Friday, February 3, 2012

The MacLaine Game

Cynicism and period dramas are strange bedfellows and, consequently, I avoid the former as much as is humanly possible in my bloggings about the latter. My admiration for the likes of Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs would surely crumble, dear reader, under the weight of a jaded, facetious approach to Sunday night viewing. The anachronistically impressive teeth alone would be the cause of much consternation. It happens occasionally, however, that one cannot help but feel somewhat dismayed by certain goings-on. It has been suggested in the British press that ITV deliberately announced the casting of Shirely MacLaine in Downton Abbey's third series on Monday evening to upstage the BBC's press launch for the second series of Upstairs Downstairs, a still from which is shown above, which took place that afternoon.

Sure enough, all entertainment outlets were the next day buzzing with the undeniably exciting news of the Oscar-winning UFO enthusiast's forthcoming appearance as Martha Levinson, Lady Cora's brash American mother while tales of Jean Marsh's determination to recover from a stroke and heart attack to return to housekeeping duties in 165 Eaton Place and of a lesbian storyline featuring newcomers Emilia Fox and Alex Kingston, both discussed at the press launch, were decidedly thin on the ground. It is a pretty poor showing from the Downton camp if such allegations are founded and it is difficult to understand why ITV chose to make such a headline-grabbing announcement on that day at that time of day if not to undermine Heidi Thomas's 1930s-set revival of the classic series, which has been foundering under the behemoth triumph of its Edwardian equivalent.

It seems to me that the dirty tactics are hardly necessary and that ITV and Team DA have served to undermine the constant protestations from series creator and writer Julian Fellowes that there is plenty of room for both shows to flourish and co-exist in perfect harmony. The right honourable Matthew Crawley would be appalled at the skulduggery. He really would!

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