Downton Abbey Mega-Post

Posted on December 21, 2011

Much to discuss regarding the world of the Crawleys and Granthams, darlings.

First, here are some video highlights of that fabulous Downton Abbey screening event that we got to attend last week:

We wish the entire Q&A was online to be viewed because it was a fun, raucous affair. But we have notes! Scattered though they may be. Strap yourself in Downtonites:

The Q&A started off with the announcement of the four Golden Globes nominations (including two for attendees Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern) and the further announcement that the cast would be going out later to party, even though tey’re all exhausted from jet lag. Then we all sang “Happy Birthday” to Michelle Dockery.

Elizabeth McGovern, when asked about how she’s similar to Cora, noted that she also married an Englishman, lives in England, and is raising “two teenage girls, who unfortunately think, because I speak with an American accent, I’m a bit stupid.  I can’t help but think Cora feels much of the same things. It does parallel my life experience to a certain extent. I’ve always been fascinated by the differences between American and English culture. ”

Later, when producer Gareth Neame stuck his foot in his mouth and said “We didn’t try to dumb the script down” for American audiences, a remark that got good-natured “oooohs” from the audience which left him red-faced and stumbling, Elizabeth interjected with “SEE WHAT I MEAN?!?”

The cast said they all loved the Red Nose Day spoof of the series (which you can, and should, watch here and here), Dan added: “It’s uncannily accurate. I think we have a mole. ” Michelle noted that the actress who played Mary in the spoof is a good friend of hers.

Joanne: “When I read the first few pages, I was hooked. It was like reading a great novel. I couldn’t wait to get back to it.. In preparation for playing the role she says she watched “documentaries on the time period. And I read a book of excerpts from diaries and letters of people in service.”

Hugh Bonneville raved about their onset protocol advisor (who took a break from the shooting schedule to design the Middleton family’s coat of arms) who taught him, “things like, not to flick your tail coat when you sit down because your butler will just iron it later, so why would you flick it?”

Michelle said of Highclere Castle, where the show is filmed: “I found it overwhelming at first, but my favorite room is the library,” which has books dating back to the 17th Century. She also mentioned the picture of Charles I in the dining room, which is worth 18 million. She didn’t specifiy dollars or pounds, but does it matter? “I think things like that gave the aristocracy the sense of confidence that it had,” she added.

She also mentioned that it’s not as fun to shoot there and she doesn’t feel as connected to the house because there are so many rules as to where they’re allowed to be. She sees the studio as the real home of the Downton Abbey cast. They shoot her bedroom scenes there, some of Lord and Lady Grantham’s bedroom scenes there, and all of the downstairs scenes there.

When asked to do a Maggie Smith impersonation, Michelle said, “I wouldn’t dare!” and Hugh said, “I don’t think I can do the sort of nasal contempt,” before admitting he was too scared to make the attempt.

When asked about the more obscure cultural references that Americans might not understand, such as the entail, Elizabeth McGovern offered, “We don’t know what an entail is either. Laura Linney seems to know.”

Joanne revealed that she does a period Yorkshire accent, which she described as, “a bit slower, more pronunciated and enunciated” than her own, modern Yorkshire accent.

When one audience member asked a rather rambling question about politics and the “disparity of power” that the show depicts, Dan asked, “Do you think the disparity shows up more in our show than currently today? I don’t think that’s the case. I think the disparity between the haves and have-nots is greater now than it was back then. And I didn’t know that until I did the show. And after visiting Detroit last year.”

Hugh Bonneville, when the same question was posed to him: “It’s a TV show.”

Elizabeth McGovern: “The costumes do so much of the work for you because they inform the way you move; the way you sit. And on top of that they’re a key element to the beauty of the show. Having said that, they’re not comfortable. I do have a Maggie Smith story,” she added. “She HATES her costume. Hates it. One day she was struggling with her high collar when she said (in a pretty decent Maggie Smith voice) ‘Now I understand why they invented the guillotine!”

