Saturday, December 31, 2011

Downton Abbey to the rescue

Television-wise this was one poor Christmas break here this year. The more channels you have, the less seems to be offered. Or is that the TV programmers are just running out of ideas? Or has my taste changed? I so fondly remember the Charlie Brown Christmas specials of many years ago. One Charlie brown made your Christmas vacation. But help came this year from an unexpected corner: British nobility. And ITV of course.

Charlie Brown knew how to create a Christmas ambiance, although I doubt if he ever realized it himself. Not a loser, not a hero, but nobody knew more about human relations as he does. The Charles Schulz animation series was shown here decades ago, but never made it to reruns. And I regret that. I'm sure the problem is that the TV channel programmers are too young to have known the Charlie Brown. But I do miss him and his friends, even Lucy. And sadly, each year I forget to see if I can order Charlie Brown Christmas dvd's. So, I had to do with High Society on dvd, not bad, amusement without any pretensions, but hardly something for the Christmas break.

Sir Richard Carlisle (Iain Glen), Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) and Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens)

But all was not lost. There was at least one scheduled and one surprise television highlight. We have to thank ITV for bringing us the most beautiful drama series in years. Christmas Eve Dutch public television would show the last and extended episode of the second series of that magnificent Downton Abbey series, and much to my surprise the day before New Year's Eve we were treated to another extra long Christmas special. This series was awarded with many Baftas in the UK, is nominated for four Golden Globes and was selected the best drama series of the year by my newspaper. If you know Downton Abbey, I’m sure you'll agree. There are many story lines, centered around the Crawley family, and the staff of Downton Abbey estate, but most attention goes to the relation between Lady Mary Crawley and her cousin Matthew Crawley. They are attracted to each other, drift apart, engage themselves to other partners, but keep moving to each other like magnets. There are scenes between Michelle Dockery (Mary) and Dan Stevens (Matthew) that have an erotic tension, while they are just dancing or talking to each other. Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern as the count and countess of Grantham play their characters in a magnificent way, but top honours go to Maggie Smith in maybe her best role ever as Violet, Dowager countess of Grantham.

The Christmas Special was worth more as all other offerings on television combined. I'm sorry I did not record it, but that is a great excuse to order it on dvd, when it comes available. The Christmas special functioned more or less as an interlude between series two and three, that will only be ready for airing September 2012. But what a show it was. Women and men alike were glued to the screen. Of course, being a Christmas Special, it brought what we all were hoping for regarding Mary and Matthew. We would not have accepted anything less, and ITV and director Julian Fellowes – of Gosford Park fame – understood that this was vital for their survival. Eleven million pounds per episode, and it shows. I agree, a lot of money, but you get something in return. Dutch producers have to make a movie with half of that budget, but we do not want to watch their movies during Christmas break. Charlie Brown was forgotten. For now.

The Christmas special here on Youtube, while it lasts.

And here's one for the Charlie Brown fans:

Scene from one of the several Charlie Brown/Peanuts animation series.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a bit behind on your blog, my friend, so will have to work my way up. I'm surprised I missed this, as it's not Christmas at my house without Peanuts!