If on Sunday night you were shaken by an atomic-bomb-level sigh, followed by a sound-barrier-breaking sob, I want to apologize. You most likely heard my friend Mickey (over)reacting to the end of “Downton Abbey.” Yes, on Sunday evening I went to the television viewing party — which felt more like a wake — to watch the finale of the six-season PBS phenomenon.
“Downton Abbey” was a favorite of Mickey’s because it allowed him to watch upper-crust people who behaved badly at times. No, they never rose — or lowered themselves — to the level of the Bravo “Housewife” franchise, but these English swells did at time let their snobby arrogance, pride, self-importance, and class distinction get the better of their good natures. (I’m speaking about you, Lady Mary and Lady Edith, who were hellcats toward one another, weren’t they?)
As I told Mickey, and I am now telling you, the Abbey is not over. Its castle-size doors have not swung shut. The first five seasons can be viewed for free on Amazon Prime, and, you know as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, the full series DVD box set is already in the works. So, you will always have a countryside estate to visit and to lose yourself within.
Another reminder of the series potency and poignancy, which you don’t have to wait for, is the North American Bear lineup of Abbey teddy bear characters. They’re all here, waiting to be swept up and transported home. North American Bear has versions of Lady Mary, Cora and Robert Crawley, Violet, aka the Dowager Countess of Grantham, loyal and endearing Mrs. Patmore, and a bride and groom.
The teddy bears are absolutely charming in their wardrobe and their accessories. They seem to be simultaneously keeping a stiff upper lip and carrying on, while also begging their American fans for a quick cuddle and a softhearted hug.
That’s what is so special about this Masterpiece Theater presentation. It originally aired “across the Pond,” and its producers wondered if the Yank audience would respond to the cast’s accents, mannerisms, and motivations. After all, we Americans started a little something called a “revolution” about 240 years ago and we definitely bid a very firm farewell to our ruling class.
It’s amazing how all that “bad blood” has been totally forgotten and the two nations have been the best of allies for more than a century since that pesky rebellion. The TV show sparked such an interest in the United States because it humanized a group of characters that ordinarily would be presented as cold and aloof aristocrats. By following their loves and losses, triumphs and failures, we viewers thought we’d come to really know them. (Yes, I realize we never really did know them! They are fictional, after all.) But I am like Mickey in that I feel bereft and a bit blue. These were my weekly pals and I could enjoy their dramatic evolution from the comfort of my chintz-covered sofa.
As you get to know me — and I am a real person, not like Lady Mary or Cora — you’ll see that Sunday night is MY night of television viewing. It’s my evening of must-see TV (“Walking Dead,” “Girls,” “Last Man on Earth” . . . and, alas, “Downton Abbey”). Mickey could never comprehend how I could manage to juggle a love of World War I society stiffs and, pardon the pun, a bunch of post-apocalyptic walking stiffs. It was easy, I’d always tell him. The DVR allows a TV junkie to record everything for future enjoyment, and I always thought that Violet Crawley, played to perfection by Maggie Smith, would make a kickass zombie hunter.
Can’t you just envision Maggie Smith, with her steely-eyed gaze and withering glance, tackling a horde of invading “walkers”? With her high-pitched, nasal tones, and gruff, dry, acerbic wit, she could cut through an army of the undead with her sharp mind and sharp tongue alone.
I’m not going to take the departure of the Abbey and its inhabitants lying down. I’m thinking of circulating a petition to get Maggie Smith onto “The Walking Dead” as an unflappable and unapologetic slayer. I’m already relishing her delivery of her stand-out line: “It’s the job of grandmothers to interfere! So get out of my way, Rick and Daryl, there’s a damn walker to take down!”
You see, Mickey, “Downton Abbey” will live on!