Saturday, January 5, 2013

Downton Abbey American Style

 There’s a sense of excitement here in America. And why should that be?  Because Sunday is the night they get Downton Abbey back.  People with British connections have been trying desperately hard not to hear anything of the plot because of course, the Brits have already seen the latest series. They've even had the Christmas Special. There's been a lot of grumbling here about the wide gap between the British and American showings and the potential for leaks therein. The world is small after all and the Atlantic narrows by the day.  
  (This is nothing new. I remember Britain still lamenting Bobby's demise in Dallas and my visiting American cousin snorting,  "So you still think he's dead do you?" But of course, these days, the spoilers are just an internet click away.) 
   With the possible exception of hubby, who thinks,  (as I must confess I sort of do too)  that it’s not a patch on the original “Upstairs Downstairs”,  America has fallen passionately in love with Downton Abbey.   We had some relatives staying for the last weekend of the first series and as soon as they arrived, they admitted in furtive tones that they were Abbey addicts.  So we all sat up until late for the dramatic denouement. And recently, at a dinner party, there was an avid discussion about which side of the diner one should correctly serve the food,  “What would Carson do?” someone asked.   I’m not surprised that America has had a collective swoon over the Abbey -  they would, wouldn’t they?  After all,  it was made for Americans. Or  what we've seen here up to now certainly was.
  I don't want to disappoint my friends here too much, but if the last series were anything to go by, the version of DA shown on our public broadcasting channel has been quite blatantly doctored for American viewers.  Which means they're getting an even more fictionalised version of early 20th century British stately home life than their British counterparts are.  For example, A British army officer during the First World War surely wouldn’t talk about his “soldier servant”, as Matthew Crawley did here. He would talk about his batman. But Americans might immediately wonder what the Caped Crusader was doing in the trenches. So I suppose someone, in their wisdom, decided to change the script.   And at another point, a British expression, which sounded like "balls-up", was quite blatantly doctored to dub in a more American one, "mess-up". You could actually hear the join.
    And with all those Americans now inhabiting Downton, they might as well just set the next series in some mansion in Newport, Rhode Island.   After all, that’s probably where the best English butlers ended up.

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