunphy and other fellow fans, of which there are many among the Ricochetti. And so I put it to you: What do you expect in the final episode?

What hopes do you have for those characters whose fates are not well mapped out? Now that Mary is again wed (a bit precipitously, if you asked me), now that Mr. Mosely and Mrs. Patmore have stepped tentatively beyond Downton’s walls, he as a teacher, she as a hotelier, now that Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes are united in marriage, and now that he seems out of danger of having her poison his pudding, what’s to become of the rest of them? Will Thomas find the happiness that has eluded him for six seasons? Will Spratt find his path out of service through his talent as a pseudonymous writer? These and so many other questions linger, the most pressing of which of course is this: When the final credits roll, will Edith forever be known as “Poor Edith,” or will Providence at last bestow that which it has so often dangled before her only to snatch away. For heaven’s sake, Mr. Fellows, how much can one woman be expected to take?

Whatever the outcome for Edith and all the others, I will miss their company. I wish the best for everyone who had a hand in Downton’s production. We in the Dunphy house are and will remain grateful for their efforts.

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  1. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Julian Fellowes could well be described as a first-rate historian. He did a magnificent job sharing all the peculiar, particular details of an unusual socio/demographic as did the producer of The Sopranos, David Chase.

    Most of all, I shall miss that special relationship he had with Maggie Smith. What a script he provided for such a fine actress!

    With that said, I’m ready for the show to end; I never quite recovered from the death of Matthew Crawley. ):

    • #1
  2. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    It would be nice for “Poor Edith” to have some happiness. If she’d have only come clean about Marigold sooner, she’d be happy now. I agree, ET, Maggie Smith had the best lines. I have laughed at her ’til I cried many times. She delivers them perfectly.

    • #2
  3. She Member
    She
    @She

    I saw a Downton Abbey special during a recent spate of begging on PBS.  Julian Fellowes was interviewed, and said something like  (paraphrasing), “I want the fans to feel that the show has ended well, and that they can think fondly about the Crawleys, and all the characters, going on and living their lives as the twentieth century progresses.”

    • My interpretation of that is, “No more Poor Edith!”
    • As much as the characters, I will miss the beautiful, beautiful costumes and the lovely sets
    • Hoping that Isobel and Dickie sort themselves out, and that nasty Larry and scheming Miss Whatshername get their comeuppance
    • Hope Thomas finds true love.  Or something
    • Expect Daisy to announce any minute that she’s running for Parliament (Labour Party candidate, of course)
    • Intimations at the racetrack that Edith’s nice little editor girl is being set up for Tom?
    • Will miss the lovely relationship that’s developed between the Dowager Countess and Tom Branson.  Love that she refers to him as “the most sensible one” and that she hotfooted it back from France on his say so when everything went belly-up a few weeks ago

    *

    I will miss it too.

    Just bought all six seasons on blu-ray, so I can start at the beginning again.

    • #3
  4. Jack Dunphy Contributor
    Jack Dunphy
    @JackDunphy

    She:

    • Will miss the lovely relationship that’s developed between the Dowager Countess and Tom Branson. Love that she refers to him as “the most sensible one” and that she hotfooted it back from France on his say so when everything went belly-up a few weeks ago

    *

    I will miss it too.

    Just bought all six seasons on blu-ray, so I can start at the beginning again.

    Yes, it’s the ebb and flow of the many relationships that make the show compelling.  The Dowager Countess would have boiled Tom in oil when he first took up with Sybil, but over time she came to be fond of him.  There are so many other examples.  And starting over again?  We have all six seasons on iTunes, so we may be joining you in that.

    • #4
  5. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    Three or four years ago, I was visiting one of my daughters, and she asked if I’d ever seen Downton Abbey, and when she found that I had not yet watched it, pulled up Season One on her computer. We sat up in bed and watched about four shows in a row, and I finally shook my head and laughed, “It’s 3:00 A.M.!  We should stop this!” It was mesmerizing!

    I went home and told Mr. Cow Girl about it. He was a bit skeptical. He was never a big fan of Brits and their stratified life-styles. I told him to just try one show, and see what he thought. He is a man who loves good drama, and well-written stories, and movies. Yeah, we watched the whole first season in about four days!

    It’s just a great story, the characters grow and change, and the Dowager Countess is fantastic! We started watching the first season again this week…

    • #5
  6. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    Jack,

    We’ve been speculating all season over here. Not all of us watch on Sunday night, mind you.

    • #6
  7. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    When the last season is added to Amazon Prime, I’ll watch. In the meantime, I’m just beginning the last season of Justified.

    My tastes are varied. But, judging by how screwy this year has been already, maybe the shows will combine and Mr Carson will hit Thomas with a shovel in the final episode.

    • #7
  8. Ron Harrington Inactive
    Ron Harrington
    @RonHarrington

    If anyone wants to see another delightful series set in the same time and about the same class of people, try “Jeeves and Wooster.” Almost as good as the books. Almost.

    • #8
  9. Jack Dunphy Contributor
    Jack Dunphy
    @JackDunphy

    MLH:Jack,

    We’ve been speculating all season over here. Not all of us watch on Sunday night, mind you.

