Tag Archives: Downton Abbey

Something old, something new

Television at Christmas is like a table groaning under the weight of cake. Too much all at once. But it isn’t necessarily good cake. And it feels sort of wrong to be offered so much all at once – especially if you have other things to do – when you go so long wishing for worthwhile programmes at other times of the year.

And in reality, I have watched less than planned, and the other reality is that I have probably spent more time watching unplanned, old stuff, than the new films and series made specially for the last two weeks.

OK, I quite liked Sherlock. Many viewers didn’t, from what I’ve heard. And yes, the scriptwriters do appear to show off, which isn’t always an attractive trait. But shortly before Sherlock, we were eating our dinner in front of the television and simply needed something suitably timed to fit in right then, which is why we watched the second half of The Terminal (all right when you’ve seen the whole film before). I’m tempted to say that Tom Hanks can’t do anything wrong, and that half a Terminal trumped Sherlock.

On Christmas Eve someone else did the cooking, leaving Daughter and me with a couple of free hours as we waited to be fed. In the end we relaxed with two old Christmas episodes of NCIS, and felt much better for it. (The baby born in a garage, and DiNozzo Sr misbehaving.)

Christmas Day is a busy day without adding visual entertainment, but we obediently sat down and watched the two obvious programmes; Doctor Who and Downton Abbey.

As with Sherlock, Doctor Who was fun enough, but not as good as it could or should be.

And then it was Downton. Very silly, but oh so enjoyable! And most civilised of them to want to tie every last little thing up, with a happy ending for everyone (except for Matthew’s mothers’ new husband’s daughter-in-law).

Downton will be a hard act to follow. I reckon you could find fans to chat to all over the world. Like the Forsyte Saga, maybe, or Dallas.

When TV shows are like buses

I simply cannot keep up. It used to be bad when September brought all the television shows back. But I used to have maybe only four at the most, and with some of them taking breaks some weeks, you’d catch up with what you’d missed. Or I’d revert to old shows, where I am seasons behind.

We’ve spent the summer hiatus flitting back and forth between The Good Wife and Elementary. But after the new shows came back, we’ve had to leave them. So I don’t know what happens when The Bad Husband stepped outside their flat. I can imagine, though. But it’ll have to wait. In Elementary Watson is getting used to her competition, and Holmes is more annoying than ever. Thought we’d finish Due South once and for all, but there are still a few episodes left. They’re not so good, but I can’t leave a series hanging like that.

We’re keeping up with Doctor Who, although sometimes we wonder why, and with NCIS, where we mostly don’t wonder why. Yet.

We save the Big Bang Theory for when we need cheering up, or when a shorter sitting is required, so that’s less of a problem.

As I write I am one episode behind with Downton Abbey, and since I’m going away for the weekend, I will be two behind on my return. I understand there was blood. Might be a good thing to have the next episode standing by, just to be sure how bad it got. It’s getting silly, but we do enjoy it, and the relaxation makes it worth watching. And the grinning when the Dowager gets to air a few more good lines.

In between all the rest we can usually sneak in some NCIS: Los Angeles, and I haven’t even finished the first season of New Orleans, and won’t be watching anytime soon.

I understand there is something called River on BBC. Missed the first and recorded the second. I wonder how that is going to work out? As for the cinema, I looked up the times for screenings of Suffragette, amazingly on at both cinemas in town. But we had no time…

Foyle’s curse?

We looked forward to the start of the new ‘season’ of Foyle’s War on Sunday. And the beginning was fine, and we enjoyed ourselves. But at the halfway point the signal disappeared and there was no more for us to watch.

After some frantic investigating we determined it wasn’t our fault. There simply was no signal, but it seems it might have been localised enough that ITV/STV had no interest in being decent about it.

Daughter and I switched to more bingeing on Downton Abbey instead, refusing to let this get us down. But it slowly came back to me, that we have experienced this with Foyle before. In Sweden. Half a programme went missing then, too. Is the man cursed?

We thought we’d watch it on ITV-player. That didn’t work. Eventually we were informed by the younger generation that we needed STV-player, and after too many commercials, we eventually watched, 24 hours later. I say watched, but after ten minutes it broke.

After more faffing about I felt I didn’t have enough interest in Foyle’s pursuits to warrant trying any longer. But the Resident IT Consultant wanted to watch until the bitter end, so we repaired to his desk, where we watched on the computer.

It was OK, -ish. But I’m not sure if I can be bothered next Sunday.

Downton Who?

Another November, another end to another season of Doctor Who. And to Downton Abbey. When they started in August and September it felt like we did nothing but watch television all weekend. It was great to get all of the Doctor in one fell swoop, though, instead of half a season here and half a season there.

As for Downton Abbey I was under the – obviously erroneous – impression it was doing its last rounds. Not only is there one for Christmas, but more is coming next autumn. Oh well. It is a soap, after all. They never stop.