Michelle: Some are original pieces from the period. The lace one that I’m wearing in the episode you just saw was so fragile, that I could only wear it for this series and then we had to leave it because it was literally falling apart. It was from 1919, I believe.”

Dan, on the question of obscure cultural references: “When you’re dealing with a show which you don’t fully understand, you don’t get what’s in it; it almost draws you in more,” and referred to his great love and admiration for The Wire, even though he doesn’t always get the world the characters inhabit. “I had to watch the whole of the first season with the subtitles on, but that’s the thing; great stories are great stories and great characters are great characters, whether they’re dealing crack or serving tea.”

As for the premiere episode (or the first 50 minutes of it, which is what we saw), we will offer no spoilers but say that we are definitely thrown right back into the thick of things and we’re a bit astounded at the sheer number of plotlines they either introduced or furthered, as well as the introduction of several new characters. There are some cheer-worthy moments, if you’re a fan of certain romantic pairings, as well as (of course) some heartache and heartbreak. The Great War is underway and Downton is changing, along with all its inhabitants. The war isn’t a far-away thing but something that comes right to their doorstep in ways big and small. We cannot WAIT until the season fully gets underway and we can talk about it all to our heart’s content, offering theories as to which daughter should wind up with whom and which servants are so evil we want to push them down a flight of stairs.

In the meantime, starting on Monday, we’ll be doing daily recaps of all the episodes of season one, just to get us all up to speed for the season 2 premiere on January 8th. We can think of no better way to spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s than quoting great Maggie Smith lines and looking at pictures of stunning dresses, can you? Check your listings because PBS is rerunning the series all through December, mostly on Sundays.

And because we are lucky, lucky bloggers, we received a copy of  “The World of Downton Abbey” by Jessica Fellowes, niece of the show’s creator Julian Fellowes. We couldn’t have asked for a better early Christmas present. It’s loaded with pictures from in front of and behind the camera, as well as interviews with the cast, and historical context for the period and the lifestyle of the great aristocratic country houses of England. With chapters on family life, society, life “in service,” fashion, architecture, and World War 1, it’s practically a textbook for the series, although a fabulous, can’t-put-down textbook. The pictures of the costumes alone would be worth it, but the book is actually entertaining and informative as well. Absolutely a must-have. We know we’re going to be referring to it constantly when we’re doing our recaps.

And there we have it. Much to discuss, Grantham-philes! In the meantime, enjoy all the gorgeous non-spoiler pictures from the upcoming season.


[Photo Credit: Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE, – Video Credit: PBS via]

Previous post:
Next Post:

Please review our Community Guidelines before posting a comment. Thank you!

  • “What is a ‘week-end’?”

    or from the Red-Nose Day version:
    “I just want to spend less time in Eeling. I am personal friends of the Canarvagns, you know.”

    • There were quite a few brilliant lines in that spoof!

    • Anne Slovin

      I’m posher than you!

  • Jessica Rowe

    Oh, it’s so wonderful.  Thanks for sharing.  I am sure I speak for everyone when I say we are extremely jealous.  I think I’ll get out my copy of The Edwardian Country House to watch in the downtime before the premiere!

  • Anonymous

    “Dan asked, “Do you think the disparity shows up more in our show than currently today? I don’t think that’s the case. I think the disparity between the haves and have-nots is greater now than it was back then. And I didn’t know that until I did the show. And after visiting Detroit last year.””

    And I wanted to say that he wouldn’t even have to go all the way to Detroit to see that. He could just walk a few blocks from the Times Center where this screening was held, to see homeless  and other at-risk people lined up every day of the week for a free lunch.

    I thought that the guy who asked that question, as well as the guy who asked the question about Americans not understanding what an entail is, were just trying to make a point that they were somehow above it all. It was a put-down of the show. Aside from the fact that anyone who has ever read or watched Pride & Prejudice or Sense & Sensibility knows enough about what an entail is to get the show (which is likely every PBS viewer), we know how to work the Google.

