Published: 4 years ago

Deconstructing Downton

My wife and I are big fans of Downton Abbey, the TV show that revolves around the wacky antics of a bunch of fun-loving Brits who go to parties where the Cheez Whiz flows like water. Or something like that.

Every Sunday night in the early spring, we gather with a few fellow Abbey fans and watch as a new season unfolds. I set our DVR so that we can get started right after that abnormally long, perpetually-repeating Viking Cruise commercial finally sets sail. And because my DVR is set, we always have a backup in case we’re not home.

Which was the case in December, when the Downton Christmas episode aired and we missed it. So after Christmas, Merriem and I were excited to watch the episode, but the DVR didn’t record. Nothing. Not a minute of footage. I couldn’t find it on the PBS website, the website of the local PBS affiliate, nothing.

And in the words of the Dowager Countess, the whole lot left us feeling a bit defeatist, though that’s very middle class.

So I took to YouTube, and finally found a rough pirated version where the output was about 1/8 the size of my laptop screen. But no matter: my bride and I cozied up to squint and watch the hijinks of our favourite British friends.

Except we were confused. Thoroughly confused. From the end of season four to the beginning of season five, something had happened. There were new characters whom we’d never seen, new plot lines we’d never heard of, and new twists that seemed a bit extreme when you’re just moving from one season to the next.

If you’re a Downton fan, you know exactly what happened. For some strange reason, I got in my head that the Downton Christmas special was a bridge between seasons four and five. Nope, that episode is traditionally the season finale for the original UK version of the show. The reason our DVR didn’t work and I couldn’t find it on PBS is that it hadn’t yet aired in America. But still, there Merriem and I sat, scratching our heads and pausing the show every ten minutes to say, “Now who is that?” “What just happened?” “WHEN DID THEY DO THAT?”

We watched the season finale without the benefit of the season itself. 

Are. You. Kidding. Me. Who does that? I’ll tell you who does that: we does that. And so we had to start from the beginning in January, still gathering with our Downton crew week in and week out, watching a story unfold when we already knew exactly how it would turn out. I’ll be honest: it made me a little power-happy in the head, knowing I held all of that foreknowledge in my cranium. But still, it kind of fouled up the season for me.

Have you ever backtracked in a TV show? Ever skipped ahead to the end of the book? Are you reading this sentence first? 

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