Monday, March 7, 2016

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Season Six, Christmas Special, Series Finale

We're finally here. The last singles standing are wedded. Thomas is granted a reprieve.

Old Man Duggan: We are mercifully let off the hook and no longer need to write about a show that's seen better days. Praise be to Allah.

Wordy Ginters: Forever and ever Amen.

OMD: Good ol' Septimus's sincere concern for being seated in the same room as Lady Edith in the Dower House was almost as hilarious as the shocked eyebrow raise after being told how his tips on how to please your husband were going to garner him a full page a month in The Sketch. Spratt's transformation into women's advice columnist du jour has probably been the best and weirdest development in Downton Abbey's history.

WG: I'd watch a Spratt/Dowager/Denker spin-off, provided it's written by Tim and Eric.

OMD: Molesley's moving on up to the teachers' cottages. One couldn't help but think that a Molesley spin-off a la The Jeffersons is in order. I'd rather watch that than a Robert and Cora prequel that may or may not still happen. Give us more Molesley, Mr. Fellowes.

WG: What is the scoop? I've seen Fellowes talk about a Downton movie, I didn't know a prequel idea has been floated. Take some liberties Fellowes, screw the prequel, flash that mofo forward to the 1990s. I could see Daisy's great-grand-daughter being a roadie for Bratmobile.

OMD: Is the scarf slit in Edith's yellowish dress not the most distracting wardrobe feature in the last three years of Downton? The only other thing that comes to mind is when Tony Gillingham walked around with his dick hanging out and clanging betwixt his thighs for three episodes, but that was probably a choice, not a wardrobe feature.

WG: Hilarious. That jumped off the screen. The wardrobe game on Downton is plus-plus, but viewing that weird scarf-hole was distracting me from thinking about how Edith almost blew her second chance with Bertie by being shitty, instead of grateful, at the big reconciliation dinner.

OMD: With each tremor shooting through Carson's arms, Barrow's future at Downton became more and more certain. "The palsy." If Carson knew this was coming, then what the fuck was he doing seeing Barrow off while Molesley was gearing up to become Mr. Chips?

WG: Obviously, Carson was afraid The Palsy would reflect poorly on the house.

OMD: When Bertie Pelham and Edith are sitting down to dinner for the first time since Mary dropped the Marigold bombshell, Bertie says, "I've done a very bad job" of living without her. Then the waiter drops the champagne and menus at the most inopportune of times, as it seems like the dam is about to burst and Bertie's going to unfurl every last detail of pulchritudinous--yes, dear reader, I'm using this in the spirit of the word by definition--debauchery that would make dear Lady Edith simultaneously irate and randy. The true villain of this show is now this jack-off waiter who ruined what would surely have been the lewdest act committed upon a table at the Ritz in its history--a proper animalistic fuckanalia of a transgressive sort that would make Pier Paolo Pasolini blush, shit himself, and die from shock well before he could ever have been murdered for being a communist and/or a shocking pervert. To think a simple waiter deprived us of such an epic and shocking fuckfest.

WG: Carnal beauty.

OMD: Patmore's dressing down of the dumbfuck Daisy complete with you-don't-like-guys-who-like-you mic drop was great. Patmore's secondary "Well, you were never much of a judge in that department" slam when Daisy wistfully thinks back upon the time when she was hard for Thomas was even better. Daisy doesn't deserve such brutal honesty. She should be left to wander the desert with a bottomless canteen of water hung label-less 'round her stupid neck from which she's too dumb to suss out that salvation is mere inches from her whinging, parched maw.

WG: Fellowes should have stuck with Daisy as full-on heel. Cold. Aloof. Irritating. Daft. That she apparently began to warm to Patmore's and Mason's pleading was just another example of the rainbows and unicorns finale.

Everything came up aces.

OMD: So Jack and I jokingly shoot "been there" back and forth while watching things, typically when it is a breathtaking place that neither of us has ever been to. In the case of Brancaster Castle, we actually have been there. It's Alnwick Castle (pronounced AN-ik) in the town of the same name in Northumberland, just south of Scotland and just north of Newcastle a few miles inland from the northwest coast of England. Its previous claim to fame was that much of the exterior shots of Hogwarts were filmed there.

WG: I admire your globetrotting. Sadly, my travels are hilariously banal by comparison. I went to Council Bluffs in Iowa one time. A hair-metal bar called The Joker. The band I saw was On the Fritz. The Joker couldn't hold a candle to the beautiful Brancaster Castle. Which made Downton look like a hostel. The quality of the story-telling careened downhill over the course of six seasons, but the visuals were always stunning.

OMD: Bertie's mom seems like she could double for Ted Cruz's campaign spokesperson. Peter was an amoral hedonist with a thirst for Tangerian prostitutes after whom the position of the Marquess needs a complete moral rebranding. Can I add a spin-off based on Peter, the Tangerian Whorehound, as another show that I'd rather see than The Courtship of Cora Levinson?

WG: Bertie's Mom gives the humorless scolds of the world a bad name. I'm in with that spin-off, provided it's written by Tim and Eric.

OMD: Co-sign.

It's kind of great that Bertie basically told his mom to fuck right off and that Marigolds Two, Three, and Four were going to be springing forth from Edith's loins before the dour Mirada Pelham could count one-two-three.

WG: Bertie was one guy on the show who could be "in-charge" without coming across like a dick. Being decisive without being a prick is a great skill to have. Bertie would destroy employment tests like Molesley destroys cricket balls.

OMD: Larry and Amelia Gray, heinous fuckoes of the highest order. Sidenote: you know you might have run afoul of the virtuous path when you need to consult Google as to which is the proper way to spell the plural form of 'fucko.' Amelia's true colors shone through like sick, greenish shit through disintegrating, years-old whitey-tighties. Moreover, Larry's sunken eyes and pallid complexion makes me think that AIDS was spontaneously borne within his shitheel heart and festered in silence for a handful of decades before being loosed upon every last bloody toilet seat of the world.

WG: I'm just going to sit here and admire that salvo like watching fireworks explode across the sky.

OMD: Can I just say thank fucking Christ that Edith gets the happy ending that she so rightfully deserves?

WG: Hell yes. Preach it. It feels good. Warms the thighs.

OMD: To an alarming level. I'm calling my physician forthwith.

Barrow toiling away for three months in the service desert of tending to Sir Mark Stiles should surely make him glad to return to save the day and hoist Georgie back upon his back.

WG: The new gig was a tad stuffy.

OMD: Talbot & Branson Motors more or less sets them up for some Six Pack action, right? Just looking for the right, rag-tag band of orphans.

WG: I think that episode put them at a four pack.

OMD: Does Lady Rose proffering American aphorisms that ultimately show a more worldly and knowing view than Robert somehow imply that Julian Fellowes wishes he were American?

WG: Possibly. He's not a straight-up right-wing goon like David Mamet, but he's got some elitist tendencies. On the same hand, he appears damn near enlightened at times. Portraying the glacial movement of women's rights, class consciousness, and even dabbling in race relations is a delicate business, it could have been handled a lot worse.

OMD: Especially given how far afoul some of the characters' storylines went and how sadistically he treated the Bateses.

Daisy futzing with scissors and Lady Mary's hairdryer to win Andy's heart should surely have ended in another fire from which Thomas should have saved people, right? That she made a mistake that anyone past the age of eight wouldn't make is a testament to just how fucking dumb and beyond redemption this character is.

WG: When she absconded with the 50-lb. hair dryer, I was hoping that she'd get busted with it and summarily dismissed on the spot. What was more startling though, was her Clar Bow hair-do, which my loving wife Eileen dubbed "the chemo wig".

OMD: That's spot on, Lady Ginters.

Denker's outing of Spratt backfired as per usual. I hope Spratt's column just turns into savage takedowns of old, foolish ladies' maids. Can we get this as an eBook henceforth, Fellowes? When Spratt gave his triumphal, retributive slap-down, it wasn't hard to imagine a world in which Septimus and the Dowager Countess enjoyed a torrid affair while Denker wept at her deserved misfortune.

WG: So many merch opportunities by the wayside. You've got to have somebody, maybe Tim and Eric, crank out a few volumes highlighting a "best of" from Spratt's advice columns. I'd buy it.

OMD: Carson's indignation at the prospect of Anna popping out a kid in Lady Mary's bed was a nice final moment of wrongheaded shock borne from a sense of decorum well past withered. Even after he's handed the reins over to Barrow, he must be the agitated old crank cursing the new world that has impinged upon his sense of what is right in the world. Mary's automatic, emotion-free response to Anna's water breaking upon her carpet nearly made me think that we'd suddenly found ourselves watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers and that Mary was a pod person devoid of emotion.

WG: An oddly stilted reaction. She was too busy quick-calculating the thunder stealing equation to react like a real human lady. Lots of body fluids this season on Downton. It fairly oozed.

