Have Carson set the DVR, break out your bone china tea set, practice your best manners—and your English accent. Downton Abbey returns to PBS on January 6.

When it comes to entertainment, there is very little that my teenage daughter, my husband, and I can agree on. But we relish our evenings in front of Downton Abbey. Our TV room has a loveseat, which is generous in proportion for one and not so much for three. Nevertheless, we crowd into it and watch each episode en famille.

Why are we so infatuated? How does this period drama complement our hectic modern life? And, why are so many of my liberal friends, sympathetic to the plight of the 99% here, so eager to devour the trials and tribulations of the 1% over there?

Downton is an oh-so-satisfying soap opera. A series that celebrates the lives of a group quite literally to the manor born, while simultaneously poking gentle fun at them. The scripts are delicious, the acting first-rate; the costumes and sets and camerawork leave one delightfully exhausted after each installment and breathlessly anticipating the next.

And, at last . . .  Season Three is coming! Season Three is coming!

I have a confession to make. I’ve already seen Season Three, and it is wonderful. Much like our own first lady, my family and I couldn’t wait. No one offered us a preview copy of the series, however, so we were on our own. It premiered in the U.K. a couple of months ago, but there were multiple obstacles to our getting there. Inconveniences like airfare, hotel costs, high school, jobs. So, I did what any savvy cyber citizen would do; I pre-ordered the British DVD set from Amazon.uk. It arrived on schedule, but we were horrified to find that it would not play in our U.S.-format DVD player. Not to worry, my friends. My husband (who, believe me, is not one to go in for this sort of extreme fanaticism) went back online and found a universal DVD player—a name brand, no less—for a mere $40 delivered (significantly less than the discs and shipping from England).

Yes, it was worth it.

Since I can’t divulge any of the secrets I am now privy to, I thought I would turn to an expert from Downton itself—a woman who always has an opinion: Lady Grantham, the Dowager Countess, an elderly member of the British aristocracy who bears a remarkable resemblance to Dame Maggie Smith.

Recently, Lady Grantham journeyed to the United States to help promote the new season for public television’s annual pledge drive. However, she refused to leave the comfort of her stateroom, so I was forced to interview her onboard the Cunard liner HMS Aquitania.


WVFC: Lady Grantham, first of all, let me just thank you and tell you what an honor it is to speak with you today.

Lady Grantham: Yes, of course it is.

WVFC: What should we call each other?

Lady Grantham: You can begin by calling me Lady Grantham.

WVFC:  All right. And, you can call me . . .

Lady Grantham: I’d really rather not.

WVFC: What I mean is . . . I hope we’ll be friends.

Lady Grantham: Certainly. I have plenty of friends whom I dislike.

WVFC: What can Americans expect to see in the third season of Downton?

Lady Grantham: What is that contraption you seem to be so occupied with?

WVFC: Oh, that’s my iPad.

Lady Grantham: I couldn’t bear to have a personal tablet device in my home. I wouldn’t sleep a wink. All those vapors!

WVFC: It helps me capture your thoughts for our readers.

Lady Grantham: Really, sometimes I feel as though I’m living in an H.G. Wells novel.

WVFC: I understand we are to meet one of your in-laws this season. Cora’s mother?

Lady Grantham: You should try and disregard anything she says. I know I do.

WVFC: But didn’t her fortune help your son save Downton?

Lady Grantham: Oh good. Let’s talk about money.

WVFC: Can you give us any clues as to what befalls your three lovely granddaughters in the new season? It seems that every time we think one of them is headed for happiness, they disappoint us.

Lady Grantham: They are women. They can be as contrary as they please.

WVFC: Matthew and Mary? They’ve certainly waited years to get married.

Lady Grantham: Well, marriage is a long business.

WVFC: Sybil and Tom?

Lady Grantham: Tom? Oh, Branson. The chauffeur. Well. If one can’t say anything nice . . .

WVFC: And what of poor Edith? She doesn’t seem to be terribly lucky in love.

Lady Grantham: We may have to take her abroad.

WVFC: To America, maybe?

Lady Grantham: We’re not that desperate.

WVFC: Then of course there’s the below stairs residents of Downton.  I for one can relate better to them.

Lady Grantham: And this is said as if I would be surprised?

WVFC: On this side of the pond, fans are certainly rooting for Mr. Bates.

Lady Grantham: Yes, well, your country was founded by a bunch of criminals, if I remember correctly.

WVFC: Excuse me, milady. I think you’re confusing the United States with Australia.

Lady Grantham: Am I? Well. If you’ve seen one cowboy, you’ve seen them all.

WVFC: We seem to have strayed away from the point.

Lady Grantham: Was there a point?

WVFC: I’m afraid I haven’t really got much for my readers.

Lady Grantham: Don’t be so defeatist, my dear. It’s very middle class.

WVFC: Well, I really appreciate your time.

Lady Grantham: My pleasure. American journalists always make me appreciate the virtues of the English.

WVFC: I see.

Lady Grantham: I do hope you’re not insulted.

WVFC: Oh, I’m not insulted at all.

Lady Grantham: I must have said it wrong.

WVFC: Thank you, Lady Grantham. I doubt we’ll meet again.

Lady Grantham: Do you promise?

Join the Dowager Countess and all of your favorite characters on January 6. And, until then, you can enjoy more of Lady Grantham’s zingers here

Downton Abbey: The Best Maggie Moments

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  • hillsmom December 28, 2012 at 9:57 am

    P.S. Forgot to mention loving the interview. Thanks.

  • hillsmom December 28, 2012 at 9:54 am

    It does seem that one can get the entire upcoming season 3 DVD by making a $125 donation to your PBS station. This is probably a tax deductible item, but I’m not positive about that.
    Then when you’ve had a surfeit of enjoyment, you could donate the DVD to your local library. I’m just sayin’