Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
If 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.Published in