Although it feels as if they are getting ready to chop quite a few of their characters, while having carefully enlisted some replacements. Have the actors had enough? Probably. I’d be sad to see Tom go, but he’s able to. Maybe Edith could too. But Mary will be held hostage forever.

I worry for the dowager, but hopefully Maggie Smith has many more years of acting in her still. And you could just see that poor Anna was in for it, almost from the word go. They concentrated too much on that train ticket.

The Doctor. Well. Peter Capaldi was OK. Ish. It’s tricky going from a jolly young man to a troubled and downright weird older one, but it can be done, and it was. I believe it’s Clara we mostly have a problem with. While I’m not 100% sold on the actress, I don’t mind the role so much.

I suppose we feel that anyone ought to be grateful to be the Doctor’s assistant and not moan so much or doubt that they are doing the right thing, but why not? She does need to think of her life and where it is going. And for a while there with the Cybermen I felt she was almost convincing as the Doctor. Maybe it’s really been her all the time?

There’s enough to look forward to. And a couple of the episodes of Doctor Who were among the best I’ve seen.

In Downton I quite enjoyed the divorce and Jewishness issues. The cousin will be interesting to watch (I take it she is here to stay). And so will her counterpart, the angry father-in-law.

Meanwhile I’ll make the most of not having a series to watch evey single day.

Who on earth expected us to like that?

Is Steven Moffat taking us for granted? I found myself watching the Christmas episode of Doctor Who with mounting surprise. ‘Is this it? Whatever happened to the idea of a special something for Christmas?’

The 50th anniversary episode a month earlier was so very, very good that I somehow imagined they knew what they were doing. Perhaps they used up every ounce of great ideas for that, and now there was none left. My loyal in-house Whovian pointed out there were some nice in-jokes. Maybe there were. Maybe the hardcore fans always get more out of an episode than the mere spectator. But even idiot viewers should be given some fun, while the experts chuckle over the cleverness of whatever they’ve come up with.

If I was Peter Capaldi I’d sue for getting such a crap entry to what should be a fantastic new job. If I was Matt Smith I’d sue for getting nowhere near the kind of exit David Tennant had. I was just sitting there willing it to be over. Die and let’s see this new Doctor and then we can all go and watch Downton Abbey.

I’m gladder than ever that I watched the 50th shebang in November. It made me pleased to ‘be part of it.’ (So for the sake of clarity; I had nothing to do with the Christmas failure. Not the 50th either, obviously, but, you know…)

My in-house fan then showed me the Peter Davison half hour programme about the other former Doctors who – supposedly – weren’t part of the 50th show. That was terrific! I could happily watch it again.

Thankfully Doctor Who won’t be back for a while. They will need time to write something we will want to watch.

Down to Downton again

Downton Abbey 4, Lady Mary and Branson and children

Ah well, not much to say about the new Downton Abbey season (it must be the fourth…). It was ‘fun’ enough, if fun is everybody being miserable. Mary does determinedly depressed better than anyone.

It has sort of set the scene, though. And I never thought I’d say Thomas did a good thing. But there you are.

I still want to be Maggie Smith. She gets to be quite normal (in comparison, I mean), as well as outrageous. Here’s to grandmothers!

The Christmas episodes

Not surprisingly, some were better than others. Although we found ourselves making comparisons between fresh new writing as was the case for older new Doctor Who seasons, as well as for the earlier season of NCIS. Downton Abbey was OK-ish. Apart – obviously – for you-know-what. NCIS: Los Angeles felt more Christmassy than its big brother did.

Although, it was very noticeable that they had decided to throw in a little from many early NCIS seasons and stir well. Except maybe the stirring wasn’t done terribly thoroughly, after all.

Doctor Who

I don’t care for the Doctor’s new assistant. She’s spunky, but the chemistry between us is all wrong. And I trust there is now a country full of children who will scream at the mere idea of a snowman.

How could they end Downton Abbey like that? They did, though, didn’t they? Someone here was disappointed it wasn’t a wintry episode, but when you’ve seen one snow scene, you’ve seen them all. And all that Scottish deer-stalking will suit the Americans just fine. Long live Mrs Patmore and her patés!

So, L A was an early NCIS medley with a Christmas twist. But at least once they’d sorted out the drugs on the ship (I just couldn’t get over the L A gang being on a boat in the first place) they went a little Christmassy. To my mind Nell didn’t need fake elf ears. Besides, didn’t she go from very sad to surprisingly chirpy very quickly?

But NCIS, oh, NCIS… What shall we do about you? This was an over sugary episode with too many cute scenes. I almost didn’t mind DiNozzo Sr being back. Again. He was almost more rational than Jr. And the sight of Junior’s bed is now forever etched on my mind. His flat was gorgeous, but was it him?

As for the goldfish… Or the snickerdoodles. Well.

Perhaps get Steven Moffat to write the next episode?

