Downton Abbey Returns With More High-Society Secrets — And Sex!
‘Downton Abbey’ returns for season 5You can chalk the authenticity up to Alastair Bruce, the historical adviser, who makes sure everyone’s backbone is straight, there’s no handshaking or clicking of glasses. “The aristocrats that ruled in England, and their servants, lived by a very odd set of rules,” explains Bruce in “The Manners of Downton Abbey,” which will follow the 9 p.m. The ’20s may not be roaring quite yet inside those aristocratic walls, but the less restrained, more irreverent flapper decade certainly makes its presence known in season five of the popular British drama.If you don’t count Internet catnip like this comedy sketch George Clooney did with the cast of “Downton Abbey,” then it’s been about 10 months since we’ve had any update on the Crawley family and their abnormally devoted household staff.
Dust off the teapot and dig up that recipe for scones: “Downton Abbey” returns Sunday to begin its fifth season as the undisputed star of the PBS lineup.You can visit Britain’s Highclere Castle, the stand-in for the popular “Downton Abbey” of PBS fame, of course, but soon you will be able to stay on the grounds in newly restored buildings called London Lodge.
In the Season 5 premiere of PBS’s smash period drama Downton Abbey, the eldest Crawley daughter (Michelle Dockery) considers a gentleman caller’s indecent proposal as they converse in her bedroom. Other than the Clooney video providing a sneak peek at Lady Mary’s period-appropriate bobbed haircut, and the cast offering up some innocuous hints about season 5 during their recent stateside visit, “Downton” fans can only conjecture as to what’s in store for the Crawley clan when the hit British phenomenon returns to our shores January 4, on PBS’s “Masterpiece Classic” at 9 p.m. The event will be cause for celebration for the millions of fans of the British costume drama, many of whom treat the show’s annual eight-week appearance as something of a national holiday. Restoration included repairing a roof that had given way some decades ago, requiring a thorough drying of interiors, according to the Countess of Carnarvon. They may have been happier when it moved slowly, dwelling in the 19th century — and didn’t operate under the burden of being a ratings force and fundraising asset for PBS.
Season 4 still had all the ingredients that made the miniseries an international hit: the semi-tragic and well-to-do Grantham family in their early 20th century manse, their semi-tragic and put-upon servants, the sly zingers delivered by imperious Maggie Smith as the dowager countess (sample: “There’s nothing simpler than avoiding people you don’t like. They were a secret code that tells you everything about Edwardian England.” Tom Cullen, who plays Tony Gillingham, a suitor of eldest daughter Lady Mary Grantham (Michelle Dockery), said, “I love Alistair. Her one caveat if she is to agree to the tryst: “No one must ever find out.” After two years of mourning her husband, Matthew, Mary is ready to “embrace her life and embrace change,” Dockery says. While 2014′s Season Four finale was mercifully remiss of an 11th-hour shocker like Matthew Crawley’s (Dan Stevens) death the year before, we were left with enough unresolved drama to fill an entire slate of new episodes, let alone a season premiere. It’s unlikely, though, that many of those diehards are happier than the executives at PBS and its affiliate stations, where “Downton Abbey” has been the cornerstone of a system-wide ratings revival.
So read on for a refresher on how our favorite Yorkshire residents closed out the 1923 London Season before we reunite with them this Sunday in February 1924. How to tie my shoelaces, how to gesture, how to stand.” He adds, “Nannies used to put knives here,” running his hand up and down the inside of the back of a chair, “to make children sit up straight,” (which may explain why so many dining room chairs had uncomfortably knobby, elaborately carved backs). “Clothes mattered to the Edwardians because every detail meant something,” says Bruce. “Ladies’ dress was extravagantly elaborate and guided by a myriad rules.” “On a usual day, (the women) dress for breakfast,” says Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates), the lady’s maid. “Then they’ll change if they go for a walk in the morning or go riding, then change for lunch; and then they may change for the afternoon. Fans of “Downton” certainly love catching up with PBS’ most prominent family saga — and its reflections of each decade’s changing times and mores.
This photo released by PBS and Carnival Film and Television Limited shows, Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary, left, and Joanne Froggatt as Anna Bates, in a scene from season four of the Masterpiece TV series, “Downton Abbey.”Froggatt was nominated for a Golden Globe for best supporting actress in a series, mini-series or TV movie for her role on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. To that end, she’s still juggling the two suitors who wooed her last season: the sincere-seeming Tony Gillingham (Tom Cullen) and the blunt-talking Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden). “She’s leaning toward one of them,” Dockery teases, “but both are handsome, eligible men.” Whether either will suit Mary’s standards is far from decided. “The forging of a second marriage is a complicated business,” executive producer Gareth Neame says.
