January 17, 2011

Who Saw THAT Coming?!

Last night's episode of Downton Abbey left us gasping aloud in a series of rapid successions. First, "Turkish Delight" Kemal Pamuk (played by Theo James) enters the scene on horseback, a perfect, almost-comical hybrid of pretty boy-gentility and sex god hottitude. Like the normally tough-to-impress Lady Mary Crawley, we marveled at the Eastern Adonis, even when he arrived back at the stately residence spattered with mud from the fox hunt. "All we want are baths," Mary insisted, which immediately conjured up images of the olive-skinned diplomat languishing naked in a clawfoot tub filled with steaming, hot....(but we digress.)

Cut to that evening when he manages to steal away with Mary in the library and back her up against the wall with his none-too-subtle advances. Shocked and flustered by his impropriety, she hastily puts him in his place and storms out of the room in a huff...but clearly he had left an impression because....

....later that night, he barges into her boudoir — OMG — and professes his desire to de-virginize her! Again she is shocked and horrified and hides her state of deshabille with her pillow until his smoldering eyes and heartfelt pleas convince her to yield. "Oh all right go ahead," she basically tells him..."Is it safe?"

...Uh, apparently not. We are pretty much in a tizzy at this point, so you can imagine the shock when Mary later wakes up her ladies' maid in a desperate whisper to tell her that the chap is stone cold dead in her bed! Surely, the sexual naif was merely confused about the Turk's post-coital state, but uh....right she is — the dude's dead!

Better wake your mom, maid Anna advises. The three of them manage to hoist the dead body back down the hall to his room in the dark of night, with only scullery maid Daisy happening to see them en route. "You are a disgrace, young lady, and I can't believe what you put me through tonight," (adlibbing for Mama Cora.) "Let's not tell your father, shall we?"

Scandal-licious!!!!!!! Who knew the no-name farmer with dropsy of the heart would end up surviving in this episode while the sultan of sexiness would kick it?

Will eyewitness Daisy blab to her not-so-secret crush, the not-to-be-trusted Thomas? Or will the bitter and malicious Gwyn put two-and-two together to stir up trouble for the noble family? Stay tuned!

January 11, 2011

Downton Abbey: My Top 5 Favorite Characters from Episode 1

Masterpiece fans are hailing Downton Abbey as the greatest thing since Bleak House (high praise, indeed!) and Amy and I are in complete agreement so far. The miniseries was a huge hit in its native England, but Anglotopia.net sparked a tempest in a teapot when it shared a story by a British tabloid claiming Downton had been dumbed down for American audiences. (The post has since been removed.) PBS countered by saying that only the commercials had been edited out and the typical MP intro added to the beginning of each episode. Apparently there was some concern that U.S. audiences would fail to understand the complex inheritance laws of the British aristocracy, however anyone who's read Jane Austen (probably everyone in the MP audience), George Eliot, et al., would be quite familiar with them.

Top 5 Favorite Characters

5. Matthew Crawley
Newly named heir to Downton Abbey after the two other heirs drown in the Titanic tragedy, Matthew is a third cousin of the Earl of Grantham and an attorney. Determined to maintain his independence, Matthew chafes under the expectations of Lord Grantham and his family. He's made up his mind not to marry any of the Grantham daughters, but one wonders if he will waver... especially after his reaction to the beautiful Mary. Matthew, do you protest too much? Also, we're predisposed to adore actor Dan Stevens after his portrayal of Edward Ferrars in the recent adaptation of Sense & Sensibility.

4. Lady Mary, The Oldest Daughter of the Earl and Countess of Grantham

Throughout most of the first episode Mary comes off as cold and calculating, but there are a few moments when her character seems more complex and I wonder if we will begin to sympathize with her (Mary's sister Lady Sybil seems to), as the series progresses. Is she merely trying to hook a rich husband or is all her scheming a result of being made a pawn by the other players? Mary, Mary, how contrary are you, really?

3. Cora, Countess of Grantham

Like the characters in Edith Wharton's The Buccaneers, Cora is a wealthy American new money heiress married to a titled aristocrat who required her substantial inheritance to maintain his expensive household and land. Unlike many such marriages, her husband fell in love with her and, were it not for the fact that Cora only bore daughters, the two might have lived happily ever after. Now Cora must maintain her relationship with her husband while trying to ensure that her dowry is passed to her eldest daughter Mary in spite of her adopted country's inheritance laws. How far will she go to see that it isn't entailed to a complete stranger?

2. Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham
It wouldn't surprise me to learn that Violet secretly studied up on political tactics by reading Machiavelli's The Prince (by candlelight, of course, as she abhors the newfangled electricity installed at Downton Abbey). Formerly aligned against Cora, the Earl's wife, she will make and break alliances based on what she determines is best for Downton Abbey and her son, Lord Grantham. The actress Maggie Smith delivers simple lines like "What is a weekend?" with just the right tone and wit to make them incredibly memorable and quite funny.

1. John Bates, Lord Grantham's Valet
Bates fought alongside the Earl of Grantham in the Boer War and Lord Grantham hired him out of loyalty and respect. Lamed by a shrapnel wound, Bates is proud but needs this job desperately. Unfortunately, his nemeses include the harpy-like O'Brien, lady's maid to the Countess of Grantham, and ambitious first footman Thomas, who will stop at nothing to jeopardize Bates's position. Bates didn't tell Grantham about his lame leg... Is he hiding something else? Will he stoop to the tactics of dastardly duo O'Brien and Thomas or maintain his dignity? Will he return the affection of head housemaid Anna?

Honorable Mentions:
Scatterbrained scullery maid Daisy (a potential Cinderella story?), kind head housemaid Anna, and loyal Robert, Earl of Grantham who keeps Bates on in spite of the hubbub it's causing "downstairs."

January 5, 2011

Horatio Hornblower VS. Horatio Nelson

“Now I’ve kissed you through two centuries.” Laurence Olivier as Lord Nelson (swoon) and Vivien Leigh as Lady Hamilton on New Year’s Eve 1799 in That Hamilton Woman.

Also, you can still sign our Petition to bring back Horatio Hornblower, though it doesn't seem to be working...