Downton Abbey: a Right Royal Christmas

Downton Abbey: A Right Royal Christmas

Downton Abbey is all set for a right royal Christmas this year as the Crawley family are off to Buckingham Palace as the rest of us munch our turkey and sprouts.  A scandal is about to engulf the Monarchy and Lord Grantham will have to protect them all.  The 2 hour special will be broadcast on Christmas Day on ITV.

Set in 1923 when the Royal family have been the Windsors, as opposed to the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas for a mere 7 years, Lady Rose is to be presented at court. King George V is on the throne, with his consort Queen Mary of Teck. Whatever the scandal is, it can’t be the one that later rocked the very foundations of the kingdom, when their son, Prince Edward, abdicated for the love of Wallis Simpson. His younger brother, Bertie, then became King. He was King George VI, father of the current queen. Not to be confused with Colin Firth who played him in The King’s Speech.

Said to be the favorite show of many Americans and loved by many from P Diddy to First Lady Michelle Obama, Downton Abbey has been the highest rated cable or broadcast show in the US since it debuted in 2011 and is now the most popular program ever in the history of PBS.  The third series earned 12.3 million viewers.

Other American celebs who will be itching to see this royal extravaganza, will range from Katy Perry to Jay Electronica, Conan O’Brien and Harrison Ford. The latter has dropped hints he would love a role. Comedian Patton Oswalt live tweets through every episode.  They all claim to be obsessed with the upper-class high jinks.

The Simpsons have paid tribute with a Simpton Abbey promo and there have been numerous hilarious parodies.  There’s been a Breaking Bad version, a Sesame Street version and a Fresh Prince of Downton Abbey spoof.

Michelle Obama is so addicted she asked for advance copies of the last series and invited Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern to the White House.

US critics have been more uncertain. Hendrik Hertzberg in the New Yorker derided the “blizzards of anachronisms, its absurd soap-operatics and its Oprah-style oversharing.”  Simon Schama, esteemed writer, who divides his time between New York and London has called it a “steaming, silvered tureen of snobbery.”  Schama has a reason to abhor toffs as he was subjected to their “motheaten haughtiness” in his youth.

There are American actors putting in an appearance in this sceptred Christmas special.  Shirley MacLaine is back, as Lady Grantham’s mother Cora, and Paul Giametti will play her brother, Harold.  They will not really be filming in Buckingham Palace. Lancaster House in London’s St James’s will be doubling up for the location, so as not to inconvenience the corgis.  The Crawleys  (and their servants) will be resident in Grantham House, their address “in town” which is really Basildon Park in Berkshire.

Other plot teasers have been released by the producers. Edith is “wrestling with a moral dilemma.” Isobel has found “an admirer.” Daisy gets an “unexpected invitation” and Carson treats the staff to a “special day out.” Whatever next? Oh and Uncle Harold makes “quite an impression” on top-notch society. It all sounds tantalising and ITV will be hoping its enough to see off the opposition, which is the BBC’s bumper edition of Eastenders. It could be a right royal showdown.

A fifth series of Downton Abbey has already been commissioned and it seems that audiences on both sides of the Atlantic still have an insatiable appetite for the aristocratic antics. Whether its to accompany their Christmas dinner or not.


By Kate Henderson

Radio Times

Daily Telegraph

NY Daily News

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