OMD: Mr. Mason and Mrs. Patmore are gonna get D-O-W-N.

WG: Patmore, without question, will be a sensuous and knowing lover. She's like a volcano just waiting to tilt. Mason, a guy who wears a three-piece suit to slop the hogs, has no idea what he's about to bite-off.

OMD: With Laura Edmunds catching the bouquet, it seems all but certain that Tom Branson's future is sealed and that said future sees him being balls deep in the editor of The Sketch. Fellowes seems to be leaving no single uncoupled in the finale, and this is the most overt of the sexual synchronicity.

WG: Of course they'll hook up. Treacle.

OMD: Despite its saccharine aftertaste, I will say that the closing scenes, particularly the staff joining in "Auld Lang Syne" downstairs, got me a bit teary-eyed. That the show's last words were exchanged between the begrudging septuagenarian best friends upon whom the show's bridged goodwill was built was touching. A lesser show would probably have last hovered upon younger romantic leads, but Fellowes sent Downton Abbey off with a tasteful bang. There may not have been bloodshed or righteous comeuppance for those not deserving a happy ending, but at least there was closure.

WG: Cheers to tasteful bangs. Amen.

OMD: As-salamu alaykum. The last song to send the series off with is a dedication from Patmore to Mr. Mason with the lyrics representing what she wants to hear from him.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Season Six, Episode Eight

As one suspects in a Downton Abbey season finale or Christmas special, there are scrapes with death and the prospect of nuptials. And Patmore's House of Ill Repute.

Old Man Duggan: Bertie Pelham, Marquess of Hexum. Couldn't happen to a nicer fellow. Stand-up chap, that one. Of course, everything can't happen smoothly when it comes to Edith's happiness, and Marigold and Mary must gum up the works before all is said and done. That said, Edith's blow-up, while lacking the "see you next Tuesday" that seemed to be brewing, felt mic-droppingly cathartic even if it did come from behind a veil of tears.

Wordy Ginters: Boil lanced. Shame is a powerful thing, it was nice to see Edith crawl out from underneath Marigold's horrific shadow. I kid, I kid. I get the scandalous possibilities, especially considering the time, and the family. But it still seemed to carry much more weight than it should have.

OMD: Everyone having a good laugh at Mrs. Patmore's temporary misfortune is a nice respite from family drama. One philandering fake doctor getting some extramarital strange at a B&B shouldn't be that odd in 1925. What B&Bs are for if not for stepping out?

WG: Stepping out so un-strange that the incessant knee-slapping howls from virtually the entire cast seemed out of place to me. It ain't that funny you rubes.

OMD: Carson's horror at the prospect of the family supping at the very same table that the ignominious Mr. McKitt and Mrs. Dorrit guzzled tea was predictably absurd. That said, it may not have been as ridiculous as the rousing ovation that Robert, Cora, and Rosamund received at shoveling scones into their maws.

WG: PBS is missing a golden merch opportunity, "Patmore's Scones" would fly off the cyber shelves. Speaking of merch, I've been saving up for some Downton Abbey figurines. I'll need something to fill the void after next week.

OMD: Speaking of Carson, it seemed like Fellowes used him this episode as a vehicle for showing how small a place the pomp and circumstance of this old way of life had in this changing world. His handling of Thomas showed he couldn't read a person right in front of him. His squeamishness at the thought of the family lending Beryl Patmore a helping hand with their presence at tea was, as mentioned, absurd. His not understanding the point of Molesley wanting to teach showed his real limitations though. It seems his fate will likely be that of a senile old coot wandering around the streets of Thirsk in a threadbare suit and a nightcap hunched over but speaking gibberish in a commanding tone tending to a highborn dinner guest dead since the 1880s. It was a nice moment to have Lord Grantham rebuff Carson's stodginess in an act of reciprocal loyalty to Patmore. One of those nice moments in which the help gets one of those tear-jerking little victories.

WG: It was a solid episode, in large part because Fellowes allowed a partial tear-down of the reverence he's spent years building to honor the culture of the lordly upstairs inhabitants of the castle. Carson seems like the go-to character for underlining the buffoonery and tin-eared tropes of the gilded class. There is justice in seeing Carson painting himself into a smaller and smaller corner. I'm guessing Fellowes sees himself as Lord Grantham, but he's more likely to be Carson.

OMD: Speaking of tear-jerking wins, Molesley got a big one. First the second go at teaching where the kids were eating out of his hand, then Daisy and Bates praising him and speaking so kindly of him, punctuated with a round of applause at the dinner table. The only thing left to go well for Molesley would be to get Baxter's hand in marriage. Regardless, it's about fucking time shit went Molesley's way.

WG: I got a kick out of Moleseley's first day teaching. My family is packed with teachers. The idea that someone with zero training would get turned loose in a classroom of middle school kids is just cruel. I'm Molesley's biggest fan. His figurine is the one that I'll play with the most. I can see Molesley figurine, Big Jim, and G.I. Joe kicking much ass.

OMD: After that first classroom scene, I was seriously worried that he'd fail as he'd had no classroom experience. Things must have been more expedient back then.

How many lives could Mary have ruined if she went without a serious shtupping from her handsome mechanic? I'm guessing WWII would have started ten years early.

WG: It was kind of fun seeing her cut a swath of bile through every scene she wandered through. If Molesley is the character I was rooting for the most, Mary is the one who I wished to see squashed by a random falling anvil, like something from a Road Runner cartoon.

OMD: Given Fellowes's occasional heavy-handedness, I'm surprised Branson did slap the sense into Mary. His patience and perseverance may make him eligible for sainthood. If Downton Abbey operated under the same set of laws that Caligula did, Branson would be buttering up at episode's end, and Henry would be conceding first entry to Emperor Branson, as none of this would have been possible without him.

WG: Kind of hard to fathom Branson's tenacity on that one. He's the moral anchor pulling the family from bat-shit tradition to modern realities and common sense, but Mary was such a pain in the ass, I'm surprised he stuck with it. Probably had more to do with his love of cars. He fucking LOVES cars.

OMD: Mary's revelation at breakfast was without a doubt the shittiest thing she's done in the series's run, at least if you don't credit her asshole's murderous intent happening with her conscience's blessing. Given that, her lack of remorse, and the guilt trip she laid on Robert after Thomas's clothed bath, it made the later tearful acknowledgment that her fear of marrying Henry Talbot sprung from Matthew having widowed her ring hollow. Given the six seasons the audience invested in her, it seems like a little more breathing room was probably necessary if we were to join in the waterworks. Instead, Fellowes loaded that scene so close to Mary deservedly being called a "bitch" either literally or figuratively that the acrid taste of her churlishness was fresh in our mouths.

WG: Bloodshed. Bitch. Two things I never expected from Downton. An emotional hairpin turn to ask the audience to travel happily along from Mary coldly and gleefully fucking over her sister, to being happy for her marriage in what seemed like a few scant minutes later. Maybe more surprising for me was the Dowager acting as the voice of reason to ultimately set Mary straight. The Dowager was basically feeding Mary the same advice as Tom, but of course, Tom is really just a dolled up mechanic masquerading as a swell. Mary needed to hear that advice from a blue-blood in order for it to have any heft.

OMD: The counterpoint to this is Thomas's suicide attempt. Fellowes spent the greater part of this season trying to rebuild Barrow's humanity. Despite having once been seemingly irredeemable, Thomas reaching the end of his rope and later admitting regret to the ways in which he's interacted with the staff in his past cashes in the pity card better than Mary's petulance throughout the episode.

WG: Maybe this is the main reason I dislike Fellowes, for making me care about Thomas.

OMD: Septimus Motherfucking Spratt. Who'd have thunk that he was Cassandra Jones? I knew instantly when they spoke of "Miss Jones's" secrecy that this advice columnist was a man, but Spratt? If Molesley didn't get such a big win in this episode, that reveal would have been the episode's high point for me. Even with the "where the fuck is Spratt?" tip-off from Violet, I was caught completely off-guard. I'm sure all of his columns are thinly veiled takedowns of Denker.

WG: I laughed out loud. It was a beautiful touch. You know everyone at Downton went back to their laptops and scoured through old columns to ferret out thinly veiled references to their own trials and tribs.

OMD: With all the time wasted this season on the completely uninteresting hospital board storyline and the positively awful second episode, it seems like this season could have spaced out the nuptials a bit more judiciously. Instead, Mary gets married four seconds after she destroys any goodwill the audience might have had for her, and the only one at her wedding that anyone is happy for is Mr. Talbot largely because it means we don't have to watch him bang his head into a brick wall any longer.

WG: I'm thinking everything post-Matthew has failed to live up to the promise this series had pre-Matthew. Absolutely they could have focused on some of the relationships more, and shit-canned the silly hospital board kerfuffle. Same goes with the silly police interludes.

