I wish I could have said it’s “Star Wars,” or “The Avengers” or even “Ford vs. Ferrari.”
Nope, it was “Downton Abbey” … the movie!
Downton is the story, OK, that’s being a little too generous. Let’s start over. Downton Abbey is a bunch of stuff that happens to the Crawley family — a snobbish bunch of English holdovers from the days of lords and ladies.
Set in the post-Edwardian Era [thanks Wikipedia], the series follows the Crawleys and their house staff as they navigate the difficulty of maintaining the aristocracy in the 20th century.
On the surface, the show seems to be about a typical family of stuffy nobles living the most mundane life ever. However, under the slick veneer of pretentious production values lies a rich creamy core of trashy schlock that would make even Jean-Claud Van Damme proud.
The problems in an episode can range from the following types of scenarios —
• “What’s his name has the day off, who will dress me for dinner?”
• “The salad fork is in the wrong place, which house servant will be dismissed for this grievous error?”
• “The oldest daughter was having a premarital affair with a houseguest when he died in her bed, so now who’s going to help me drag his dead body across the abbey so we can cover the whole thing up?”
Wait, what?! Yep, the show went from Masterpiece Theatre to Breaking Bad in like 30 seconds in that episode.
That was the hook of this show. Most of the time the central conflicts of the episode would bore the paint off an old Desoto, but you never knew when they’d throw a curveball at you.
An episode could go from, “Oh no, my son-in-law wore the wrong dinner jacket,” to “one of the servants tried to kill the lady of the house with soap” in nothing flat.
One of the most amusing aspects of the show was each problem was given the same dramatic weight. Concern over the under-butler’s rude manners was as central of a conflict as one of the main characters dying horrifically, which happened from time to time.
The way you know a character was going to die was this — if they seemed like a nice person who didn’t have some deep moral failing or dirty secret, they were going to die.
I’m issuing my spoiler warning here — if you don’t want to know what happens and how I will make fun of it, stop reading now.
The movie featured a subplot wherein someone tried to assassinate King George V — a real person from history. That would be enough to make an entire film of on its own, but this portion of the story was given less screen time than the subplot about a servant who was stealing silver knickknacks from the abbey.
Fortunately King George V survived, well at least in the movie, and so did I.
However, I did notice something during my Downton screening — I was the only dude in the theater.
In fact, while I was waiting in the lobby for my wife, a couple of old friends walked by with puzzled looks on their faces. They probably knew that my cinema tastes are more aligned with superheroes, lightsabers, explosions, racecars and cartoons.
“What movie are you here for?”
“Really? Have you watched the show?”
Had my brain been working at a higher rate, I would have said, “I saw all those British people in the cast and assumed it was a Harry Potter sequel.”
Instead, I admitted the truth … I’ve spent 50 hours of my allotted time on planet Earth watching stuffy characters navigate their feelings more awkwardly than Mr. Spock on Star Trek.
Follow David Anderson on
Twitter at twitter.com/cruizerdave