Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, January 06, 2014

Downton Abbey Yard Sale

Phew! Avoiding spoilers for those who watch later, it’s hard to recover from last night’s Season 4 opener of everybody’s favorite gilded guilty pleasure without at least a warning about what mastermind Julian Fellowes is up to now.

Key cast members gone, the two-hour Downton premiere is stuffed with not only surviving lead actors but what looks like a lawn sale of forgotten characters from past years returning for whirlwind reprises. Without a scorecard, there are heirloom plates in the air everywhere.

Fellowes has too much aplomb to be overcome by jumping-the-shark anxiety, but some sense of hurry-up pervades the air in what is normally the most leisurely of atmospheres, with some moving moments and others more openly contrived.

As Downton moves through the 1920s with electrical gadgets invading the kitchen, there is an underlying sense that Fellowes is heading toward some kind of closure with his award-winning writing debut, Robert Altman’s 2001 “Gosford Park,” which turned him from actor to author, set in 1932 with a cast of decaying characters upstairs and down.

A disappointed aficionado can’t forgive Dan Stevens and Jessica Brown-Findlay for jumping ship last season to terminate Dan Crawley’s and Lady Sybil’s Downton lives. A spiteful check of their IMBD sites shows them both working in upcoming films, nothing major, and...yes, other TV series.

Downtown will no doubt sort out its transition problems, but a fan is reminded of a classic line in “All About Eve,” with the playwright yelling at the actress, “When will the piano realize it has not written the concerto?”

Meanwhile, Fellowes seems to be hard at work trying to sort out his keyboards for the future.
  

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