OMD: With just the special remaining, it looks like there will be two weddings thrown together haphazardly, with an outside shot at three, if Molesley gets his gal. While wedded bliss seems such a limiting means by which characters can achieve happiness, if these are the rules we're given in this world, may Molesley enjoy it, too.

WG: I hope all the characters get married. Thems that are already bonded by holy matrimony should get their vows refreshed. Pair them all up. In for a penny, in for a pound.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Season Six, Episode Seven

The Crawleys have a day at the race track while most of the servants get time off to encourage Molesley and Daisy in their exams.

Old Man Duggan: Judging from the tea-time light sniping between the sisters Crawley, it sure looks like Edith and Mary are headed toward one last sororal kerfuffle to fill Fellowes's quota for the series. While it seems they should be past it all, Mary's continued curiosity surrounding Marigold and her casual jabs regarding Bertie sure portend a row.

Wordy Ginters: Did you catch that look? Serious eye-fucking. I enjoy the pettiness between the two. Nothing says sisterly love like throwing shade.

OMD: Mrs. Hughes ascertainment that Thomas might find more happiness in another setting might be more true than he'd care to admit. His disposition clearly defaults to underhanded shitheel, but since O'Brien departed, he has been decidedly less horrible. Most of his conflict with staff comes from a storied history of conniving. Maybe a new setting and a fresh start could actually see him change his spots or more importantly find something resembling happiness, roots notwithstanding. Of course, it probably wouldn't have been easy to find many accepting of a gay man as a butler--under or otherwise--in 1925 England.

WG: Thomas is more screwed than any of the characters. Most of them have a new lease on life, or are too old for it to matter much. Thomas is the one who appears destined for heartache and woe. No job. No prospects. Getting the Bates and Anna treatment to an almost comical degree in this episode. He was cold-shouldered and shunned at every turn. Bringing lemonade to a picnic is the basis for the first chapter of Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People for fuck's sake. I was hoping Fellowes would have him step on a rake just to drive the point home.

OMD: Much as I suspected Amelia Cruikshank is a serpent befitting her heinous fiance. At least she is calculating enough that Isobel could conceivably be happy with Lord Merton as it suits Miss Cruikshank's needs. Violet accurately surmising "I expect they'll have to drag you out as you break your fingernails catching at the doorcase" was outstanding and painted a delightful picture that would have been right at home in a Roald Dahl story.

WG: Excellent line. Fave Dahl movie adaptation? Fantastic Mr. Fox is too easy, I'll go with James and the Giant Peach.

OMD: While I read a ton of his books as a child, I've only seen the first adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic Mr. Fox. If we're ruling out Fantastic Mr. Fox, then I've got no other recourse than to go with the other one I've seen.

A few minutes later of screen time after her meeting with the undesirable Miss Cruikshank, the Dowager Countess opined that a month amongst the French should make her long for home. Strong showing early in an episode that saw her exit so early. Of course, the concern here is that for drama's sake she'll end up washed up on some remote island, sans beach ball, never to return for the sake of the show. Given that the S.S. Paris suffered no major catastrophes in 1925 per its Wikipedia page, we can safely assume that if anything happens of that nature, it will have happened because Violet fell overboard.

WG: It would be a Game of Thrones type gut-punch to cast the Dowager into the void. She was the shits early on, but at this point she's on the beloved TV curmudgeon icon Mt. Rushmore, right up there alongside Fred Sanford, Lou Grant, and Archie Bunker.

OMD: The back-and-forth courtship proceedings that Mary puts prospective mates through must be exhausting. Henry Talbot must be the 46th pursuer. Her post-race convo with driver Hank was inevitable because it's the dastardly anused Mary we're talking about, but how many fucking wedding are going to get packed into the special? It seems like Edith couldn't possibly get married by the end of the next episode, and Isobel and Lord Merton aren't anywhere near that point unless they head down to the Justice of the Peace.

WG: One episode and a Christmas Special left, right? The wedding gambit is such a tired and stale move for a TV series. Leaves me cold. At this point, with the head fakes and dilly-dallying, it's hard to see how any of them get to the altar unless Fellowes gets out a shoehorn and forces the issue in the last 2 episodes.

OMD: The racing scenes were decidedly less exciting than they probably should have been, but I suppose that should have been expected. Downton Abbey isn't exactly going to be breaking new ground in filming car racing scenes, but the score probably acted against any tension that could have existed in those sequences apparently serving the function of "let us delight in the marvels of 1920s technological advances" more than anything else. That said, if ever there was a clear red shirt in the show--or in his case, a red scarf--Rogers was set on a fated course toward dead man's curve from his initial entirely transparent introduction.

WG: Man, those racing scenes were flaccid, weren't they? So British. So NPR. Where was Sacha Baron Cohen's Jean Girard when we needed him most? Once again, Fellowes badly telegraphing his punches. Was there any doubt blood would spill on the famed Brooklands circuit?

OMD: With all of Mary's apprehension leading up to the race? No doubt whatsoever.

Despite it being the site of the revelation of Andy's illiteracy, the testing-break picnic was a nice scene. It's weird how refreshing it is to see the staff enjoying an afternoon in a meadow out of uniform and just enjoying each other's company. Of course it also serves the purpose of exonerating Thomas of any wrongdoing, as Patmore knows why Carson was amping up the prodding of Thomas to find other work. Carson's stodginess upon Thomas's return to find the couple Carson furtively enjoying a seat in the library still shows his desire to rid the house of him, but at least there was a moment of communal staff respite from their work cave.

WG: For me, that picnic was an example of the satisfying pay-off you can achieve when good character work is established early on. I think Boardwalk Empire in particular was great at doing this type of thing. Because the characters are sturdy and fleshed out, it's enjoyable just watching them do shit that isn't obviously driving the plot forward. Mundane day-to-day scenes work in service to the story because the characters are established and three dimensional. You want to hang with them because you like them. It's a shame the show didn't develop more in that direction, instead of the tired old bullshit with Mary playing the dating game, and the Bates' various Making a Murderer sideshows.

OMD: While believing Mr. Dawes's statement as to Molesley's test scores being better than some Oxford and Cambridge grads is a tall order, his finally getting a victory was such a relief. The heart of the last couple seasons gets his deserved exit from service. This is something that would be too bad if there weren't just two episodes left, but as the series is eying the finish line, this is fantastic.

WG: Fuck yes.

OMD: Molesley's position presumably being vacated and Andy aspiring to pig farming means Thomas's job search has probably been for nothing. The underbutler will simply have to do everything that the butler and valet don't do.

WG: A possible ray of light for Thomas. Why not?

OMD: Septimus Spratt: Bringer of Isis, Jr. The look on Robert's face as he ran to embrace that furry little shit machine was that of a five-year-old boy. His eagerness to bring the untrained pup upstairs can be directly tied to the zero shits that he'll have to pick up. The rest of the servants will eye that dog with the disdain that they usually reserve for Thomas.

WG: It reminded me of a three or four episode run a few seasons back when it was pretty evident that Lord Grantham preferred Isis to Edith. Fellowes should have edited in a shot of someone downstairs rolling their eyes, or at least looking peeved at the idea of hauling dog shit and incessantly scrubbing shit stains out of the carpet.

OMD: Hopefully the last shot of the show is an old Thomas feebly scrubbing a dilapidated rug with adult George wandering around the manor in an open bathrobe, boxers, and a stained wife beater muttering to himself about that damned rock and roll.

Patmore's plan for Carson preparing the dinner was fucking high art. It made every second of oblivious assholery he doled out pay off spectacularly. Hughes continuing to pile work onto his plate was gold. Judging by the man hiding in the bushes with a notepad and camera, Patmore's evil genius will see a karmic comeuppance in the next episode, unless Fellowes is tossing us one last misdirect. Maybe her bed and breakfast makes Michelin, and Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon visit it 85 years later.

WG: That's a crossover I'd love to see. Coogan and Brydon fucking with each other in Patmore's B&B? I'm in. Why isn't Coogan HUGE over here? I think Saxondale is considered a minor work, and it's fucking genius. Jesus Christ, a guy like Seth MacFarlane is relatively huge, and I can't even easily access Alan Partridge stuff. Almost makes me think Trump is on to something.

OMD: Nearly all of the Steve Coogan stuff is currently available on Hulu. Everyone should brush up now.

Two more episodes. Any bold predictions past the presumed triple wedding?

WG: I'm going to pull a 180 and root for more deaths than weddings.

OMD: Same here.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Season Six, Episode Six

This episode may as well just have been titled Much Ado About a Home Tour. Once again, we're a week late, all of which is my OMD's fault. Once again, we come requesting your patience, but with the promise that this week's proper entry should come soon, as it's already being worked on in earnest.

