At some point late Sunday afternoon — I believe it was in the few minutes between the end of the first wild card playoff game and the beginning of the second — Fang asked me whether I thought he could “catch up” and watch “Downton Abbey” with me. To be honest, I just kind of shrugged him off. I think I may have foolishly said something along the lines of “I guess so”.
It’s not that I’m not willing to hop on board when Fang makes suggestions for activities that we can participate in together. Usually, though, he’s more interested in getting me to do the things he likes rather than making attempts to join me in the sorts of things that I like.
Truthfully, I didn’t take him seriously when he asked me about “Downton Abbey” — mainly because our television viewing habits couldn’t be more different. I’m all about keeping up with the Granthams, he’s more about keeping up with the Kardashians.
When, in the intervening hours, he didn’t bring it up again, I was, frankly, relieved. I had been looking forward to watching the US premiere of one of my favorite programs for quite a while. My excitement had even led me to create and pin this:
Imagine my surprise, then, when Fang moseyed into the bedroom at 8:53 PM — only seven short minutes before broadcast time — and announced that he was “ready”. “Ready for what?”, I asked him, with what I’m certain was no small amount of panic. Fangette had headed off to the movies. For a brief moment I feared he had some amorous adventure in mind.
I’m not a prude nor am I necessarily averse to a “quickie”, but I had planned on popcorn and a quick trip to the bathroom before settling in and seeing how the folks at Downton were doing in the aftermath of Matthew’s untimely, sudden, and shocking death. Poor Mary! Poor Cousin Isobel! And what of the baby? I didn’t even know his name yet!
There simply would not be enough time to indulge my husband’s sudden libidinous desires! As it turned out, he wasn’t, when he announced his readiness, referring to matters of a sexual nature. What he meant was that he was ready to be brought up to speed on the program. You know, so that we might enjoy it together.
What?!?! Was he crazy?
Was he kidding me? The jury may still be out regarding his mental state, but he was seriously expecting me — in three minutes (what? you thought maybe I’d given up on the popcorn and the potty?) — to give him a crash course on the characters.
What you need to know about Fang is that he has a hard time remembering the names of his own relatives. He has not yet committed mine to memory, even after nearly thirty years together. This was going to present somewhat of a challenge — even for me — fast talker extraordinaire.
Instead of spending the three minutes that were now left before the start of this much anticipated programming by pointing out to him that engaging in this tomfoolery would be an exercise in futility and, thereby, creating a hostile environment, I chose, instead, to launch into the following synopsis:
It’s about the Crawley sisters.
There are three of them.
Mary, Sybil, and Edith.
Their father is The Earl of Grantham.
Their mother is Elizabeth McGovern.
I thought they were British.
Isn’t Elizabeth McGovern American?
Yes and yes.
The Earl needed money, so he married a rich American woman.
But, Elizabeth McGovern’s a good actress. She certainly could have played British. She played a hooker in “A Handmaid’s Tale”.
The Earl married a rich, American hooker?
That was a different movie.
Stop getting me off track.
Where were we?
Elizabeth McGovern not being a hooker.
Anyway, she plays Cora who’s married to Robert.
He’s the Earl of Grantham.
They are the parents of the Crawley sisters.
Mo, Larry, and Curly?
I thought you were serious about wanting to know this stuff.
I promise to be good now.
Oh, my God.
You’re killing me, dude.
So, lady Mary married her cousin, Matthew Crawley who, as it turns out, was also the heir to the estate.
Before you ask, he was a distant cousin.
Before you ask, no, Mary could not inherit the estate.
Because she was a woman.
The laws of primogeniture still applied even into the Twentieth century.
I’ll explain them later.
She just couldn’t inherit.
We’ll leave it at that for now.
I can see you’re going to get hung up on this inheritance business.
We need to move on to Sybil.
Sybil is the youngest of the sisters.
She married one of the servants.
Branson was the chauffeur.
They only had the one car at the time, so he wasn’t that busy.
He had enough time to attend to his Irish Republicanism and Lady Sybil.
Did I mention that he was Irish?
They moved to Dublin and got married.
While living in Dublin he got involved in some questionable dealings with the IRA.
Okay, I won’t sugarcoat it.
He set fire to the home of Lord and Lady Whatever — British gentry that, you guessed it, are friends of the Granthams.
He escapes back to England and seeks shelter with his wife’s family.
He left his pregnant wife to escape on her own.
Luckily, Sybil shows up unharmed.
Lord Grantham keeps Branson out of jail.
The catch is that he can never return to Ireland.
He left his pregnant wife behind?
It pissed us all off.
And the Granthams weren’t too happy about it, either.
Lady Sybil dies in childbirth.
You may remember me crying for an hour one Sunday night last year.
That was why.
Nothing to be done about it.
Now they’re stuck with Tom, though.
Not altogether a bad thing, as it turns out.
In the interest of time, I’ll abridge Lady Edith.
She’s the middle one.
She’s currently involved with a married man.
She’s not a slut.
A bit of an ugly duckling with a chip on her shoulder, but not really a slut.
Well, unless you count that little thing she had with the farmer.
Anyway, the new guy, I forget his name,
His wife is in an insane asylum.
He can’t divorce her.
Stupid laws again.
That’s it for now.
I’ll catch you up as we’re watching.
When I can.
~~~~~ Seconds (!!!) later….
You didn’t mention any O’Brien’s.
Is she one of the people whose house burned down?
She’s one of the maids.
Well, I guess she was pretty important.
It seems like they’re all going to miss her, this O’Brien character.
She wasn’t that important.
And, pretty much, everyone hated her.
I wouldn’t have guessed that based on how they’re acting about her being gone.
Well, it’s a little scandalous.
It’s Yorkshire in 1922.
These people have very little to get excited about.
A maid leaving without notice and going to India with another family is big news, dude.
Trust me, they’re not going to miss her.
She was quite the conniver, that one.
I’ll tell you all about her later.
“Later” wound up being two minutes later — Fang just couldn’t wrap his mind around the whole O’Brien thing. He was shocked to discover the depths of her evil — remember how, back in Season One, she was responsible for Lady Cora’s miscarriage? Remember that?
Anyway, this whole commentary went on for nearly two hours. And then we had to have a lesson in primogeniture.
I’m going to have to go back and watch the show again. I’m sure I missed whole chunks of it whilst explaining, for example, who Rose was. (“No, Fang, she’s not Sybil. Sybil is dead!”) Don’t even get me started on how long it took me to explain to him that there were no priests in the cast. (“It’s not an ACTUAL abbey, Fang, “Downton Abbey” is the name of the house — English estates have names. Some American homes have names. Remember when we went to Newport?” No, Fang, “the hovel” is not the official name of our residence, but, yeah, that’s the idea.”)
Honestly, I think this togetherness thing may just be a tad overrated.
photo credit: Highclere Castle