    Shame on me for not participating in that discussion.  I should have known the members were on it first.  Thank you for alerting me to it.

    • #9
  10. Jack Dunphy Contributor
    Jack Dunphy
    @JackDunphy

    Ron Harrington:If anyone wants to see another delightful series set in the same time and about the same class of people, try “Jeeves and Wooster.” Almost as good as the books. Almost.

    Hear, hear!  Recall this post from December 2013.

    • #10
  11. Ron Harrington Inactive
    Ron Harrington
    @RonHarrington

    Jack Dunphy:

    Hear, hear! Recall this post from December 2013.

    That’s fantastic! I remember once long ago you did a piece for NRO in the Wodehousian style. I think it was about a stakeout.

    • #11
  12. Jack Dunphy Contributor
    Jack Dunphy
    @JackDunphy

    Ron Harrington:

    Jack Dunphy:

    Hear, hear! Recall this post from December 2013.

    That’s fantastic! I remember once long ago you did a piece for NRO in the Wodehousian style. I think it was about a stakeout.

    I did two or three in that style, but now I can’t find them in the NRO archive of my columns.

    • #12
  13. She Member
    She
    @She

    Aaron Miller:When the last season is added to Amazon Prime, I’ll watch. In the meantime, I’m just beginning the last season of Justified.

    My tastes are varied. But, judging by how screwy this year has been already, maybe the shows will combine and Mr Carson will hit Thomas with a shovel in the final episode.

    I’m not sure that Jim Carter (Mr Carson) gets the credit he deserves.  If there were no Dowager Countess in the mix, I think we’d all be chortling about Mr Carson’s one-liners, his attitude, and his eyebrows.

    • #13
  14. Jack Dunphy Contributor
    Jack Dunphy
    @JackDunphy

    She:

    Aaron Miller:When the last season is added to Amazon Prime, I’ll watch. In the meantime, I’m just beginning the last season of Justified.

    My tastes are varied. But, judging by how screwy this year has been already, maybe the shows will combine and Mr Carson will hit Thomas with a shovel in the final episode.

    I’m not sure that Jim Carter (Mr Carson) gets the credit he deserves. If there were no Dowager Countess in the mix, I think we’d all be chortling about Mr Carson’s one-liners, his attitude, and his eyebrows.

    His eyebrows deserve their own entry on the IMDB.

    • #14
  15. Chris Williamson Member
    Chris Williamson
    @ChrisWilliamson

    I remember wondering why people were misspelling “Downtown” in their Facebook posts when I first encountered The Abbey. Then my wife’s best friend let us borrow a copy of the first season on DVD.

    We have binge-watched the previous seasons on DVD for a weekend in the Spring. My wife swore it off after the end of Season 3, but I convinced her to come back to it after a year, and we saw all six seasons together.

    I’ve never looked forward to an annual tradition with such anticipation. It’s been luxurious to hear the language, to see the beauty, to feel the suspense. “Downton” has become a part of my life the way no other television has.

    Next Spring I plan to start this tradition with Season 1 all over again.

    • #15
  16. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    Jack Dunphy:

    MLH:Jack,

    We’ve been speculating all season over here. Not all of us watch on Sunday night, mind you.

    Shame on me for not participating in that discussion. I should have known the members were on it first. Thank you for alerting me to it.

    Aaron Miller:When the last season is added to Amazon Prime, I’ll watch. In the meantime, I’m just beginning the last season of Justified.

    My tastes are varied. But, judging by how screwy this year has been already, maybe the shows will combine and Mr Carson will hit Thomas with a shovel in the final episode.

    The final season of Justified is, thankfully, less bloody. It. was. getting. bad.

    • #16
  17. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    Last week’s “episode” on manners was not a disappointment.

    • #17
  18. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    Jeeves and Wooster is not available to stream via Netflix or Amazon. Has anyone seen Grantchester? It came up in the recommended-for-you box on Amazon.

    • #18
  19. Melissa O'Sullivan Member
    Melissa O'Sullivan
    @melissaosullivan

    Great read, Jack!  Who knew our hardboiled cop had a softer side?   My  vote is that Fellowes gives Edith happiness.  He doesn’t want to be attacked in Rules…and he understands he’s created a phenomenon and wants to show gratitude to a grateful public.  We shall see…

    • #19
  20. Jim Lakely Inactive
    Jim Lakely
    @JimLakely

    Edith gets all the attention for her woeful existence, but we are forgetting about the cursed Anna.

    She will die giving birth to a child. Coin flip as to whether it was all for naught and the child dies, as well. Mr. Bates will then keel over from a heart attack.

    The End.

    • #20
  21. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    Jim Lakely:Edith gets all the attention for her woeful existence, but we are forgetting about the cursed Anna.

    She will die giving birth to a child. Coin flip as to whether it was all for naught and the child dies, as well. Mr. Bates will then keel over from a heart attack.

    The End.

    Who are you and why are you here!!

    • #21
  22. Blayne Lantrie Inactive
    Blayne Lantrie
    @BlayneLantrie

    I am thankful that’s it ending. Hasn’t been any good since the first season ended. So I won’t miss at all.