Old Man Duggan: With Violet's prodding Isobel about her resolve in regards to Lord Merton, it makes me wonder if there will be a wedding in each of the final few episodes. It'd be pretty stunty, but it seems clear both Ladies Mary and Edith will walk down the aisle before the curtain closes on Downton Abbey. Will a third be shoehorned into this cracked glass slipper?

Wordy Ginters: Since the show has gone from something truly great in Season One to a vehicle for soap opera styled melodrama and will they or won't they games, I'd say it's entirely possible. How about a marriage for grit's sake: Donk and a coffin?

OMD: Seems like that could easily happen.

Daisy's jealousy over everyone else paying Mr. Mason attention is so irritating. My initial instinct was to say it's the most irksome storyline that the show has entertained, but then I remembered Denker. And Edna. And Ethel. And Miss Bunting. And that Daisy has had plenty of other irritating as fuck character arcs. And this all makes no mention of the myriad occasions in which Julian Fellowes threw a tree branch in the front bike tire of Bates and Anna's lives because apparently that is the only place from whence drama can originate on this show. At least with Thomas and O'Brien, their transgressions were so odious as to draw the viewer's ire. This petty storyline and many others swirling around in the aforementioned characters' histories do little more than give the viewer indigestion.

WG: Spot on with the plot goofiness. As you astutely point out, the venom for O'Brien and Thomas was organic, it felt natural to the story and the way the characters had been developed. The irritating shit Daisy is doing comes out of left field, or ebbs and flows in a way that totally rings false. Her behavior doesn't really operate in service to the way her character has been portrayed.

OMD: The look of abject shock and overwhelming horror at Lord Grantham's suggestion in jest that they'd have to show Lady Mary in the bath for the visitors to get their money's worth was brilliant. That single moment made this entire episode worth watching.

WG: That was an odd moment. I'd like Grantham more if he had a stronger habit towards the provocative.

OMD: Fucking Carson's continued prodding about the shortcomings he perceives in Hughes's keeping of a house are going to get him smothered to death in his sleep. And I'd posit that Hughes would best justified. Patmore's line about how Hughes "always knew he was old to be trained as a husband" sums it all up quite succinctly.

WG: I'm not sure why Fellowes decided to turn Daisy and Carson into such dicks, but he's done a good job of it. At least it feels organic for Carson to be an oblivious douche when it comes to domesticity. I suspect it will give Hughes a chance to let him redeem himself after some gentle yet firm reproach.

OMD: Bates's insistence that the bill from Dr. Ryder--who is clearly Mitch Ryder's father--has to be a set-up for jaw-dropping sticker shock, doesn't it? Ryder's services surely cost as much as an Aston Martin, no?

WG: Bates, methinks thou dost PRIDE to much. Why are you living back at Downton Anna and Bates? Because we spent our last pound paying off the doctoring bill. It's probably Mary's fault Anna is having complications with her pregnancy anyway, on account of the gravitational waves emanating from Mary's black-hole anus. Not even light escapes.

OMD: Scientists are hard at work to try to detect a correlation between the two.

Robert inferring Cora was no spring chicken must land him in the low-stress hand-job doghouse, right?

WG: I'm guessing Robert has been on the HJ diet ever since his ulcer exploded. A little Harper's Magazine index style data for you:

  • Handjobs Robert has experienced since his ulcer exploded: 36 
  • Handjobs Robert has given himself: 35   

OMD: Brooklands has to be moving Branson closer and closer to his fate as an Interwar Brewster Baker / Stroker Ace, right? Which course do you think he takes? Does he have George, Marigold, and Sybil in his pit crew with Sybil calling everyone 'Donk,' or does he go toe-to-toe with a Baywatch cast member like David Chokachi or David Charvet?

WG: I'm all in on the Brewster Baker version. If for no other reason than how impossible it would be to fill the Stroker Ace/Jim Nabors role. I guess that would have to be Molesley.

OMD: I like that Robert and Cora see a future for Edith regardless of her prospects for a well-off mate. Their growth in regards to how they see the daughter they previously saw as an old maid destined to care for them in their old age is one of the most pleasant developments of the show.

WG: I'm happy for Edith. She's transitioned from pariah to the daughter most in touch with reality.

OMD: The family's alarming lack of knowledge about the house was outstanding. I loved that the villagers got the least informed tour ever. Molesley's attempt to step in tipped off that he clearly knew more about the house than any of its noble inhabitants.

WG: Of course he did. He's a fucking superman. Whether it's on the cricket grounds, the classroom, or a public works project, Molesley is the man with the answers.

OMD: Charles Barry, the architect mentioned, did remodel Highclere Castle from 1842-1850, though his alterations in the Elizabethan style were done to the exterior of the building. The interiors were finished in 1861 by Thomas Allom, who worked with Barry when Barry later rebuilt Westminster Palace. Barry also renovated Trafalgar Square. His mark was left all over England.

WG: Nice.

OMD: Violet's tantrum was in character, I suppose, but it did ring a bit hollow. That probably owes to the less than enthralling arc that seems finally to be drawing to a close with the hospital ruling mercifully coming down.

WG: The Dowager is such a fan of decorum, I'm not sure I believe that she'd lose her cool in front of the great unwashed. But thank god this hospital foolishness can be put to bed. Let's full steam ahead to the multi-wedding.

OMD: Miss Cruikshank cannot be on the level, can she? She must be planning to cook a stew with Lord Merton and Lady Isobel as the primary ingredients. If she is to marry that shitheel Larry Grey, she has to be a vile as he is.

WG: Cruikshank = British for "crooked as a corkscrew."

OMD: I guess a history of sowing seeds of discontent means this tutoring behind closed doors equals bone zone misunderstanding is what he inevitably must reap, but it would be so much more satisfying to see Thomas get his comeuppance for committing an actual transgression worthy of his ouster from the house. Instead, he pulls a Tim Riggins, doesn't proffer another's secret as the information that would set him free, and gives himself up to a power outside his control. Is this really the end of Thomas at Downton?

WG: I doubt that Thomas is gone just quite yet. They've been threatening to can his ass for so long that it would seem soft to ditch him for being too proud and too stubborn. Come on Thomas, after all the shit you've pulled, you can't really have your feelings hurt because everyone thinks you are trying to bone Andy? On the other hand, it illustrates how you've got to be a well-adjusted motherfucker to be gay in this world.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Season Six, Episode Five

Work delayed this entry a full week, but it will be followed quickly with this week's entry. The episode starts with more of the same--Daisy whining about Mr. Mason (despite a favorable resolution to his situation), forboding about Donk's demise, and hospital politic tedium--but at least there's the promise of Minister of Health and future Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain coming for a visit.

Old Man Duggan: Dinner at Casa de Carson went well. Undercooked lamb and bubble and squeak--which is a shallow fried dish of leftovers from a roast consisting primarily of potatoes and cabbage that can also have carrots, peas, Brussels sprouts, and other leftover vegetables tossed in--somehow doesn't seem like a dish the stodgy and particular Mr. Carson would like too much. The tamped down tension and resentment from Elsie's side of the table was a delight. Something tells me a tumble twixt the sheets is not in Carson's immediate future.

Pre-Mickey slipping
Wordy Ginters: Poor Carson. Looks like he'll be learning the hard way. From the altar to sleeping on the couch in record time. Oddly, I was a fan of his boorish stodginess. It rings true. To see Carson and Hughes glide into a Cliff and Clair Huxtable simpatico vibe would be discordant. You know Carson has to be a throbbing pain in the ass to deal with. Hughes, as per usual, is a goddamn saint.

OMD: There seems to be a lot of build-up with Patmore feeling at least a little envious of Mrs. Hughes becoming Mrs. Hughes-Carson. Something tells me that the continued presence of Sergeant Willis may be Fellowes's attempt to make a love connection for another potential old maid. I'm sure Patmore would go wild for a distinguished gentleman in uniform.

WG: Like a redheaded moth inexplicably drawn to flaming dogshit. Patmore is one of the few decent characters on the show, and apparently she's never been carnal. She deserves a good old fashioned steamrolling. I think Fellowes can really cover some new ground with the last few episodes, featuring lots and lots of lusty action between 50- and 60-year-olds. How about a sexy montage of Carson and Hughes, Patmore and Sergeant Schultz, Bates and Anna, and maybe a splash of sappho with Isobel and the Dowager all tangled up in a love knot? Underline the scene with "Every 1's A Winner" by Hot Chocolate.

OMD: I liked Branson's explanation for how the balanced personalities of Sybil and himself made for a blissful (albeit brief) union. Clearly this is laying the groundwork for Mary to evaluate Talbot with a fresh set of eyes. Let's just hope she doesn't sic her murderous asshole on poor old Hank. It's claimed one and likely two men's lives. Let us all hope the killing has stopped.