While remaining oblivious to the birth of their daughter Edith’s out-of-wedlock child, they preoccupied themselves with presenting Lord Grantham’s cousin, Lady Rose MacClare, at court to King George V and Queen Mary – and reveling in a surprise guest at Rose’s subsequent coming-out ball: the Prince of Wales. Selfridge” and “Call the Midwife.” For the 2013-14 television year, the nonprofit broadcaster came in at No. 5 among all cable and over-the-air networks in average prime-time ratings, trailing only CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox. The 72nd annual Golden Globe awards will air on NBC on Sunday, Jan. 11. (AP Photo/PBS/Masterpiece, Nick Briggs) ( Nick Briggs ) Mary has committed to living in the present, rather than continuing to mourn the tragedy in her past.
And the rape of maidservant Anna took the show out of the category of escapist costume drama and shocked viewers. “We writhed in our sofas, disbelieving and uncomfortable,” wrote Katy Rink in London’s Daily Telegraph. Basically these ladies spend most of their time changing.” The elegant white tie dinner suits were very uncomfortable, with excessive starch in the “cardboard kind of shirt,” according to Cullen. “They’re so horrible.” In the end it comes down to a question asked during one episode by Tom Branson (Allen Leech), a newcomer to high society. “But why do the rituals, the clothes and the customs matter so much?” Six months after losing her beloved husband, Matthew, the Granthams’ eldest daughter tossed off her black mourning dresses at the start of Season Four to emerge as an active player in the running of Downton. Lord Merton (Douglas Reith) continues to woo Matthew’s mother, Isobel (Penelope Wilton), and Violet plays matchmaker. “Romance,” Neame says, “is not entirely reserved for the young.” Mary’s reignited confidence extends outside the bedroom.
It’s 1924, and the residents of the sprawling country estate are starting to question the conventions and traditions that have governed their lives for so many years. Now the mother to baby George (a.k.a. the future Earl of Grantham), and Matthew’s direct heir, Mary busied herself last season getting her hands dirty – literally! (Who else could make running around a muddy pig sty in an evening gown look glamorous?) But there was no way “Downton” creator Julian Fellowes was going to let the Yorkshire ice queen go an entire season without throwing a couple of men her way. The budding businesswoman is intent on making the financially precarious Downton profitable, and her plans often conflict with the old-fashioned ways of her father, Robert (Hugh Bonneville). “Robert has a morality based on the responsibilities of a 19th-century landowner.
Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) is well out of mourning and intent on getting married again, but suggests to personal maid Anna (Joanne Froggatt) that couples would be much better off if they tested out the physical side of things to make sure the two are compatible before tying the knot. Now, there are Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, et al., not to mention that stack of recordings stashed on the DVR (which stop counting toward the ratings after seven days). “It has been a concerted effort on the national level,” Russell said, noting that PBS had begun strengthening its prime-time lineup seven to eight years ago.
Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) tries her best to form a relationship with the baby girl she secretly birthed and gave up to neighboring tenant farmers. The network started “branding” nights around themes: the dramas of “Masterpiece” and “Masterpiece Mystery” on Sundays, documentaries and news Tuesdays, science and nature Wednesdays. Dutiful characters dutifully displayed their personality traits: The Earl was still stuffy, Cora was wimpy, Carson the butler was curmudgeonly, Bates the butler was boring. To quote Mary, who ends the season eagerly looking forward to watching two wealthy upper-class men fight it out for her hand: “Let the battle commence.” Season Four found the Crawleys’ middle daughter the happiest she had ever been: Edith managed to rebound from her Season Three altar-jilting by engaging in a passionate affair with her London newspaper editor, Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards).
Russell himself was a key part of that, having been the network’s senior vice president for strategy and research before taking the job as chief operating officer at PBS SoCal. Not only is the government now led by a Labor Party prime minister, a shock to the old way of life at the grand manors, but the threat of more intermingling between the upper crust and lower classes can only be a worry to Lord Grantham and his set. Unfortunately for the happy couple, British laws at the time prevented Gregson from divorcing his wife, who had been committed to an insane asylum years earlier. The living area of London Lodge done in sea-foam greens, roses and warm neutrals, has a sofa that invites you to sink into it as you sit in front of a fire (Chesney’s wood burner) and have some tea. “Rather charming prints of owls and birds and what’s in nature” — the countess’ description — adorn the walls, which is fitting given its country setting outside of Newbury, about 60 miles west of London. Only her aunt Rosamund (Samantha Bond) and grandmother Violet know that Edith gave birth to a baby girl, but even they are unaware that Edith has placed the child, named Marigold, with a local farmer and his wife. “She’s trying to find a way to be part of Marigold’s life while keeping it from her family,” Carmichael says. “If they find out, it would be shocking and shameful.” “[Society] could turn a blind eye to a widow having an affair,” says Fellowes, “but it wouldn’t forgive a young woman who got pregnant by a man who couldn’t marry her.” Between Mary and Edith’s bad luck the first time each had sex, Carmichael jokes, “I think Julian is trying to send a message to young women.” Young men in the Downton era may have more sexual freedom, but they’re still shackled by class.