    But even better than seeing these actors in person, was being able to watch the Downton Abbey episode on a big movie screen. The photography is absolutely gorgeous. It’s almost wasted on the small screen. THere’s a scene where Lady Mary is talking with Matthew, that is just achingly beautiful. And another where guests are walking up to the house at night that is simply breathtaking.

    I feel really lucky to have attended this event. I wish that every Downton fan could see it like we did. 


    • Thank you!

      “Aside from the fact that anyone who has ever read or watched Pride &
      Prejudice or Sense & Sensibility knows enough about what an entail
      is to get the show (which is likely every PBS viewer), we know how to
      work the Google.”

      Exactly!  An entail is explained in the first five minutes of the Emma Thompson version of “Sense & Sensibility,” which I’ve only seen about 200 times.

  • Anonymous

    You guys are the BEST. Loved all the links you embedded. Thank you so much! Can’t wait to get caught up with/thanks to you.

  • Anonymous

    What a charming bunch they are! I think I am going to have to buy myself a post-Christmas present. The book sounds fabulous.

    Like any other self-respecting lifelong Jane Austen addict, I know very well what an entail is, thank you very much. And so do lots of others of us on this side of the pond. Really, don’t they realize by now how addicted to everything British many of us are? How could they be surprised that this show is such a hit here? I was raised on lavish doses of Masterpiece Theatre growing up and it’s a love affair that has never diminished with time.

    I can’t wait for the new season to start. I’ve been rewatching the Season 1 episodes and they are just as wonderful the second time around.

    • Anonymous

      It was actually an American reporter who asked the question about cultural references and the entail.

      As for the surprise of it being a hit, from their responses, it seemed like they were surprised it was a hit in the UK as well. I guess that all of them are jobbing actors and this is their first taste of being part of something that is a phenomenon. British actors, or just Brits in general, for the most part, seem to be more modest (for lack of a better term). It’s a cultural thing.And btw, here in New York, Channel 13 is running a Season 1 marathon on New Years Day.–GothamTomato

      • Anonymous

        You are right that British actors are, for the most part, more circumspect than their American counterparts.

        When you think of the success of the Austen series, Cranford, Bleak House and others like Lark Rise, North & South, &’d think producers would have gotten the message loud and clear that there is a huge market for this type of programming on both sides of the pond. 

        I hope, at the very least, that the success of DA encourages the development of more serial programming. It’s fun to follow the fortunes of a set of characters over time, especially when it’s as beautifully done as DA is.

        • Anonymous

          PBS is the only network that gets it that there is a serious market here for British programming. Commercial American TV doesn’t get it, and even the BBC doesn’t get it. Just look at the drek that is BBCAmerica – which I always think of as revenge for the Boston Tea Party. In fact, when they first started BBCA, their CEO made a point of saying that they weren’t interested in ‘those tea-sipping Anglophiles who watch PBS.’

          But the problem also is, even in the UK, they are spending less every year producing quality original programming. Like our TV, they are taking the cheaper, lowest common denominator route of reality TV. Hopefully the runaway success of Downton Abbey will help stem that tide.–GothamTomato

          • Anonymous

            There just isn’t the money at the moment. The Beeb are constantly under scrutiny over costs when every public sector is being cut and generally dropping ad revenues are hitting ITV. On top of that there’s quite a bit of whining goes on about too many period dramas and not enough contemporary. I don’t see the BBC committing to a long running drama, more likely to stick with 3 or 4 parters. ITV have Downton, so they’re unlikely to do anything too close until they’re done with that. But there’s traditionally something in that vein on one channel on a Sunday evening, so fingers crossed.

            I think the Downton success was quite unexpected. It’s closest forerunner in format and comfort-factor was Lark Rise to Candleford which was quietly but not manically liked so they had no reason to expect the sort of reception it got. I didn’t even get to see the first series at the time as Scottish Television didn’t show it, they scheduled Taggart in the slot instead. They then showed it this year in a stupid timeslot!