WG: That thirsty asshole isn't done yet. I fear more men will be dispatched into the yawning void via its erotic clench. Branson's ode to relationships was surprisingly solid insight. That guy should shitcan his wrenches and his car fetish and think about setting up shop as a marriage counselor or a therapist.

OMD: Why can't Fellowes just let a cancerous devil like Denker shuffle off into Interwar poverty? I was so happy when I thought she was gone. If only it wasn't for Septimus's shitbag nephew dropping by unannounced and on the lam. Would anyone have blamed Clarkson if he produced a scalpel from his bag and cut her to bits? I suspect he'd have gotten a slow-clap from the townsfolk to rival the letter jacket scene in Lucas.

WG: Corey Haim, where are you now when we need you the most? Septimus Spratt sounds like a Harry Potter character. To cute by half Fellowes.

OMD: "Shall I go back in an ask him to plead not guilty after all?" Molesley bringing the quick quips. What doesn't he bring to the show now? I can't wait to watch the Molesley and Baxter spin-off in which they start a bicycle rental business on Crete to get away from the hustle and bustle of service.

WG: The rebirth of cool for my main man Molesley continues to shock. Just like the anxiousness I feel at the inevitable doom awaiting Anna and Bates, I keep wondering when Fellowes is going to drop the hammer on Molesley. He spent too many episodes and too many scenes making him look like a dope to let him off the hook this gallantly in the final season. He'll spend the next episode with 12 yards of toilet paper trailing off his shoe, and no one will have the guts to tell him except Thomas.

OMD: And in a decidedly derisive way, I'm sure.

Branson's cutting through the veiled courtship bullshit was hilarious. "Why can't you just say, 'I'd love to spend more time with you. When can we do it?'" Mary's not getting any younger and if the battlefield's worth of down men behind her is any indication, there can't be many eligible bachelors left who've not been felled by her sword.

WG: "These dumb proles have some good qualities, although they are coarse as hell." Julian Fellowes, apparently.

OMD: Speaking of courtship, it sure looks as though Lady Edith will finally find happiness. The Beer Hall Putsch already happened, so Bertie can't be killed there. What horrible fate could befall him to rob Edith of another man?

WG: Death by a hail storm of toads a la Magnolia. Or is it a la mode? Frog a la mode.

OMD: If I had the photoshop skills and this weren't a full week late, I guarandamntee you that this would be highlighted with a picture of frog and ice cream.

So it appears as though Barrow's redemptive arc this season is in serving as Andy's tutor.

WG: I want Thomas to be the bad guy. Please Fellowes please, keep the black hat firmly on his head. Is there anything more darkly evil than a mediocre tutor?

OMD: The anti-Molesley.

So the buildup of Robert's failing health paid off big time. Even if this doesn't spell his complete demise, blood spewing volcanically from his mouth across the white linens on the table was quite the dramatic visual. I wonder how much of Donk's stomach they removed? I'm glad Molesley got one light-hearted jab in when Thomas revealed that despite his assumption that he wouldn't care, he was relieved to hear that Robert's surgery seemed a success. "Don't let the other animals find out, or they'll pounce."

WG: An impressive bit of bloodshed for Downton. Were you thinking Alien or Hateful Eight?

OMD: Oh, Alien for sure.

I really hope Mary piecing together Marigold's origins doesn't go the way that the score over that last scene indicated it would. I would suspect that her evolution as a person would have softened her feelings toward her last living sibling, but who knows with her? She certainly could backslide into her old ways, though I suspect the music and Mary's expression at episode's end were a misdirect by Fellowes, and he'll use this opportunity to show how Mary's grown.

WG: I think you've got it pegged. Unfortunately. You can't have every character work their way to some nice and tidy resolution. Thomas is humanized. Mary has grown. Edith finds success. That means there has to be some ballast on the other side of the ledger, right? Granthan dies? Anna and Bates get thrown back in the mud? Regardless, I admit I'm a sucker because the blood bath at the end of this episode has me eager to see the next episode. Something I haven't felt for awhile.

OMD: Indeed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Season Six, Episode Four

While the Carson's away, the Thomas will play butler. An old maid comes to dinner. Anna and Lady Mary run off in the dark of night to try to save the baby Bates.

Old Man Duggan: Can I just say what a delight it was to have Branson back for a full episode? It is almost as though an amputee suddenly got its leg back and started walking about normally again. Was this a vintage-quality episode? Probably not, but having Allen Leech back on the show cut the second-guessing why I was still devoting energy to this show evaporate into the ether.

Wordy Ginters: I'm still second guessing. But good to see a chubbier Branson back in the mix regardless of my Downton doubt. The burgeoning race car fixation is fun. You see Josh, he used to be the lowly car guy at Downton way back in the early days when the show was engaging rather than just a habit.

OMD: So it took five minutes for Sergeant Willis to make an appearance. The busiest cop in Yorkshire. The only cop in Yorkshire. This shitbird who screwed Baxter over must possess a silver tongue and a golden rod what with his ability to get women to do his dirty work . As his name was Mr. Coyle, we have to assume that Julian Fellowes is giving a sly nod to Brendan Coyle, don't we? What does this say about our dear Mr. Bates in real life?

WG: You know all you need to know about Brendan Coyle by the way he makes your thighs tingle when he prowls through a scene. The man exudes a powerful sexual magnetism. Fellowes saddled him with a leg brace and then a cane in a futile attempt to dampen Coyle's natural sex powers lest they distract viewers from the finer subtleties of the plot. Now in the final season, Fellowes is throwing a Hail Mary via a thinly veiled name-check. It's like trying to put a spigot on Niagara Falls.

OMD: "'All that's needed for evil men to triumph is that good men do nothing.'" Molesley's roughly quoting Irish philosopher and father of modern conservatism Edmund Burke there. It's funny that Fellowes has one of the middle-aged folks living quaintly in servant's quarters quoting a man whose ideology would want to protect the institution that has largely kept poor Molesley down.

WG: Nice legwork. I've heard that quote many times but always assumed it was a post-WWII response to Hitler, or maybe Don Wakamatsu and Pedro Grifol discussing Ned Yost's proclivity to bat Alcides Escobar in the lead-off spot. More astonishing to me is the continued hot streak that Moseley is rolling on. He hasn't fumbled anything in several episodes. Carson hasn't shamed him for months. He's tutoring Daisy and even acting as Baxter's consigliere in her dealings with the buffoon Sergeant Willis. By season's end, he'll be shirtless on horseback.

OMD: In one of the most unexpected developments ever, Molesley has become the heart of the show at this juncture.

Seriously fuck Daisy. How badly did you want her to get sacked this episode? I was hoping her head would be on a pike the next morning. A little bit of knowledge in dimwitted hands is a dangerous thing.

WG: That would have been pleasurable.

OMD: Patmore was straight bringing it this episode. "You couldn't be harder on those potatoes if you wanted them to confess to spying." "She knows the mystery of life by now. Which is more than I do." "I wonder if Karl Marx might finish the liver pate?"

WG: One of the rare times that Patmore removes her head gear too. Release the ginger Patmore. Release it!

Phone sex may have been foisted upon a minor during the making of this film
OMD: I have to say I'm looking forward to Branson being the pit crew leader to Henry Talbot. He'll be the Diane Lane to Henry's Kenny Rogers. Maybe love can turn all of them around. Of course, I can't imagine Mary will be jonesing to get in bed with a race car driver after Matthew's run-in with a lorry. Hopefully Tom and Henry's love bug will keep their fuel pumping.

WG: Downton as Kenny Rogers vanity movie project Six Pack? I love it. Jesus H. Christ I love that song. I love that movie. I love Erin Gray. I'll look forward to seeing Lil' Georgie Crawley working his magic with a wrench and a socket.

OMD: Can you imagine how great it will be when Leech's hands are at Matthew Goode's ankles ensuring the quality of his sit-ups?

How much do you think Thomas's balls shriveled when he saw Branson and Gwen supping with the aristocrats?

WG: Shriveling so severe it made an audible noise. Like when Mario dies in Donkey Kong. Why must Daisy be so damn dumb? Why must Thomas be so damn unlikable? Once upon a time, Fellowes would go out of his way to make Thomas almost sympathetic, or Daisy almost honorable. I assume he's still got those moves in his playbook, but at this point, it seems stale and steamless and all too predictable.

OMD: Gwen coming back into the picture was nice. Showing the entire family not knowing who Gwen was made me chuckle at their classist tunnel vision. Her story of Lady Sybil changing her life made me long for the days before preeclampsia (and three-year contracts) robbed us of much of the show's heart. If this reminder makes Mary look beyond herself a bit more, it can't have been a bad thing. Edith lamenting the family's not having spoken to someone who'd been in their employ for so long speaks to her own growth by leaps and bounds.