In true soap-opera fashion, just as Gregson took off for Germany (where he intended to obtain a divorce) and conveniently disappeared, Edith learned she was pregnant with his child. Figuring in DVR viewers, Season 5 averaged 10.4 million viewers per episode, down from 11.8 million in Season 4, according to Deadline.com. (In the U.K., a season – or “series,” as they call it – runs for seven episodes in September and October, followed by a special episode that runs Christmas Day. Sounding rather like Sarah Koenig, host of the true crime podcast “Serial,” Cora is grateful for the info but observes: “There is missing information.” Perhaps an investigation will lend some much-needed edge to the simpering Cora. In the United States, the Christmas special is treated as the eighth episode.) Still, the sharp growth in the American audience has been fueled in part by the availability of previous seasons on streaming services.
The kitchen has a stove, a small table and a refrigerator, which will be stocked with items, including Champagne, “which is always necessary,” she said with a laugh. Widowed daughter Mary is going to audition a lover with SEX IN A HOTEL ROOM after she dryly (or wryly?) tells him, “I do love you in my cold and unfeeling way.” Feisty schoolmarm Miss Bunting shares her Marxist views with the Granthams, which seems to awaken the firebrand within chauffeur-turned-aristocratic-son-in-law-turned-widower Tom.
Amid the Downton staff, assistant cook Daisy (Sophie McShera) contemplates her future options and, feeling ill-equipped to help run the Mason farm someday, pursues more education. Best of all, family pet Isis, the Labrador from the opening credits, pops up in various scenes: rescued from the fire (oh, did I forget to mention the fire?) and flirted with by a visiting art scholar, though his real interest could be … Cora? While Gregson remained missing somewhere in Germany, Edith had gotten word that he had been beaten by a gang of men wearing “brown shirts” his first night in Munich. Could Bates have avenged his wife by pushing Green under a bus? “There’s a danger about Bates,” Fellowes says, “that goes back to his time in prison when he was falsely convicted of killing his first wife.” Even Anna worries about his possible guilt. “What happened still haunts them,” Neame says. “As a fan, I hope this couple will get back to the heart of their relationship, which is incredibly strong and warm.” With all these stories in play, viewers are lucky that Downton Abbey, again up for top honors at the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards in January, has already been renewed for a sixth season. After the untimely death of youngest Crawley daughter Lady Sybil Branson (Jessica Brown Findlay), Lady Rose joined the Downton household as the token “breath of fresh air” in Season Four.
Young, vivacious and just a bit rebellious thanks to her harridan of a mother (now safely tucked away in India), Rose brought the Roaring Twenties to the halls of Downton Abbey by commissioning a jazz band to play at Lord Grantham’s birthday party. The weekend guest can explore nearby Newbury or simply enjoy the setting by strolling the park-like grounds. “Whenever I drive in the park gates — it doesn’t matter how long I’ve been here — I always feel I am going into a world apart,” the countess said. “Something has dropped away from me. The ratings for Downton’s fourth season grew 12 percent from the third, and the Masterpiece franchise has risen more than 100 percent since before Downton’s premiere. Sunday on KLRN), explores the pains taken to ensure every detail — from the clothing to the positioning of the tableware — is authentic to the period of 1900s Britain. Lady Sybil’s widower may now be Downton’s estate agent and an accepted member of the family, but three years on, the onetime chauffeur is still struggling to fit in.
The arrival of Matthew begins the central drama of Season 1, the clash between the traditional earl and his new heir, who is part of the growing professional middle class. New series include Grantchester, about a clergyman in 1950s England, premiering January 18; and Wolf Hall, an adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s prize-winning historical novels, debuting in April and starring Homeland’s Damian Lewis. Dockery, for one, plans to stay with Downton until Fellowes is finished. “I love playing Mary, and I love being part of a show that for all of us has been really special,” she says. “None of us ever imagined how huge a success it would become. Poor Anna and Bates: Once again, one of the biggest dramatic – and upsetting – subplots on “Downton Abbey” centered on the enduringly unlucky valet and lady’s maid. After Bates spent most of Season Three in prison, he returned to the loving arms of his wife, only to have her inexplicably pull away from him a few episodes into Season Four.
Alex Green (Nigel Harman) while both the upstairs residents and the downstairs staff are enjoying an in-house concert at Downton by opera singer Dame Nellie Melba (Dame Kiri Te Kanawa). Due to a combination of shame (remember, this was 1922) and fear of her husband learning the truth (if Bates retaliated against Green, his criminal record would almost certainly spell a death sentence), Anna retreated inward – from her husband and from everyone around her. Eventually Bates learned what happened, and the two reunited – and they even got word that Green had died in London under mysterious circumstances in the penultimate episode. Baxter seemed amenable enough – certainly a welcome improvement from the recently departed and nastiness personified Sarah O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran) – so then why was Barrow ordering her to get dirt on the Crawleys at every waking moment?
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