tue 19/02/2019

Listed: The 100 Funniest Things about Downton Abbey | reviews, news & interviews

Listed: The 100 Funniest Things about Downton Abbey

Listed: The 100 Funniest Things about Downton Abbey

Julian Fellowes' juggernaut has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous in six series. Here's how he did it

Isis? What Isis?

It began with the sinking of Titanic and the loss of not one but two heirs to the title. James Cameron having already filmed this disaster, the producers of Downton Abbey were spared the expense of re-enacting it. Last week another Hollywood blockbuster was in viewers' thoughts as the most iconic scene from Alien was re-enacted at the Downton dining table. His Grace’s ulcer burst on scene in a lurid shade suggesting Crawley blood is less blue than previously supposed. The medical emergency joins a long list of delectable absurdities perpetrated by the show across six series. With the end in sight, theartsdesk celebrates the mostly unintentional hilarity of life upstairs and down in England’s stateliest soap.

  1. The entail, the most convoluted and tiresome piece of legal pernicketiness ever to grace a primetime drama.
  2. Lady Cora's pregnancy at the age of at least 52.
  3. The Turkish corpse (see also 25).
  4. His Lordship's habit of dipping his head to the left before he says anything.
  5. Thomas the footman, ditto.
  6. Lady Cora's miscarriage by soap. Actually there were two plotlines involving a bar of soap in that last episode of series one. Just so nobody missed the confessional in-joke about Downton's nearest telly relatives.
  7. The whole of series two.
  8. "I'm going upstairs to take off my hat."
  9. Cousin Matthew’s "tingle".
  10. Carson's vaguely creepy paternalistic obsession with Lady Mary.
  11. Patrick the mystery mummy.
  12. Lady Mary mud-wrestling pigs.
  13. Lady Edith putting out a magazine in five minutes flat while on a date.
  14. “What is a weekend?”
  15. The death-by-political-correctness of Isis the dog (main picture: in happier times).
  16. Cousin Isobel's plot function being reduced by the end to simply approving of other people’s forward thinking, like some sort of right-on Greek chorus (see also 15 and 56).
  17. Concealing a pregnancy from your entire family in one of the least-corseted periods in fashion history.
  18. And "adopting" the child so you can not-so-subtly weep over her.
  19. History as drawing-room dialogue: “We heard about that terrible Amritsar business.”
  20. The Bateses’ calamitous flirtation with the law. To get accidentally banged up once in a slow-moving crime plot may be counted a misfortune. Twice looks like cluelessness (see also 41, 53 and 80).
  21. Servants hiding ailments.
  22. Servants hiding an embarrassing past.
  23. Best of all the upstairs-downstairs fumbles and flirtations, Anna Chancellor getting caught in flagrante delicto with a footman.
  24. His Lordship not wanting a scene about Thomas’s petty larceny (er, dramas are made up of scenes, Your Grace).
  25. Lady Cora's terminal horror at her daughter's Turkish disgrace lasting the length of a commercial break.
  26. All that eavesdropping.
  27. Character A agreeing with character B that character C had just committed an act of kindness.
  28. Moustache-twirling Sir Richard, Lady Mary's fiancé until it became narratively inconvenient, condemned for being a) a tabloid journalist and b) nouveau riche. The horror! (see also 29).
  29. Lady Mary's long line of interchangeable suitors (see also 28).
  30. The Americans lauding all of this as serious, high-class British drama and showering it with awards. Mind you, who are we to talk (pictured below)?
  31. Yorkshire being played by Berkshire and Wiltshire.
  32. Six years of characters standing with their hands folded behind their backs.
  33. Or in front of their genitals.
  34. O’Brien’s brief respite from scheming.
  35. The cameos from historical figures: the Prince of Wales, Neville Chamberlain and Dame Nellie Melba.
  36. The oven blowing up, necessitating a fork dinner in the drawing room. Or was it the library?
  37. Lady Edith’s vanishing suitors, one at the altar, another missing in pre-Nazi Germany presumed contractually unavailable.
  38. Daisy rivalling her in the ridiculously unlucky in love stakes.
  39. And also Thomas.
  40. Cousin Matthew's death ruining everyone's Christmas. Cheers, Fellowes!
  41. Julian Fellowes’s party-trick impersonations of Agatha Christie.
  42. Backstories produced like rabbits out of hats: Mrs Hughes’s dependent sister, Anna’s molesting stepfather, Carson's embarrassing past in music hall.
  43. Daisy's brief spell of education resulting in her instant conversion to Trotskyite insurgent. Keep those peasants in their place, eh?