Going Down(ton)

My heart sank after watching the first new episode of Downton Abbey. Not enough to make me give up, but I did have my doubts. Chatting to Daughter on the phone 15 minutes before the second episode began last night, she said she didn’t think she’d bother. At least not last night. Maybe watch online later. Maybe. And she’s someone who doesn’t give up easily.

Shirley MacLaine in Downton Abbey

Reading an interview with Shirley MacLaine in the Guardian a few weeks ago, I felt so certain we were going to get great stuff. The first week there wasn’t a single spark between her and Maggie Smith. No spark anywhere. Mary and Matthew behaved like silly children. We’d worried the wedding would be off again, forgetting that you can so easily have turmoil (or childish quarrels) within a marriage.

I might have to inform Daughter she should watch again. It was a lot better last night. We laughed a few times. There are still things people wouldn’t have said or even known about back then. But if you can’t put 21st century concerns into a period drama, what can you do?

Having sort of known Mary was an idiot, it wasn’t until she talked with her American granny that I fully realised it. And Alfred looks very much like poor William, don’t you think? As for His Lordship suddenly cottoning on to his valet’s lack of popularity…

Upstairs Downstairs

On returning to 165 Eaton Place I felt awfully confused. It was a mere year since we were last there. How could I have forgotten? And how come that woman looked so familiar, while still leaving me wondering who on earth she might be?

Upstairs Downstairs

So, encountering River Song back in 1938 was perfectly normal. They do time travel in Cardiff, after all. It’s thanks to nerdy Daughter that I now know they weren’t in London at all, but in Cardiff. It would explain the Resident IT Consultant’s concern over the hill in the park. No such hills in central London.

But what had happened to the old woman? And did they already have a child? I had no recollection of him at all. Not to mention the lack of a housekeeper. But, I slowly found my footing again and it was fun.

Not as fun as Downton Abbey, which of course is the thing that has come between us and messed with my brain and my memories. But you just don’t kill off the dowagers! And why bring out the ‘shameful’ sister only when she can be a nuisance, rather than a member of the family like everyone else?

Upstairs Downstairs

Where Downton is soapy, Upstairs Downstairs is probably more ‘realistic.’ Fewer servants seems more normal. Having the butler cook dinner in a tight spot makes sense. And then there is the war. The Kindertransport brought tears to our eyes, with Kristallnacht bringing reality home.

Upstairs Downstairs

At the risk of sounding too fluffy, there is also the gorgeous Art Deco interiors and the dresses to be considered. Not to mention J F Kennedy being sick. Was it the oysters?

The Doctor, Downton, a Dover bound Poirot and Dolly. Some Cash.

Along with too much food comes too much television. I wouldn’t mind having it spread out more. At least the entertainment. The food might be healthier to get over and done with, and we can go back to porridge and salad. But since I’m in a minority, I’m guessing my careful consumption of television over Christmas will not be noticed at all. Or missed.

Although, since we’re on one of those things that keeps track of who watches what and when, I have to own up to being so technically incompetent that I had the Grandmother watch Dolly Parton last night. She didn’t, but there was no way I could delete her after she went to bed.

Dolly Parton at the O2

So, it was just me and Dolly and most of the O2 arena. Nice blue dress, although having heard that she looks totally different without make-up and wig, I kept wondering what she looks like. Really. Concert was good, but I’d go mad if I had to have those bodyguards escort me everywhere.

I did actually watch a little Johnny Cash afterwards, but found it so painfully embarrassing I had to turn it off. As Roger Whittaker would say, he didn’t have Dolly’s two advantages.

Geoffrey Palmer and David Suchet in The Clocks

Before the country greats we sat down to Poirot. Couldn’t remember much about The Clocks except for the clocks. Could have sworn that I saw bits of Brighton, and I wonder where the crescent-shaped street can be found? Possibly in Dover. Doesn’t matter. It always looks good, and this time the plot wasn’t too outrageous, either. Watched parts of it twice to allow the Grandmother to catch up with the bits she slept through.

The Doctor and Lily

Cyril

After Christmas dinner and two lots of dishwasher on Sunday, I was more than ready to sit down with the Doctor. Despite its Narnia theme I liked it. How like a childless man to take children through a snowy landscape wearing only their dressing gowns and slippers. The only thing that grated somewhat was Matt Smith smirking ‘I know’ each time the children discovered something they liked.

Madge

A good cry was had by all at the end. Nice tree. Nice trees, in fact.

Maggie Smith

In my next life I will come back as the good Dowager at Downton. Those one-liners are a dream. (In my life as a witch I’m much too kind to utter anything like that. Naturally.)

Didn’t expect Matthew and Mary to get their act together quite so soon. And I still want to know what happened to Patrick from Canada. My hopes for Edith and her beau with the trembling smile have grown a little. Might be a case for the ouija board. Shame about Nigel Havers. He’d have been a good addition to this upperclass zoo.

I’m one of those who didn’t mind all that much about the slipping standards of season two, but it was certainly noticeable how much better the Christmas episode was. We’ll have more of the same for next year, please.

Downton Christmas