Downton Abbey

‘Downton Abbey’ Season 4 Episode 5 Recap

We find ourselves at the midway point of this latest season of the Decline and Fall of the English Aristocracy — also known as Downton Abbey – looking at our empty hands, wondering if Julian Fellowes is going to take pity on us and breathe some life into the stagnant estate we all love. Things have been moving slowly in this fourth season, and throughout the first few episodes, I’ve wondered how the show could change but suspected it might not. Last night’s episode, however, gave me some hope. … Read More

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‘Downton Abbey’ Season 4 Episode 4 Recap

Things just keep getting more and more awkward around Downton just a week after Anna was raped by Lord Gillingham’s valet, Mr. Green. Mrs. Hughes tries to help Tom by threatening Edna, who claims she could be pregnant after their drunken hookup, telling her, “First I’ll lock you in this room. Then when he’s arrived, I’ll tear the clothes from your body and hold you down if that’s what it takes.” The head housekeeper’s threat comes after confronting the lady’s maid who is trying to corner Tom into marriage. These attempts to scare her into telling the truth and stay out of Tom’s life come too soon after what may have been the show’s Waterloo, extending an unfortunate new trend on the show of violence and threats towards female characters. Is Edna a bad apple? I guess that depends where you feel other characters rank in terms of their willingness to step over others to get what they want. But a threat like that only expands the black cloud that has been hovering atop our favorite estate. We’re meant to believe that Hughes is telling Edna that she’d tear her clothes off and forcibly hold her down while a doctor examines her to see if she’s pregnant or not would be for good, but there is something very wrong with the idea of any person, no matter how evil you might think they are, being threatened in such a way. … Read More

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Ranking ‘Downton Abbey’ Characters by Moral Reprehensibility

Recently at Vulture, Amanda Dobbins produced a list of items that explain why everything bad that happens on Downton Abbey is Lord Grantham’s fault. It’s difficult to disagree with her assessment; beyond the great costumes, family drama, and snippy servants, Downton is first and foremost a show about the last days of the English empire, and nobody is as perfect a symbol of that downfall as old-fashioned Robert Crawley, with his unique ability to screw up the lives of everybody around him. … Read More

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‘Downton Abbey’ Season 4 Episodes 1 and 2 Recap

Sometimes it’s difficult, while watching Downton Abbey, to feel sympathy for any of the show’s characters, be it the various members of the Grantham clan or the servants who run the household. For me, the obvious plot that comes to mind is Bates’ prison stint for the murder he didn’t commit. All we should want is for the goodhearted Bates to live free with his beloved Anna, but he is always such a martyr that we stop feeling bad for him anymore. Downton Abbey‘s biggest problem is that it makes the characters so saccharin and so proper that it’s hard to genuinely like or relate to them. … Read More

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Flavorwire’s Guide to 2014 Midseason TV

Community returned last night after a long hiatus, and with a new helping of original creator Dan Harmon. It was the inaugural punch of a really strong midseason slate of new and returning shows. At this point we’re starting to prefer the January-March run of new stuff to the fall, actually. Here’s all the most interesting shows that will either premiere or start new seasons in the next three months. … Read More

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What’s Obama Watching?

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2013 in TV: The Year Art Gave Us an Appetite for Trash

On the face of it, 2013 was just as strong a year as any in recent memory for the kind of prestige programming that has critics declaring a contemporary golden age of television. It was the year when one of TV’s most ambitious dramas, Breaking Bad, performed its swan song for over ten million viewers, a number that would make any network executive jealous. It was the year when Netflix not only resurrected the too-smart-for-primetime sitcom Arrested Development but also launched two equally intelligent (and arguably stronger) shows, Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards. It was even the year when books on the subject — namely, Brett Martin’s Difficult Men and Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution Was Televised — started appearing to solidify this creeping consensus for posterity. … Read More

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Why Historical Fiction Works Better on Television Than in Literature

James McBride is having a great year, especially since taking home the National Book Award for his novel The Good Lord Bird last month. Up against heavyweights like Thomas Pynchon and critical darlings such as Rachel Kushner and George Saunders, the book, whose plot follows a 12-year-old slave after John Brown kills his master, was hailed as a surprise winner (although we weren’t that shocked). But many of the award’s past recipients (E.L. Doctrow’s 1986 novel World’s Fair, Charles Frazier’s 1997 winner Cold Mountain, Lily Tuck’s 2004 winner The News From Paraguay) are novels rooted in history, some of which fictionalize real-life characters and events.  … Read More

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