  • Anonymous

    “Tlo said: Elizabeth McGovern, when asked about how she’s similar to Cora, noted that she also married an Englishman, lives in England, and is raising “two teenage girls, who unfortunately think, because I speak with an American accent, I’m a bit stupid.”

    While the audience was laughing at this, Rebecca Eaton (the Masterpiece producer) said ‘no, they think you’re stupid because you’re their mother!’


    • Thanks for adding this comment about Elizabeth McGovern’s daughters being teens. My son is still 9 years old, and he thinks I’m a goddess. Sometimes I’m annoying, but I’m still the female he loves best in the whole world.  I’m savoring this because I know things will really change when he enters the teen year! 

      As for Ms. McGovern, I really enjoyed her beauty during the 80s, and have enjoyed seeing her in things like A Room with a View and Downton Abbey!

      • Anonymous

        Beth, I have three marvelous teenage sons, who I know love me and would rescue me first in case of a mass drowning (ignoring that I am the better swimmer and would rescue everyone else).  Nonetheless, their standard response to anything I say is a major eyeroll.  I don’t wish to age faster than I am, but a benefit of them turning 20-something will be how much smarter I will get!

        LOVE this show, and thank you TLo for blogging it!

  • MilaXX

    I’m going to fire up the DVR tonight! So excited and happy you guys are recapping this.

  • Anonymous

    Great!  Can’t wait.

  • Anonymous

    I love you TomandLorenzo!

  • greathill

    one of my favorite shows this year, along with Homeland and Mad Men!  PBS offers all these shows online too so if you can’t DVR or watch Sunday, you can watch anytime on their website.  I have the app on my i-pad for when I want to get cozy.  I found, like most of us dumb Americans, that the accents were a bit hard to understand and seeing it twice, once on TV and the next time online, ironed out some of the confusion.

    • Anonymous

      I always find that with shows with British accents, I have to turn the volume up louder than I normally would. There is something about the way those posh accents are spoken that the words seem to go in their mouths, rather than out, I need the volume turned up louder.

      And btw, I interviewed a British actress last year and we were discussing accents, and she said that they have the same trouble understanding some of our accents.–GothamTomato

      • Yes, I love this: “I had to watch the whole of the first season [of ‘The Wire’] with the subtitles on, but that’s the thing; great stories are great stories and great characters are great characters, whether they’re dealing crack or serving tea.”

      • Anonymous

        It’s all the gravel crunching underfoot…

        • Anonymous



      • Anonymous

        It’s all the gravel crunching underfoot…

  • Anonymous

    I’m absolutely beyond thrilled that you guys will be recapping the show. I must give my heartfelt thanks for introducing many of us to DA. It’s a wonderful show and has an amazing cast. I’ll be searching for the book and giving it to myself as an early Christmas gift. Thanks again, boys! I might never have known about the show if you boys hadn’t recommended it.

  • sooo excited that you’ll be writing about Downton, aah!

  • I’m not a huge TV watcher, though I do like my Jane Austen productions very much, thank you, and I still can’t believe how lucky I was to just turn on the TV one Sunday night and stumble on the first few seconds of the first episode of Downton Abbey.  And that I had enough sense to stick with it and watch it even though I’d never heard of it before and had no idea what I was about to see.  Someone up there was watching out for me. 🙂

  • Wow – even that poster shot says a lot about where different characters are headed as a result of the war. I can’t wait!


  • I would like to take a moment and re-state my ongoing crush on Hugh Bonneville.  That is all. Thank you.

  • I would like to take a moment and re-state my ongoing crush on Hugh Bonneville.  That is all. Thank you.

    • Elizabeth Davis

      Hear, hear. I love Cousin Matthew, but Lord Crawley is just something else. 

    • Indeed. Lord Grantham can have his way with me any day. Especially in (or out of) that uniform.

  • It’s Michelle Dockery not Michele.