    • #22
  23. GirlWithAPearl Inactive
    GirlWithAPearl
    @GirlWithAPearl

    I’ve already seen it so no comments about the final episode, except to say that mr, fellowes really went out of his way to showcase Maggie smith, which I loved.

    Does everyone know about acorn tv? It’s very cool and unbelievably cheap and flexible – you can tune in and tune out by the month, whenever you like. It’s all British movies, series, sit coms and documentaries. Found it when I was desperate to see the latest season of foyle’s war. You get it free for a month to try it out, then I think it’s 5 bucks per month. Googlize it and give it a try. Right now I’m off it bc I kind of burned out but anytime I want I can turn it back on, and I will. You also get lots of behind the scenes and makings of….type stuff which I enjoy

    • #23
  24. GirlWithAPearl Inactive
    GirlWithAPearl
    @GirlWithAPearl

    Just checked acorn tv, yep all 9 seasons of foyle’s war plus extras are there. My personal faves:

    Season 1 Ep 2: White Feather
    Season 2 Ep 1: Fifty Ships

    Tip: Always put captions on to get every nuance and correct names

    • #24
  25. GirlWithAPearl Inactive
    GirlWithAPearl
    @GirlWithAPearl

    Jack it’s a brave and wise man who admits to a jones for Downton. My husband is with you. And I happened to see a truly vile movie and unfortunately an accurate portrayal of our culture called trainwreck starring chuck schumers niece (why I watched). there’s only one thing I enjoyed and remember, a running riff about Downton between the male lead and basketball mega star Lebron James…really funny when Lebron gets all huffy bc other guy suggests they can put off viewing a new episode on pbs and just watch it on dvr at a later date. Lebron considers this heresy of the highest order and berates his buddy mercilessly….he’s waaay into the show!

    • #25
  26. Weeping Inactive
    Weeping
    @Weeping

    GirlWithAPearl:Does everyone know about acorn tv? It’s very cool and unbelievably cheap and flexible – you can tune in and tune out by the month, whenever you like. It’s all British movies, series, sit coms and documentaries. Found it when I was desperate to see the latest season of foyle’s war. You get it free for a month to try it out, then I think it’s 5 bucks per month. Googlize it and give it a try. Right now I’m off it bc I kind of burned out but anytime I want I can turn it back on, and I will. You also get lots of behind the scenes and makings of….type stuff which I enjoy

    I love Acorn TV. If you like British TV, it’s definitely worth checking into. They also have some Australian and Canadian TV shows as well.

    • #26
  27. Jack Dunphy Contributor
    Jack Dunphy
    @JackDunphy

    Jim Lakely:Edith gets all the attention for her woeful existence, but we are forgetting about the cursed Anna.

    She will die giving birth to a child. Coin flip as to whether it was all for naught and the child dies, as well. Mr. Bates will then keel over from a heart attack.

    The End.

    As I said in the post, I have avoided all discussion of the actual ending, but I’m reasonably assured it will not be as you described.  If it were so, I would have heard news of the rioting that would have broken out across England.  And Julian Fellowes would have had to flee the country or else find himself strung up from a lamppost.

    • #27
  28. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Jack Dunphy: And in a period drama like “Downton Abbey”, on which a mistake of seemingly insignificant detail results in a torrent of tweets and Facebook postings informing the producers that the buttons on the underbutler’s waistcoat were all wrong, or that the windscreen on a Rolls Royce was improperly positioned, or that the dinner’s second course was lacking an ingredient, attention to minutia is paramount.

    And one of those noticing the errors is the Queen.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/downton-abbey/11844631/The-Queen-loves-Downton-Abbey-and-likes-to-spot-historical-mistakes-author-reveals.html

    Jack Dunphy: Many of them surely will go on to other successes in the business, some even to stardom, but they know, as they must know, that whatever successes they might enjoy in the future, “Downton Abbey” was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    Surely Elizabeth McGovern and Maggie Smith would be considered stars before the series.

    Jack Dunphy: What hopes do you have for those characters whose fates are not well mapped out?

    I’m curious as to whether they take the program up to the Depression. And how the family weathers it. I hope it doesn’t end like Upstairs Downstairs.

    • #28
  29. Jack Dunphy Contributor
    Jack Dunphy
    @JackDunphy

    Melissa O'Sullivan:Great read, Jack! Who knew our hardboiled cop had a softer side? My vote is that Fellowes gives Edith happiness. He doesn’t want to be attacked in Rules…and he understands he’s created a phenomenon and wants to show gratitude to a grateful public. We shall see…

    He wouldn’t leave us without some hope for Edith, would he?  I doubt we’ll see something so simple as Bertie coming back on bended knee, but after all she’s been through . . .

    • #29
  30. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Jim Lakely:Edith gets all the attention for her woeful existence, but we are forgetting about the cursed Anna.

    She will die giving birth to a child. Coin flip as to whether it was all for naught and the child dies, as well. Mr. Bates will then keel over from a heart attack.

    The End.

    Sheesh, Jim. Don’t you have some AGW science to debunk?

    • #30
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