1. 1. Laura Linney is suddenly walking.
It’s embarrassing enough that Laura Linney has to explain Downton Abbey to us each week, but can’t she hold still while she’s doing it?
2. A preposterously large footman is foisted upon the house.
Carson, as ever, said it best when he made the point, “no footman should be over 6’1’.” For thousands of years, the realm has made do splendidly with footmen never an inch above six feet and you didn’t hear a peep about it. From King Arthur through to Victoria’s reign, the people felt that any taller than 6 feet would be gilding the lily. But suddenly, like so much else, that has changed and Carson has been forced to take on a ginger-haired pup of gargantuan frame. After this, what is left to lose?
2. 3. The chauffeur turned son-in-law insists on dressing like the Man from Prudential.
What is the point of marrying Lady Sibyl if you’re going to go about looking like you’re here to collect the gas bill? It’s all well and good to say of clothes that “I see them as the uniform of oppression” but what if someone tries to buy a car insurance policy from you at the dinner table? What would you do then?
3. 4. You lose all your wife’s money.
It was, after all, The. Main. Railway. In. British, North. America, For God’s sake. The Main one! How could that not be a goldmine, what with the war being over and these Canadians loving trains like they do.
5. Matthew wants to “live more simply.”
You spend your life working as a butler to awful Mrs. Crawley, plotting and scheming how to some day make it up to the big house where butlers run wild. Finally, you get on board the right horse and he marries into the castle no less. And then, just when your bags are packed he breaks the news, “To be honest Moseley, i want to live more simply after the wedding.” They call this justice?
6. The new footman knows as much about handling potatoes as Eskimos know about surfboarding.
The man still thinks he’s working in a hotel! The dinner is a disaster. An absolute disaster.
4. 7. You inherit a vast fortune from the father of the woman’s whose life you ruined just at the moment your wife’s family desperately needs money to save their home.
I mean, the bother of it all. The dilemmas! Who has time for such nonsense?
8. People can’t shut up at dinner.
Be they Irish Republicans, or uppity American in-laws, something about the dinner table at Downton transforms guests into conversational terrorists.
5. 9. The oven’s not hot enough.
So much can go wrong when you are planning a big dinner to try and talk a few mil out of your visiting American relations. Without American handouts, there is no Downton. Without an incredibly lavish dinner, there will be no handouts. Without souffles there can be no lavish dinner. And without heat, there is no souffle. And so, for want of a chimney sweep, the kingdom was lost.
6. 10. Running into a fallen woman who used to be your maid.
It’s hard enough in this day and age to make something useful of yourself and not just sit around your cottage plotting against Violet. But when you’re trying to make something of yourself by helping out women who have fallen over, the worst thing that can happen is you run into your former maid standing against a pillar in the fog, on the brink of falling over.
Even worse still is when your former maid won’t tell you what her big secret question is that she came all the way over to ask.
7. 11. When the man you are in love with has a messed up arm, is old enough to be your father and looks even older and everyone makes a big deal about it.
Once your two sisters have gotten hitched, when most of the boys you know got themselves killed in the Great War, when the farmer’s wife has chased you off the farm and even the chauffeurs have been snatched up, well, then it is time to stop philosophizing and grab whatever meat is left on the table. And if what’s left is a doddering Quentin Crisp lookalike with a funny arm, so be it. But it doesn’t help things when people make such a big deal about it when you’re trying to get yourself married before it becomes completely embarrassing.
8. 12. Being in prison and finding out that Downton might be sold.
Spending the rest of your life behind bars for a crime you didn’t commit is no cakewalk, but when you get handed the news that the place where you used to be a butler might be sold, that’s enough to drive even the most hardened con to tears.
9. 13. His Lordship’s shirts become a pawn in the servants’ war
We are all aware that they play for keeps in the servant’s quarters and that the lives of the great are mere playthings in the games of evil footmen and scowling ladies’ maids. But no one in their right mind could have imagined that things would escalate so far that His Lordship’s shirts would be swept up into the carnage, on the night of Her Ladyship’s dinner. Apres lui, as Mrs. Levinson might say, le deluge.
All photos courtesy: PBS