    • Thanks so much for your insightful and invaluable contribution to the conversation.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this T Lo! I’ll have to rewatch as you blog the show I totally gorged on it the first time through (watching 2-3 episodes in a sitting), so it’ll be nice to rewatch and hear your take. I wish I had known about that book before I bought my sister’s Christmas present!

  • Anonymous

    “I think the disparity between the haves and have-nots is greater now
    than it was back then.”

    It is indeed another Gilded Age in so many respects.  Interesting to contemplate what a period drama about our era would be like in 50 or 100 years.  I get the queasy feeling somehow that the Downton Abbey and even Mad Men formula of setting up the characters in the first season and leaving the viewers thinking, “Wow, are they not prepared for what is about to come” will work pretty well!

  • Anonymous

    I just adore this show. I’m trying to remember another one I’ve enjoyed this much and I keep coming up short. Years ago my mom-in-law got me hooked on The Duchess of Duke Street and it was one of those few shows where I found myself genuinely caring for the characters and feeling like I was getting a real peak into someone else’s life. I remember one of the main characters dying and how hard it hit me emotionally. It’s been twenty years or so since I’ve watched it and the production value was nowhere near Downton Abbey’s but it’s the only other show I can think of where I became completely immersed in a story. I don’t know if I’d enjoy it as much today.

    I’m thrilled TLo are recapping season 1. How fun will that be after all the crazy Christmas hoopla? Very much looking forward to it. Thanks guys.

    • Anonymous

      I loooooved Duchess of Duke Street! Gemma Jones was brilliant in it.

      If you need another period series fix, I noticed that Netflix is now streaming Lillie, which was shown on Masterpiece Theatre many years ago. The exquisitely lovely Francesca Annis plays the actress Lillie Langtry, mistress to the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). I haven’t seen it in probably 30 years and I’m sure the production values are very much of the time, but I remember liking it very much and Annis was wonderful in it.

      • Anonymous

        Gemma Jones really was wonderful and I cried so hard when Charles died. 

        I’ll definitely be checking out Lillie. Thanks so much for the recommendation.
        Love your moniker BTW.

      • Anonymous

        I’ve watched a bit of Lillie; the first episode had some lovely exterior shots of her home on Jersey.  (Not Jersey Shore!) And we get to see her very arty London…

        Netflix is also streaming the first year of (the original) Upstairs/Downstairs.  Production values?  Some of the episodes are in black & white!  And nearly all of them shot on sets–no real Great Houses to be seen.  Although the sets are decorated beautifully & Lady Margery’s dresses are exquisite. 

        But the series clips along beautifully, with plenty of drama. Initially, the focus is on the staff downstairs–with the upstairs characters being drawn in as they realize how their lives really intertwine.  The title of each tells the month & year in which it’s set, which helps the story’s flow.  (I think it flows a bit better than Downton Series I, in fact.) 

        I hope they add the next series to Streaming; DVD’s are just so difficult to handle.  In fact, more of those Masterpiece Theatre warhorses might earn some $$$ on Netflix Streaming–probably easier than pressing & distributing DVD’s.  

        • Anonymous

          Growing up, I watched every episode of Upstairs, Downstairs with my mother. It was a Sunday night fixture in our house.
          It remains, along with Brideshead Revisited and the Firth/Ehle P&P, on my list of favorite series ever.

          There are a number of the programs previously shown on Masterpiece on Netflix streaming now–He Knew He Was Right, the newer Forsyte Saga, a couple of seasons of Poldark, The Way We Live Now, Under the Greenwood Tree, Wives & Daughters–all worth watching or rewatching. Plenty to see until Season 2 of Downton Abbey resumes!

      • Anonymous

        Oh, I loved Lillie when I was a kid (I even had a Lillie Langtry doll), and the Duchess of Duke Street I just adored, although I was young and don’t remember it very well. The other series I remember watching and loving was Raffles. Upstairs, Downstairs too of course and the spin-off, Thomas & Sarah.

