Downton Abbey: Open for Monkey Business

Posted on February 2, 2012


Downton Abbey, now in its second season, is the latest crazy-popular PBS fare.  Set in Edwardian England, it was  created to bring Americans to the realization that we are a nation of slovenly, ill-speaking, processed food-eating, and reality TV-viewing dunderheads.  But it’s important to get some things straight right off the bat.

No matter how you pronounce the name of the Abbey, you will be wrong.  The Brits who populate the place have tiny things on their vocal chords that allow them to swallow parts of words as they are being formed.  These half-digested words then come out as something entirely different from the brain originally proposed. The parts that stayed behind are then attached to other words and saved for future utterances.

An abbey is a Catholic monastery or convent.  The Abbey isn’t an abbey.  It’s a house.  For one relatively small family of two parents and three daughters.  It has approximately 300 bedrooms, 298 of which we haven’t seen.  So maybe there are nuns there, after all.  The place is so big that the family might not know that there are hundreds of other people in residence.

The hardworking staff number maybe 10 people, give or take the ones who are sick or off to war or standing outside smoking and plotting mayhem.  That’s about 30 bedrooms per staff person to clean.  Plus the bathrooms, drawing rooms (whatever it is that people do in drawing rooms), dining room, kitchen, study(s), and other assorted rooms that you have to walk through to get to other rooms and secret rooms where people plot mayhem.   My house has only three bedrooms and two baths and there are still nasty cobwebby things on the light fixtures and way up in the corners of the rooms and all I can do when I notice them is to think How does that happen? and then forget they are there until the next time.

Upper crust Brits can’t dress themselves.  They turn into zombies, either standing or sitting while servants whirl around them dressing and undressing them.  The servants could be dressing the men like the female impersonators on the RuPaul’s Drag Race and the women like the contestants on The Rock of Love and they wouldn’t know it until they were seated at their nightly formal dinner and everyone would be looking at everyone else with their mouths hanging open, and half-swallowed words would be spilling into their roasted quail and mashed potatoes.

World War I had the greatest impact on the way people dressed until the advent of “What Not to Wear.”  The seriousness of war meant that women could shed unnecessary layers of heavy garments and men could wear belts on their uniforms that were located halfway between their actual waist and their necks.

Wars fought close to home are convenient for people coming and going.  Downton Abbey becomes a place of leisure and relaxation for injured officers, thereby becoming the model for college spring break.

Unrequited love is way more popular than requited love.  Sex you can’t have is always way hotter than the sex you can. There is absolutely nothing that can improve this show.  Except the addition of Shirley MacLaine.  She’ll arrive at Downton as Martha Levinson, the mother of American-born Lady Cora Grantham.  MacLaine will immediately go head-to-head with Maggie Smith, the Dowager Countess and mother of Lord Grantham.  The catfight that will ensue is sure to be even more spectacular than a New Gingrich vs Mitt Romney debate.

Downtown Abbey. Grab your Bacon and Nacho Flavored Doritos, sit down, and enjoy.