WG: The best scene of the episode. It had some emotional heft.

OMD: With as many times as Robert and Anna were doubled over with abdominal pain, I'm shocked they both made it out of the episode alive. One of them dies this season, right? With lip service being paid this episode to George being heir to Lord Grantham's title and Lady Rosamund joking about Violet being at Robert's funeral not vice versa, his number seems all but punched. Does Ryder's stitch keep Anna with child, or does another key female character die while trying to bring life into the world?

WG: I think Anna is doomed, as she has been from Isis's first ass shot. If the show had any guts, they'd all die in some wonderfully boring way.

OMD: Dysentery hits the Abbey.

Robert wondering what time Mary would get to London was hilarious in its complete missing of the point.

I wonder what sort of train station grab-and-go sandwich Branson ate. I'm sure it was as delightful as Robert suspected.

WG: A hilariously odd detail. As long as you are putting it in there, why leave the audience hanging on the exact nature of the sandwich? Melted Cheese on Toast? Ox Tongue? Sardine? Egg Salad? I want to know what the sandwich choices were in mid '20s England.

OMD: It would be considerably nicer if Mr. Mason's good fortune didn't owe at all to Daisy. Her dumbfuckery should have been his undoing.

WG: How about blithely overlooking the misfortune of the poor fucking Drewe family in the equation?

OMD: Isobel asking Violet if she had her passport to visit the kitchen was possibly the highlight of the episode.

WG: It's always jarring to see the swells hanging around the servants quarters. Just as unusual to see Isobel land a crisp jab like that. She usually works in more civil territory than the Dowager.

OMD: There was something a bit sad about Carson taking one last look at the meager accommodations in which he'd lived for somewhere north of four decades. It was sad more for his not having experienced than it was that he'd be leaving that tiny-ass room.

WG: And sad that he was going to miss it.

OMD: I do have to say this was another relatively strong episode that has me hoping that the show ends its run on a high note after a few rough seasons. What your guess on when Robert croaks? Next episode?

WG: Not soon enough. A little death is just the tonic this show needs.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Season Six, Episode Three

The denizens of the Abbey prepare for the wedding of the century while Lady Edith is away becoming an editor.

Old Man Duggan: After a particularly dismal second episode to the sixth run of Downton Abbey, at least this one was better.

Wordy Ginters: This season has been across the map. A strong opener. A dud. Tonight's episode somewhere between. At this point, Downton Abbey is a yappy dinner guest who catches second wind and obliviously sails into an anecdote they have already shared twice. Are you overstaying your welcome? Hahahaha. Don't be silly Downton. I'm riveted. Still, Fellowes can occasionally bring the tingles. In his hammy hands, issues of class have the not so faint whiff of aristocratic dick waving. It was nice to peer through the fog and see the proles win a battle or two, namely Hughes at the helm of her own wedding.

OMD: Indeed. He still does succeed when it comes to delivering a small, meaningful moment for a character whose life isn't otherwise filled with meaning.

I still can't believe Fellowes wants the audience to care about this fight over the control of the hospital. Maybe there's some historical context that I'm completely missing here that makes this more meaningful, but I did cursory searches to see if there was some larger development in the practice of medicine in the UK in the mid-to-late 1920s, and there didn't seem to be. The NHS didn't launch until 1948, so it's not tying into that at all. In other words, it's just another way for Fellowes to show the tired, aged hand of privilege trying to cling to something, only here it seems only so negligibly relevant as to render the whole to-do pointless.

WG: The hospital kerfuffle is a flaccid attempt to wire up some tension for Isobel and the Dowager. They need some reason to trade bon mots. It serves the dual purpose of further emasculating Sir Dick Grey and Doc Clarkson, a trick Fellowes uses as a shield so that he doesn't end up looking like Archie Bunker. I wish they'd all just end up in the sack together already. Regardless, the faux hospital angst can't be as portentous as Lord Grantham's scene stealing indigestion?

OMD: There are at least two moments every season where Robert expresses discomfort and I become certain that he's going to croak in the next episode.

So fuck it, I don't want to wait for it. At least the Ghost of Branson looming over the first three episodes emerged from the shadows.

WG: That was fast, eh? Do you think he caught wind of the Catholic priest abuse scandal and moved back to England for Sybbie's protection? If Spotlight teaches us anything, it's that nowhere is safe from the pervy hand of the Catholic Church. Welcome back to Downton, Branson, but you can't hide. The sun never sets on the Papal empire.

OMD: If Fellowes is using this pregnancy as yet another way to pull the rug out from under Anna and Bates, I'm going to flip my shit.

WG: Prepare accordingly.

OMD: This Daisy bullshit with the farms has got to stop. Take her out back and put us out of our misery, Fellowes.

WG: Another empty-headed Fellowes prole. No amount of tutoring from Professor Molesley can compensate for that unfortunate breeding. Lack of social grace allows her to cause problems, and she doubles down on the error by wishcasting a solution that may or may not exist. Will the benevolent aristocracy bail her out?

OMD: That the goings-on downstairs at Downton have rendered the ground for story so fallow that we have to suffer through these little exchanges between Denker and Spratt speaks to the depths to which the show has fallen. Holy shit, it's like I'm having to sit through Seasons Two and Three of Game of Thrones all over again. Every moment they're on screen I keep wishing that there was something going on that I cared about at all.

WG: I bristle at all attempts to humanize Denker or Spratt. I prefer viewing them as a physical manifestation of the tradition-laden, shitty, snide, snobbish aspects of the upper class.

OMD: It is becoming abundantly clear that Thomas's skillset is one that will have been learned just a bit too late. These job interviews are not going so well for Mr. Barrow. If he wasn't such a shitheel, I'd feel bad for him.

WG: That formerly grand house was jarring. Bear skins and animal heads. I thought Downton was heading into some exciting territory. A little Killer Bob action might liven things up.

OMD: If only.

Thank Jesus Edith fired that toolbag Skinner. I couldn't tell if he was sweating out his liquid lunch or in dire need of air-conditioning. Still, while this development could have happened last episode and made me happy, at least Edith is finally getting to realize her potential outside of the stricter bounds of what's expected of women in polite society circa 1925 to make no mention of the fact that she's clearly got a mate lined up now, though I doubt she knows this quite yet.

WG: It made me nostalgic for my high school yearbook days. Who knew putting magazine layouts together would make such great TV? Like watching a documentary about Ken Burns making a documentary.

OMD: Is it just me, or is it insane that Sergeant Willis is the officer dealing with every police inquiry in the show? Is he the only cop in Yorkshire? Wasn't he also dealing with the death of the odious Mr. Green which happened in London? What the hell is his jurisdiction? Is he the only cop in the UK from 1924 on?

WG: The show badly needs a laugh track. Every time Sergeant Schultz/Willis enters a scene, he should look at the camera palms up, shrug his shoulders, cue laugh track.

OMD: Has there ever been a scene less in character in the show's run than when Cora flipped on Anna, Patmore, and Hughes? Honestly, I can't remember a single situation in which Cora reacted to anything anywhere close to that angrily and I don't recall when it was ever misdirected like that. It was so uncharacteristic that when she proffered the overcoat as a gift the gesture was lost in the ham-handed manipulation that showed a complete deafness to character.

WG: Right? Everything seems compressed. They aren't creating enough space between some events and reactions to make them seem remotely believable. Anachronistic soundtrack suggestion for the unauthorized dress up with Cora's overcoats: "Fashion" by David Bowie.

OMD: The wedding was nice. I'm sure the wedding night was debauched. I hated seeing that old shit Reverend Travis. Screw that guy.

WG: I had a bet with my wife that Hughes would utter the line "we've waited long enough Carson, get your cock out." I think you can plausibly infer that it happened off screen.

OMD: Molesley's lamentation that he'd "missed everything" was probably the saddest moment in the show's recent memory. Why he wants to help that simple fool Daisy is beyond me, but Molesley's quietly the show's hero.

WG: He's filled the yawning void left by whatever happened to the husk of Bates's character. From class clown to hero. Anachronistic soundtrack suggestion #2: "Heroes" by David Bowie, played over montage of Moseley alternately tamping tar into potholes, dropping tea service, smashing rounders on the cricket pitch, and learning Daisy her comparative history.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Season Six, Episode Two

This week, the denizens of Downton Abbey do little of interest while dealing with wedding plans, hospitals, and bastard children of nobles.

Old Man Duggan: Maybe the passability of the first episode this season did too much to cleanse my palate, but this week's episode really made me question playing out the string with this season. We're too close to the end to hang it up, though. I can say I'm looking forward to this being done, so we can hopefully tackle what we talked about via text earlier this week--a Deadwood rewatch.

The show we wish we were watching
Wordy Ginters: Contemplating the deep and abiding love between Dan Dority and Al Swearengen, the best small screen power couple since Mary Tyler Moore and Lou Grant, will be a welcome respite.