  • Oh, this is one thing I am so looking forward to in the new year!  Can’t wait to read your blog posts about it, which will only enhance an already awesome viewing experience.

  • MN Bajric


  • Anonymous

    Ooooh, I can’t wait! Perhaps our darling T Lo could open a TLo Tearoom for the kittens  while we dress for dinner at Downton Abbey…

  • Thank you. so. much. Can’t get enough! Cried laughing watching the spoofs. Brilliant. Did I say thank you?

  • Anonymous

    I loved Hugh Bonneville’s answer to that ridiculously rambling question! I wish I had known you guys were there as I would have been as thrilled to meet you as I was the cast members.

  • Anonymous

    also I am really looking forward to reading your recaps

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, thank you TLo for sharing your Downton experience with us! Looking forward to the next season and recaps…

  • Anonymous

    I wanna like this show, but the cornball plotting and dialogue and anachronisms just don’t work for me.

    It wants to be “Upstairs, Downstairs” and fails…it’s the Mad Magazine version but without the wit.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the DA update and for the link to the spoofs.  They are hilarious, and brilliantly done, just like the series they spoof.  Everything connected with the show is first-rate. 

  • Anonymous

    Although I have seen the second series, I missed a lot of series one (thanks to Scottish Television deciding we would have Taggart instead!) so I’m looking forward to these posts 🙂 
    I’m REALLY looking forward to your reaction to some events in series two though ;D

  • Oh you men know how to make my day! I believe another fellow-commenter wrote ‘squeeee!’ Yes, exactly. Can’t wait for you posts next week, very much appreciating the mega-post today, can’t wait for the new season. TLo you are Santa’s little elves spreading Downton cheer for the holiday season. ‘Squeeeee’ indeed!

  • Annie Leung

    *Squeal!* I can’t wait for this series to air in the U.S.! I watched it online with some friends from the UK but I’ve been banned from talking about anything that has to do with series 2 until it airs here. Plenty more beautiful costumes, heartbreaking drama, and delicious lines from Maggie. I can’t wait for these reviews 😀

  • Anonymous

    My partner is from the UK and over half of our dvd collection is region 2 so I have a multi-region dvd player. This is a MAJOR bonus because I ordered series 2 of DA when it was released in the UK. I rewatched all of S1 yesterday and started S2. All I can say is S2 is WONDERFUL. I am on the 5th episode now and will finish the season later today. 

    Season 2 does NOT disappoint and yes, there are several characters I would love to throw down staircases or throttle. You guys are going to LOVE it. 

  • allisankelly

    goosebumps, that is all.

  • Gents, I saw a couple episodes from S1 and I am enthralled!  SQUEEEE!  Thank you for bringing this to my attention.  

    One minor complaint, what’s with the smokey/blurry/romantic lense?  It’s not on all the time but used often.  

  • bloodshothalfblind

    i am DYING for a full downton recap.  i have no one to talk about the show with & i am busting over how much i adore it.  thank you for introducing us all to downton way back when <3

  • Susan Crawford

    I just spent a whole day this week re-viewing Season 1, and I am counting the minutes until Season 2. More Dame Maggie, please! More dastardly intrigue! More broken hearts and stolen kisses! More Mrs. Crawley in all her glory as war approaches! More of the Irish chauffeur, the cranky cook, the scheming lady’s maid! And moremoremore of those costumes – the lace, the embroideries, the rising of hemlines in wartime (OMG – ankles on display!) In short: I want some MORE, please!

  • Leonardo Alves

    I’m curious to read what you guys are gonna think about the 2nd season. I found it rather disappointing… 
    Still a good show, though!

    • Leonardo Alves

      Ok, I take back what I said! Christmas special was awesome! 🙂

  • I don’t see this link, but found some (if not all) the QA session on PBS YouTube

  • The season has screened here in NZ so we’re nearly up to date with England! Just the Christmas special to go now and that shouldn’t be too far away. 
    Let’s just say that America, you’re in for a treat 🙂