Belfast Telegraph

Downton-on-Sea? So what?

By Maureen Coleman

Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes has brushed off criticism of his new multi-million pound drama series Titanic.

Fellowes, who was in Belfast yesterday to attend the Cinemagic and Titanic Belfast ‘Castaway’ short film competition awards held at the new Titanic centre, said he had expected comparisons to be made to his popular costume drama Downton Abbey.

But despite the first episode of Titanic receiving a drubbing from the critics, Fellowes denied that it was merely “Downton-on-Sea”.

He also said it was unfair to compare the ITV drama to James Cameron's epic blockbuster, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, which is being released in 3D next month to mark the centenery of the ship's sinking.

Over four weeks, each episode of Titanic will focus on a different aspect of the tale, repeating the final hours in the run-up to the sinking, building a cumulative portrayal of the disaster.

Last Sunday's opening episode introduced the viewers to the wealthy, upper-class passengers, but some critics were harsh in their reviews.

The Guardian branded it “Downton-on-Sea”, saying the dialogue was “cheesy”. The Daily Telegraph described the first episode as “a damp squib” but advised viewers to stick with it, saying next week's episode was a vast improvement.

But Fellowes said he wasn't annoyed by the negative reviews.

“To be honest, I was happy with the reviews I read. In fact, I thought a few of them could have been written by my parents, they were so positive.

“To brand Titanic ‘Downton-on-Sea’ is very predictable, that was always going to happen, but if it encouraged Downton fans to watch it, then I'm not bothered.

“What does bother me is that the Press has unfairly tried to drum up rivalry between this Titanic and James Cameron's wonderful film. But they are both completely different formats. One was an epic blockbuster, made for the big screen and centred on a love story. The other is a television series with a more investigative narrative.

“When Nigel Stafford-Clark and Simon Vaughan approached me to do this, I was fascinated by their idea of having the sinking in each episode, so you don't get three hours of unhappy marriages before the iceberg hits. What interested me is how people behaved. I've re-examined the story in terms of one's own response.”

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