OMD: How many storylines this episode did you like?

WG: One. The storyline that involved Carson caking his pants at the thought of uttering the word "no" to Grantham.

OMD: I liked Carson and Hughes wedding location back and forth. That might have been it.

The first words uttered were at the dinner table about cast members who have moved on. Mentioning Tom--one of the last characters worth caring about on this show--so early really draws attention to what elements the series is missing in its sixth time out. It sort of felt like a "we're going to trick you into remembering how you used to like this show so you'll be more forgiving of the dreck that's about to come" moment.

WG: Good point. Reminiscing in a television series is probably a sign that shit has gone south in the writers room. Did you notice that Mary and Anna also tripped the wax nostalgic, callously laughing at the time they carried poor Pamuk's lifeless husk down the stairs? Cause of death? F2FA.

OMD: I guess there was also the element of Mary taking ownership of her role as agent of the estate. Full-circle feminist progress, small though it may have been.

WG: As far as Fellowes is concerned, apparently, you put a few assertive lines of dialogue in Mary's mouth, dress her in Diane Keaton's clothes from Manhattan, and you are practically setting fire to the patriarchy.

OMD: I liked Hughes giving Carson a friendly little jab about not being able to say no to Lady Mary. I do tend to think that Carson's desire to have the wedding at someplace that matters to them carries more water than Hughes having it at the schoolhouse because it's not Downton, though I understand her desire not to feel like a servant.

WG: Carson being a man who badly needs jabbing. He's honorable in a devout, straightforward, trying his best sort of stilted way. But Jesus H. Christ he needs to loosen up.

OMD: Does Lady Edith not realize that she owns the fucking magazine? Skinner's a shit? Fire his dumb ass. I get that she needs to grow into her role at the magazine, but she's the owner, and there's no reason she would put up with this piece of shit hollering at her and forcing her to make the trek into London only to get yelled at more.

WG: Is it possible she hasn't seen The Devil Loves Prada? The template for how a woman runs a magazine has been established. Alas, Lady Mary is the sister with the undeserved self-confidence.

OMD: Anna went from being this quiet but confident badass to someone who's a nervous wreck over everything. In the continuous wringer that Fellowes has put Anna and Bates through, he's basically ruined her. And her belief that despite Bates's assertions to the contrary she must provide him with a child of his own is so irritating. The shittier thing is that the way Fellowes shits on this duo--presumably because they represent the hope of the proletariat--you know that Anna's stitch will go horribly wrong, she won't tell Bates, he won't know why she's sick from infection, and she'll probably die from sepsis. I'm half kidding there, but it wouldn't surprise anyone if that happened, would it?

WG: Drastic misfortune is most certainly on the horizon for Bates and Anna. A stitch in the neck of the womb? Don't even need to come down to the doctor's office, we'll just do it in the comfort of your own room? Nah, nothing could possibly go wrong. Fellowes pissing misery on the proles is spot on. He's like Jim Nantz.

OMD: What about anything that Bates has ever done supports Anna's assertion that Bates is tribal? It's like everything that's happened before this doesn't matter.

WG: I didn't understand that shit at all. Is it related to his exploits in the Second Boer War somehow? Perhaps the gnarly jailhouse tribal tatt he scored in Season 3?

OMD: This hospital nonsense makes me wish I was watching The Force Awakens again, which I didn't even really like that much. Hell, it makes me want to watch The English Patient, which I tried to watch somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 times (no joke) and have never finished.

WG: My thoughts drifted to Chi-raq. The best political movie I've seen in a long time. Just your standard issue reboot of a Greek drama, complete with rhyming couplets, that takes dead aim on the gun culture in this country, and Chicago in particular. That old threadbare genre. Includes a heaping dose of humor, education, sex, guns, Wesley Snipes for fuck's sake, John Cusack, and Nick Cannon, and the whole glorious mess is bracketed, quite literally, as an emergency notice and a wake-up call.

OMD: The instant the shit with Mrs. Drewe came bubbling back up, it was pretty obvious that the Mr. Mason would be getting their tenancy. Still, having Margie's dumbfuckery taking up screen time was the apex of mindnumbingly melodramatic tedium.

WG: Worst telegraph since Isiah Thomas threw that inbounds pass to Larry Bird in the 1987 NBA Playoffs. Will Mason keep the pigs, or do they exit with Drewes? I've often felt the one thing Downton Abbey lacked was pig related storylines. So, understandably, I was heartened by this week's episode. I hope we see Mason researching boar bloodlines, with Daisy's new found academic prowess at his disposal, spending hour upon hour at a tastefully distressed cottage table pouring over reams of piglet birth weights, weaning weights, loin eye and back fat data, hoping to identify just the right sire. Perhaps he'll purchase a large quantity of semen straws, and they'll get mixed up with Patmore's grocery order. The possibilities are very exciting.

OMD: Or maybe the Crawleys will dispose of a slew of corpses with these pigs now being cared for by a trusted friend who owes them. First corpse? Margie.

Thomas's interview with Mr. Moore was about what you'd expect at this point. Too many responsibilities for one person? Check. Thinly veiled homophobia? Check.

WG: Who does Fellowes despise more, the proles or the gays?

OMD: Alternate answer to that question to follow shortly.

When Lady Mary told Anna that she wanted to help Anna, tell me you didn't immediately assume that she wanted to bone Mr. Bates and be their surrogate. Anna surely would have turned down the offer, but only because she knows that having sex with Mary is as likely a cause of death as simply being a tree on Long Island waiting for Billy Joel to take you out with his car. Also, they shared a hearty laugh at carry the corpse of the buttsexer Mr. Pamuk down the hall to his room. Oh, how we honor the dead!

Lady Mary as The Visitor
WG: The only way to save this season would be to turn this into a British version of Teorema with Lady Mary in the Terrence Stamp role, where she systematically seduces and screws every member of the cast. Final shot: a naked Hugh Bonneville walking a peat bog screaming primal.

OMD: I'd be much more excited to see that.

The kidnapping of Marigold was like the exact opposite of Raising Arizona. Not fun, lacking in Cage, incredibly tedious, and lacking in a cute kid who someone would miss. Apologies if I've said this before, but is it just me or does Marigold look like the titular alien in Mac and Me? Also, did Margie summon superhuman stealth and speed to abscond with Edith's hideous baby? She made off with the child in less time than it takes to slap cream cheese on a bagel. I would have given anything for Mr. Drewe to take a hammer to her head at that moment.

WG: Reversing Arizona. I thought Drewes might take a hammer to his own head. As a parent, there is nothing more irritating than when some relative gloms onto your infant/child and won't give him/her back.

OMD: One last thing before hanging it up for this week: does Fellowes insist that every single character that is going to irritate the audience endlessly be cast a redhead? It's a near certainty that every time you see a new redhead in the cast they will be the most tedious character that you could ever imagine within three episodes. If you didn't have anything against gingers before Downton Abbey, Fellowes is making damn sure you develop a Pavlovian desire to gouge your eyes out every time you see one.

WG: Cue Read Head Walking, by Beat Happening.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Season Six, Episode One

As Downton Abbey kicks off its final season, the first episode finds Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes fretting over their approaching nuptials with Mrs. Patmore as their go-between while Lady Mary faces a ghost from her sexual past. The family Bates awaits their fate regarding the untimely but deserved demise of the odious Mr. Green. The fate of the noble class appears to be endangered as a neighboring estate is being sold to a moneyed commoner and its belongings are auctioned. 

Old Man Duggan: It's 1925, and the more things change, the more they stay the same. We open on a fox hunt, and in a sly nod to the past Lady Mary gets all muddied up whilst jumping the brook, no doubt an Interwar euphemism of some sort. Where first it both shrewdly and lewdly portended an escapade of the anal variety with the Kemal Pamuk, the circle is closed with her forays into the arena of premarital sex coming back to potentially bite her in that murderous ass. Of course, now Lady Mary can not only ride her horse astride--the sexual undertones not lost on this dirty mind--but she can vote and perform the job previously reserved for a man. While the riding astride query from Lord Grantham serves as the quick feminism status check for the show, true to form it doesn't take Robert long to move beyond his regressive inclinations and embrace the fact that his daughter is not entirely encumbered on account of her inward-oriented genitalia.

Can we presume that George begging to lick the bowl is a harbinger of what's to come for the moneyed nobility? The next generation of gentryfolk will be reduced to begging for uncooked table scraps before mistaking the devious underbutler for a horse. Of course this all occurs while the old proles slave away, still chained to the ten-square-foot patch of tiled floor in the bowels of a building from whence they're allowed to leave only long enough to get them enough vitamin D to ward off the rickets.

