Saturday, February 23, 2013

I'd Rather Live with the Bellamys

After finishing up Season 3 of Downton Abbey and then revisiting my friends at Upstairs, Downstairs, I've decided that I'd much rather live at 165 Eaton Place in London than be stranded at a huge country house in Yorkshire all my days. Oh, sure, a little visit to the country is nice now and then, but really, all the goings-on in Belgravia make life a lot more interesting and fun. Which is, I think, the problem I've always had with Downton. It's boring up there.

Life is always hoppin' at Eaton Place. Upstairs, Lord Bellamy (so much more on the ball than Daddy Crawley) is in Parliament, and politics is all part of the drama of the household. Why, Lady Marjorie's father is even the former Prime Minister. (Daddy's also Earl of Southwold - so, yeah, we can visit a big ol' country place any time we want.) The Bellamys know people. They know royal-type people. And these high-tone folks are always milling around. Poor tragic son James and poor wayward daughter Elizabeth lead the life of gentry-kids residing in London, so never a dull anything.

If you can get past moments of over-acting and don't mind living in a black-and-white video tape world for the first 6-7 episodes, why, you, too, can be a part of the illicit love affairs, real political intrigue, wild parties, royal events, and bastard children that come and go from Eaton Place. Downton? Erm, other than the occasional death, not so much happening, really.

And downstairs, well! As action-packed as life is on the floors above, the downstairs staff provides all the really meaty stuff. Hudson, Rose, Mrs. Bridges, Roberts, Edward, Alfred, and Ruby are the forerunners of Carson, Anna, Patmore, O'Brien, Bates, Thomas, and Daisy, and many of story lines are similar. Hey, that sounds familiar, I find myself saying at some of the below-stairs Downton hijinx. Well, yeah. The folks Downstairs did it forty years earlier. Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh must be shaking their heads in amazement at Julian Fellowes' lack of originality.

As much as I appreciate Violet's zingers at Downton, I'll still throw my lot with Downstairs' Sarah Moffat (or is it Clemence?), at turns hilarious, infuriating, and pathetic but always endearing. (Interestingly enough, "Violet" and "Sarah" are currently starring in the film "Quartet." Downton meets Downstairs 2013, I reckon.) Part of the reason is that I know Sarah so much better than Violet. Well, of course I do. I've known Sarah, Rose, Hudson, and Lord and Lady Bellamy for over 40 years, 5 seasons, and 68 episodes. I've only known Violet and the rest of the Crawley clan for a couple of years, 3 seasons, and 23 episodes.

Yes, I choose to live in the attic and take my tea with Rose, Sarah, and Mrs. Bridges at 165 Eaton Place, Belgravia, London, instead of spending all my days with Hughes, Anna, and O'Brien at Downton Abbey in the wilds of Yorkshire. Sure, I'm happy to visit with the Crawleys whenever they show up seven or eight times a year. Who knows? Maybe someone will break out and do something really interesting.

But my heart belongs to the Bellamys.

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