Back in my wrestling-watching days, certain folks would overhear me discussing a favorite grappler or the latest sports entertainment storyline, and ask, “You watch wrestling?” without trying to mask their disapproval.
I always answered with the same questions, “What? You think I watch ‘Masterpiece Theatre?’”
Due to the charmingly-addictive “Downton Abbey,” I now watch “Masterpiece Classic.”
“Downton Abbey,” Julian Fellowes’ sumptuous British soap opera, follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants. The first season, which I just finished thanks to a PBS encore, begins with the Titanic’s sinking and the affect that historical event has on the family’s — and Downton’s — future. The second season, which premieres Sunday, Jan. 8, spans World War I.
The first season hooked me so quickly I decided against adding the series to my Netflix queue even though I knew PBS had made slight edits. I couldn’t wait.
No, I couldn’t wait to learn if the American-born Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) and her mother-in-law, the dowager countess (Maggie Smith), succeeded in busting the entail. (If you’re unfamiliar with an entail, you won’t be after watching “Downton.”)
I couldn’t wait to learn if the other servants quit treating Bates (Brendan Coyle) like the wounded warrior in Metallica’s “One” video simply because Bates relied on a cane.
I couldn’t wait to learn if somebody beat the crap out of shady servants Thomas and O’Brien.
I couldn’t wait to learn if Cora and Violet stopped fretting about Mary’s future long enough to notice Edith and Sybil.
Speaking of which, just when I want to strangle Mary (Michelle Dockery) for acting like a spoiled witch, she treats William with exceptional kindness, stands up for Sybil or reveals a softer side to Carson the butler (Jim Carter). And just when I think, “Mary’s just misunderstood,” she behaves so vindictively toward Edith (Laura Carmichael) that I want to strangle her.
Of course, Edith plays games with Mary’s life, too, but according to their own mother, Edith’s at a disadvantage, so you can’t help but feel sorry for her. Besides, despite Edith’s attractiveness, they act like she’s hideously deformed.
It that weren’t so sad, it would be funny. Not that “Downton” doesn’t feature its share of comedy. I laughed at everyone’s reaction to Carson’s “scandalous” past and to the discovery of Gwen’s “silly” ambition as well as when Carson described a maid serving dinner as the worst thing in the world to Lord Grantham, a man who had recently lost two heirs to the Titanic.
Violet shrinking from an electric light like a vampire facing the sun also elicited giggles from me. But I shouldn’t have expected less from Maggie Smith. Actually, the entire cast performs well and not just because they speak with British accents.
Creator/writer/producer Fellowes covered similar ground in his Oscar-winning script for “Gosford Park,” but television allows him to tell a longer, more intricate story.
And I wonder what intrigue and drama Fellowes has in store for the residents of Downton Abbey in season two? How will the Great War affect the Crawleys and their servants? Will Mary and Cousin Matthew (Dan Stevens) reconcile? Will Anna and Bates finally kiss? Will the ladies be forced to sacrifice their opulent hats to the war effort?
Oh, I can’t wait to watch “Masterpiece Classic.”