My word, a bloody good upper-crust soap

February 22, 2012 12:01 am

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Readers are politely advised that the following column is best read with a nice cup of tea and perhaps a buttered scone or crumpet. Ring the bell for the butler before proceeding.

I say, are you ready now? Frightfully good. As you may have surmised, today's subject is "Downton Abbey," which has just completed its second season on the PBS "Masterpiece Classic" series, leaving large numbers of American viewers wishing they had a footman.

Sorry, I can't help them there. I was always a leg man myself. Indeed, as with many fads in popular culture, I was rather slow to appreciate the virtues of "Downton Abbey."

It was the name that put me off. If you live in the Pittsburgh area, it's hard to read Downton without seeing it as Downtown, famously pronounced "Dahntahn" hereabouts in a rush of tortured vowels, sometimes coupled with a dangling "and that," rendered "n'at."

Why, we could be watching something about Dahntahn Abbey n'at, perhaps set in one of Pittsburgh's superior suburbs such as Fox Chapel. In this show, the valet would inquire: "My lord, would you like your Steelers jersey set out now or after church?"

But lacking such appeal, my own interest in "Downton Abbey" slumbered on -- that is, until my own lady of the house became interested in the tale of post-Edwardian England. Jolly interested, actually.

It was Freud who asked: What do women want? I always thought that it was back rubs, but it seems that they also want to imagine living in a grand house and having a willing staff to wait on them hand and foot.

Instead, they must often settle for an inert husband occupying a sofa. Apparently, a resident leg man who occasionally rises on those legs to take out the trash is no substitute for a footman and all the rest -- and so they dream. Dashed puzzling, if you ask me.

So, moved by mysterious yearnings, my lady ordered the DVD of the first season of "Downton Abbey" and we were soon vicarious residents of Lord Grantham's mansion while simultaneously watching on TV the second season, which ended Sunday night.

It turned out to be a splendid show, not only sumptuous visually but also rich in character. The English occupy a small damp island, and it would seem that characters rise up like mushrooms in that environment, with some poisonous toadstools thrown in for dramatic effect.

First Published 2012-02-21 23:31:50

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