Wordy Ginters: I'm more comfortable with Li'l Georgie's bowl licking foreshadowing a crumbling class structure than I am in reading into what his incessant horsey back riding on Thomas might mean in Fellowes's ghoulish hands.

OMD: There's little chance Thomas isn't implicated in something untoward with those children. It's not like Fellowes hasn't taken a mostly Old World route in making the only gay character in the principle cast the underhanded villain. Fellowes surely sets head to pillow every night and with the last pre-slumber, quasi-subconscious thought slipping through being, "But Thomas is a gay. I can't let him be too human."

Where Lady Mary's concerns are turned to sex of the premarital variety, Mrs. Hughes's are turned to the marital. So late to get on the horse that she entrusts Mrs. Patmore to serve as her sexual consigliere in a sitdown with Mr. Carson. My first thought was that there may not be a person less suited for such a task amongst the servants, but the pickings are so slim as to have only Anna as a more desirable prenuptial dotter of 'i's and crosser of 't's than Patmore, and she's got her B-story plate full with the still quite dead Mr. Green and the prospect of an uncooperative womb. Clearly the poor dolt Daisy cannot be trusted to handle any situation that doesn't arise within the confines of a kitchen. That leaves Baxter, who is simply too busy planning the next time in which her foot will furtively brush against Molesley's under the table. Patmore it is.

WG: If Patmore is the right answer, what the fuck is the question?

OMD: Who best to fashion a dildo from a gourd?

WG: Both Carson and Hughes are so sexually cloistered, you know regressive kink is on the horizon once they become the least bit comfortable with the missionary position. How many episodes until Hughes is asking Patmore to ask Carson if he wants to wear a diaper and a bonnet and to drink from a bottle? I was glad Carson committed to a full red-blooded marriage and all of the carnal goodness that implies. On the same hand, exploring the sexual tension of two repressed 60-year-olds did strike me as perfect fodder for the PBS crowd.

OMD: The tote holders clutch their Mr. Selfridge bags close to their chest, upper lips trembling and dowsed with sweat.

I, for one, am shocked that Patmore's first conversation with Carson wasn't completely disastrous. Sure, it was as awkward a conversation--what the hell does "Do you expect to share your way of life?" even mean?--but there were so many different ways in which this conversation could have been singly responsible for the fall of the British Empire, that it was a relief to have come out on the other side without shrapnel embedded in every person from Ripon to Thirsk. Patmore downs Carson's proffered port and retreats with no one maimed.

WG: The idea of Patmore and Carson talking sex was so batshit crazy it made for a strangely tense scene. It wasn't Christoph Waltz turning the crank in a Tarantino movie, but I quivered like a bunny just the same. It was sweet release when the convoluted three-cushion bank shot that Patmore set up finally hit the pocket, and that flicker of understanding dawned across Carson's face.

OMD: The sheer prospect of having been indelicate would surely result in soiled drawers for our dear Mr. Carson.

"I'm completely whacked. Don't tell your mother." Can this mean Robert is unwell, or is this just an existential malaise set upon all of the marginal Lords of the Interwar Period?

WG: I think it means he's just finished masturbating.

OMD: Is Rita Bevan the most Fellowesian of all of the wretched rogues who have slithered through the halls of Downton? He barging through the halls with little concern for manners makes me long for a different time. The time I'm wishing for, of course, would have seen Bevan's head on a pike.

WG: Reminded me of a shittier Sarah Bunting. I kind of admired her ballsy contempt for normal boundaries.

OMD: That was the single quality of Miss Bevan's that was anything less than loathsome. And Mary still told her that just because the worker bees would have their day, didn't mean that she would.

With news of the killer of The Rapey Mister Green coming forward, Officer Krupke--er, Sergeant Willis stated that "she saw(r) him standing there," which hilariously repainted Tiffany's gender-reversed Beatles cover "I Saw Him Standing There" in my head. I thought of young Tiffany pushing rapists into oncoming traffic and a smile swept across my face. Of course, that led me down the path to tracking down the song, listening to something that I had remembered rather differently, vomiting, reading the lyrics to find that the link between Willis's description and the Tiffany tune ended at its title, and regretting that the connection was ever made. Then I came back to a time-traveling Tiffany shoving rapists under the wheels of trolleys and lorries across Interwar Britain and reconciled the conflicting emotions with a smile. I will not listen to that song again, though. Never again.

WG: Christ. That sounds like some kind of hellish Lakota vision quest. Or maybe the time Erlich went off to the desert with a bag of mushrooms trying to come up with a better name than Pied Piper on Silicon Valley. What other gender-reversed song covers would you like to see? How about Joanna Newsom covering the Rupert Holmes classic "Him," or more precisely "Her" for our purposes?

OMD: Maybe Linda Ronstadt doing Nick Cave's incarnation of "Stagger Lee."

While I'd be more than happy to see Hughes and Carson marry, a big part of me wants him to only call her Mrs. Hughes while engaging in sexagenarian humping. It'd be a shame for him to lose his grip on tradition while in the throes of passion.

WG: Mrs. Hughes, beg your pardon, I'm going to cum.

OMD: Carson and Patmore's second conversation was sweet. While Carson's love for Elsie--start swishing it around in your mouth for taste, Carson--was touching, the real person to feel for here was Patmore, whose closest brush with love was with that boorish milkman (or whatever the fuck he was) who was groping everyone in sight at the fair when Mrs. Patmore's attentions were turned elsewhere. To be closing in on present-day retirement age without being able to say you've loved another while giving your life to the service of a family who knows little about you past your surname and your dead nephew Archie is really quite sad.

WG: I had the same feeling. Patmore recognizing the loneliness inside herself, perhaps highlighted and revealed by Carson's earnest love for Hughes, made for a sweet and sour scene.

OMD: Since it happened, we probably have to talk about Denker's shit-stirring amongst the servant-class at Grantham House and Downton Abbey, but this should not take precedent over the fact that I just learned that Joel Murray long-lost once-identical cousin Mr. Spratt possesses the most excellent first name of all time: Septimus. Septimus Spratt. Holy shit. Judging by his name, he'd be just as likely to be a stodgy, British Transformer hellbent on invading Hogwarts to dispatch of Slytherin House.

WG: The new Defence against the Dark Arts professor is Freddy Rumsen.

OMD: As for Denker, while I expect the show's final scene to be something with Bates and Anna finally finding happiness after more than a dozen years of false hope and interminable misery because Julian Fellowes is a sadist, I'd be just as happy if it was the Dowager Countess hitting Denker over the head with a fucking shovel and gesturing to Spratt--positively beaming with a shit-eating grin--to tend to the mess. Violet turning the table on the conniving Denker was delightful. That Denker is so foul as to make one root for Spratt in every situation speaks to the malodorous air left in her wake in each scene.

WG: Denker and Spratt perfectly represent the dark side of the Dowager's remorselessly privileged soul. Spratt's lips should have their own show. I'd watch 30 minutes of him purring and saying words and phrases like "plum" and "plume" and "droll poltroon."

OMD: If the Bateses cannot, in fact, conceive, there have to be even odds that one of the Crawley girls' predilection toward sexual impropriety will yield another child, right? If not that, then surely Anna will stumble across a child in a basket floating down the very brook through which Lady Mary's sexual dalliances come to bear in a cyclical fashion. Then after raising the child as their own for years, John and Anna Bates will be charged with kidnapping, and their lives will be torn apart once more by a crime that they didn't commit because Fellowes hates when the proles get even a morsel of happiness.

WG: The celebratory champagne flowed. As soon as the needle dropped on that gramophone (admit it, just like me, you were expecting to hear "Close your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)" by Run the Jewels come blasting out of that tin ear horn), I knew that Bates and Anna would be back in the shit soon enough.

OMD: I think everyone assumed it was going to be that.

Lady Edith seems likely to butt heads with William Randolph Hearst, right? He buys a castle in the UK in 1925. I'm guessing she makes an enemy of him and eventually hires Orson Welles to take him down a peg only to have him blow up his own career and never again have final cut.

WG: If it means we see Gerald McRaney on Downton this season, I'm all for it.

OMD: Playing son to his previous father. Let's hope.

Robert's handling of the churlish Miss Bevan was nice. Handed her ass to her without dirtying his hands much.

WG: Yosting. I didn't think he had the skills to pull a move like that. And I'm a little skeptical that little bulldog Bevan would be satisfied with a paltry 50 pounds.

OMD: That or jail time? She'd never be able to handle the rigors of the laps 'round the courtyard.

With the demise of Mallerton Hall and the impending doom about to descend upon the United Kingdom on the whole, the future of Downton Abbey would certainly seem to be less than bright. Can we expect Carson to be wandering the halls in tatters, wits left a decade in the past, muttering to himself about servants long since kicked to the curb to fend for themselves as typists and sock-darners on High Street? The future sure seems like it's writ large across this episode.

WG: Fucking Nazis.

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