Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

It's all downhill for Downton as Julian loses plot

Love story: Michelle Dockery’s Lady Mary

What in the name of black-salted duck eggs has happened to Downton Abbey?

If I stretch my memory back to the increasingly fog-shrouded first series, I think I recall it being vaguely serious in its ambitions as a period drama. There was always humour in it, but it was authentic, character-sourced humour. In fact, it wasn't really humour, it was that much more writerly, prestigious thing we call wit, and it emanated naturally from the witheringly sarcastic tongue of Maggie Smith's Countess Violet.

The current series is a French -amp; Saunders-esque parody of those early episodes, characters courtesy of Victoria Woods' Acorn Antiques, sentiments copyright Hallmark greeting cards.

Butlers and maids float eerily around huge rooms like purposeless Jeeves', occasionally trading anxious, baffled glances before slipping back out.

Hands fly melodramatically to foreheads because Sir's shirt has been placed on the wrong ironing pile. Young men trade snarls at the dinner table like territorial dogs, while older women smile mystifyingly beatifically at them.

I also wonder if writer Julian Fellowes is in the huff with Dan Stevens' after Stevens spoke in not wholly grave tones about his character Matthew jumping miraculously out of his wheelchair in a sequence about as credible as Bobby's dream in Dallas.

The 'will they won't they' love story Matthew shared with Michelle Dockery's Lady Mary was once Downton's lifeblood, but has been hastily concluded and now just sort of hangs around, like the smell of bad prawns trapped inside a curtain hem. Not so jolly good Fellowes.

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