September 21, 2019

NOT IN FRONT OF THE SERVANTS: Long live Downton Abbey.

Americans forbid themselves titles and hierarchy in their present lives, but they indulge their inner lives by dreaming of forbidden past lives. The presidency is weak magic compared to the hard stuff; an ex-president totters away to a golf cart and book tour, but Meghan Markle will always be a duchess. Providing it’s kept in its proper place, this undemocratic recidivism is, as a masochistic carpenter might say, a harmless vice.

The proper place for the contemplation of these matters is PBS on a Sunday night. The unspoken secret at the heart of liberal media is that PBS exists for only two purposes, neither of them to do with the news. One is making children’s programs with a cryptically soft-left moral. The other is buying in ‘Masterpiece’ costume dramas, packed with reactionary, sexist and discriminatory content that makes Laura Linney’s nostrils flare when she introduces it. The first of these import hits was Upstairs, Downstairs, a saga of masters and servants in the early 20th century. The most recent is Downton Abbey which, being a saga of masters and servants in the early 20th century, is Upstairs, Downstairs reincarnated.

The milking of the Downton phenomenon has now produced a movie.

Which seems to have the winning formula, at least for this weekend: Box Office: Genteel Downton Abbey Takes Brad Pitt’s Ad Astra And Stallone’s Rambo, Gives Studio Highest Debut Ever.

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