Proud vs. Outrage: All in a days work for 'Downton Abbey'


It’s been what can easily be described as a roller coaster week for Downton Abbey. Still riding the incredible 3+ year pop-culture high in the States as viewers try to avoid all forms of social media and eagerly await the series 4 PBS premiere on January 5, 2014, some UK viewers are bordering on outrage and have threatened a future boycott over events that unfolded during last Sunday’s broadcast of episode 3.
 
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UK television critics indirectly received a heads up last week when advance screening copies were not made available for last Sundays episode that something bad was about to happen. The last time that occurred was the final episode of series 3…and we all know what happened at the end of that episode, which aired on Christmas Day in the UK. While the Twitter universe exploded following the broadcast with complaints ranging from ‘you’ve spoiled this for me’ to ‘I’m never watching again, you’ve jumped the shark’ to writer/creator Julian Fellowes being accused of merely trying to ‘spice things up’, the actors involved in the controversial episode felt ‘proud’, described it as ‘bold and risky’ and denied any complaint of sensationalism or being of the lowest common denominator. Having just seen the episode in question and given the fact that most of the outrage continues to be reported daily in the Daily Mail, I’m completely on the side of the writer of and the actors involved in the episode as opposed to those who have ‘officially’ complained to UK television watchdog/regulator, Ofcom.

Part of the outrage can’t help but be a result, partially, of just how popular the series is and how viewers get attached to certain inhabitants of Downton whether it be above or below the stairs. After 3+ years, viewers are more than emotionally attached. Fortunately, with the exception of Dame Maggie Smith, a majority of the cast were signed up for two series leading up to the current series we can surmise that there won’t be any shocking exits this time around and we won’t experience the same sort of angst that was felt last 25 December and February 17.

UK viewers feel free to talk amongst yourselves and, if possible, please share your thoughts of the episode in question without revealing any spoilers. It’s a long way until January 2014 to have to avoid facebook and Twitter.

  • JeannieBinVA

    As a US viewer (alas), I haven’t seen the episode or any of Season 4, but I am aware of the controversy. It does seem to me, though, that some 200 complaints out of approximately 10 million viewers shows that the negative response and/or outrage is truly minuscule. And some of it is quite possibly artificially ginned up by those who have a stake in this particular issue being hidden from view and ignored.

    Those who complain because they think of DA as some kind of anodyne, removed-from-reality fairy tale clearly haven’t been paying attention. The sinking of the Titanic, the war and all its bloodshed and loss, the Spanish flu epidemic, the harsh life of unwed motherhood and the unfeeling attitudes toward women forced into prostitution, and the all-too-common fact of women dying in childbirth, are just a few of the true and truly traumatic events and issues this series has addressed. Indeed, the entire show is premised on the inequities of inheritance law that women faced at that time, and the uncertainties this posed not only for women but for entire families, their servants/employees/tenants, and their communities. So where on earth do people get this idea that Downton Abbey is only about the “nice” things in life?

    The event depicted in last week’s episode is, unfortunately, an aspect of many women’s and girls’ lives, then and now. To describe it as “sensationalist” or “gratuitous” is an underhanded attempt to force Fellowes and Downton Abbey to become false and dishonest. I believe that the vast majority of viewers would find any move in that direction quite disheartening.