So … yet another Sunday passed. And once again I was denied the pleasure of curling up with my woobie blanket and an episode of Downton Abbey. It’s only been a couple of weeks and I’m not going to lie … I’m in withdrawal. But then I got to thinking about it. And I began to question why exactly I’m in withdrawal.

Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of reason to love Downton. It’s beautifully shot. The sets and costumes are wonderful. And the time period is fascinating. And let’s not forget the social cache of it being British television on PBS, so it’s high brow – which makes me seem super-smart and cultured when I reference it in casual conversation … “Oh yes, well, when I was watching Downton Abbey on Masterpiece Classic on PBS last night …”. I mean, come on, what’s not to love about that?

But, the more I think about it, the more I have to wonder if Downton Abbey isn’t some elaborate joke on us gullible Americans perpetrated by those crafty Brits. I mean, let’s think about this for a second or two. This is a show that manages to make the most ridiculous of story lines plausible – story lines that if we saw them on, say for example, Days of Our Lives, we would laugh off as utterly unbelievable. But when couched in the form of British television, we Americans eat it up. Why, you ask? I have a theory, which I’ll share in a bit. But first, allow me to set the stage by examining the story arc of just one character:  Matthew Crawley.

  • The show opens with Patrick, the heir to the Downton estate, title and (lack of) fortune dying in the sinking of the Titanic.
  • Enter the new heir, Matthew Crawley, who (with  his two expressions of consternation and ecstatic, unbridled joy) manages to fall in love with the girl (his cousin), lose the girl (his cousin), become paralyzed from a war wound (he fell on a wagon wheel when his manservant served as a human shield and protected him from a mortar blast), miraculously recovered from said paralysis, became engaged to a different girl (who conveniently dies of the Spanish flu) who makes him heir to a fortune that allows him, after marrying the first girl (his cousin), to conveniently shore up the estate after his father-in-law loses everything by investing in a trans-Canadian railroad “scheme.”
  • Then, there is the supposedly-dead heir who shows back up with disfiguring facial burns suffered during the war, conveniently making him unrecognizable. His story is that he was rescued from the freezing water when the Titanic sank, suffered from amnesia, was mistakenly believed to be Canadian (?)  and was sent to Montreal (where he took his new last name “Gordon” from a bottle of gin). But then he came back to fight in the war, was injured (the aforementioned burns) and coincidentally found himself at Downton where he was nursed by Edith (the Jan Brady of the Downton girls who was not-so-secretly in love with the original Patrick, but who couldn’t express her adoration because he was supposed to marry her older sister). What to do, what to do? Poor Matthew. Suddenly he was about to lose it all, until, unaccountably, the disfigured man snuck away (possibly because he was an impostor or possibly because he didn’t want to upset the balance at Downton – that was never quite clear).Regardless of why, Patrick is disappears. Hurrah!! And this, of course, paves the way for Matthew and Mary to marry – which they do.
  • But then, they are unable to conceive. Was it lingering effects from the paralysis impacting Heir Crawley’s man bits and if so, what would happen to Downton if there was no heir? How could he call himself a man? Oh, the angst (and cue “consternation face.”) But, just in time we learn that the sticky widget in the whole affair is, in fact, Mary, who (unbeknownst to Matthew) undergoes some sort of unidentified, secret girl-procedure that fixes everything and the next thing you know, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, they’re pregnant (cue joy face). Sure, there are concerns about complications, but everything works and Mary gives birth to a healthy heir. Yea!! All is well in the land of Downton … or is it? (Don’t worry, I’m not going to ruin the final moments for those of you who haven’t seen the finale, though I will do the obligatory “Dum dum DUMMMMMM!”)

So now, with this preponderance of evidence, I ask you … doesn’t this sound just a little like Days of Our Lives? I think it does. But rather than laugh at it or point to the implausibility, we herald it as “television for the mind.” And why, you ask? Get ready for the reveal. I think it’s because Lord Grantham, Mary Crawley and, well, pretty much everyone except for Lady Grantham (whose candy-coated voice is just annoying, generally) have cooler accents than Doc, Bo, and Hope. And if you don’t believe me, consider this: what if all of the above happened, but rather than the current actors, Jeff Foxworthy was Matthew Crawley and Reba McEntire was Lady Mary? Uh huh. See? I rest my case.

Keep in mind, none of this changes my love of Downton – not at all. But next time I talk to a Brit, you can be sure I’m going to ask them what THEY think of the series and if secretly, they’re all laughing at us.

And with that, it’s time for tea and thus, I must depart. Moran … out.