  44. Every script containing at least 12 clunking references to change - because subtext is for the weak.
  45. The new nanny turning out to have views that make UKIP look perfectly reasonable.
  46. The menfolk popping back from the Front for tea every five seconds.
  47. Death by inconsequential subplot. Who remembers the mournful Russians, Daisy's chutney or Molesley's special shoe horn?
  48. Lady Sybil and her Fenian husband getting into a bit of a fix in Dublin, but offstage.
  49. Said husband valiantly fighting against The Man... up until the point where he decided it was quite nice being an oppressive toff, really.
  50. Shirley Maclaine's entire appearance.
  51. The long parade of bizarre non sequiturs“I once met a man who spent his time importing guinea pigs from Peru."
  52. The vanishing children. Well, they just can't pull off a jauntily angled period hat, can they? 
  53. Murder plots dominating all conversation, and then disappering without trace.
  54. Love rival Lavinia conveniently dying of Spanish flu.
  55. And an even more convenient deathbed letter surfacing afterwards absolving everyone else of guilt.
  56. Cousin Isobel setting a record for the number of times the word "prostitute" was uttered in a drama with Merchant Ivory pretensions.
  57. The random musical interludes. How long before Fellowes unleashes an all-singing, all-dancing, all-nonsense stage version upon unsuspecting theatregoers?
  58. The increasingly outlandish collection of headbands.
  59. Lady Mary's secret sex odyssey, facilitated by the mystery contraceptive device.
  60. That time Lady Edith set the house on fire.
  61. And the remarkable coincidence that pig-wrangling, illegitimate child-adopting Tim is also head of the local volunteer fire brigade. Someone's got an eye on the guest actor budget (see also 94).
  62. The "Previously on" built into the dialogue, so that no one - not even the actors - need try to remember what has come before.
  63. His Lordship's terrible, terrible business decisions. He makes the morons on The Apprentice look positively wise.
  64. Lady Cora inviting Richard E Grant's eyebrow-waggling art expert to, er, inspect her Della Francesca.
  65. The hospital plot (see also 1).
  66. The many and varied historical inaccuracies. Apparently even The Queen enjoys spotting them.
  67. The socialist schoolteacher AKA the world's worst dinner guest.
  68. Music cues that make Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer look positively subtle.
  69. His Lordship snogging the maid, then feeling guilty and ditching her, but not before getting her son into a good school.
  70. Spratt, two years in, still characterised solely by his swivelling googly eyes.
  71. Thomas's gay conspiracy with the Duke of Crowborough to steal the Downton inheritance (the Duke would marry Lady Mary).
  72. Thomas not being in jail despite being a wartime black marketeer. 
  73. Mrs Patmore being deputised to ask Carson if he intends to insist on his conjugal rights with Mrs Hughes. 
  74. Carson's sterling eyebrow work in response to this and all other affronts to his butlering dignity.
  75. Lady Cora becoming a functional alcoholic from series two onwards. Can't blame her, really.
  76. Molesley smothering his head in tar.
  77. A running commentary on British political history, according to His Lordship/Fellowes's brief dalliance with Wikipedia. That dastardly Ramsay Macdonald, out to destroy us all!
  78. The permanently friend-zoned Dr Clarkson.
  79. Every single formal dinner ending in furious argument and upset soup tureens. Maybe that's God's way of telling you to order in?
  80. Bates being framed as the series' romantic hero, when he is very clearly a psychopath on a par with Rob from The Archers.
  81. The love that dare not speak its name: obviously, the Dowager Countess and Cousin Isobel's relentless sub-Wilde sniping hides deeper feelings.
  82. The alarmingly tall (and equally ginger) footmen.
  83. Branson's career in Hollyw... Boston coming to nought.
  84. After which, upstaging the Carsons' nuptials without so much as a single telegram.
  85. The incompetence of Harley Street obstetricians.
  86. Lady Mary's inexplicable but highly entertaining blood feud with Lady Edith.
  87. Samantha Bond swanning in to royally screw up someone's carefully laid plans. While wearing a fabulous hat.
  88. Mrs Patmore's foray into buy-to-let. Housing shortage be damned.
  89. And her mail order disappointment when ordering Mrs Hughes's wedding dress. Where she goes, a thousand ASOS shoppers follow.
  90. Rose's swiftly forgotten fling with a black musician AKA the fanfiction version of Dancing on the Edge.
  91. Approximately 5,001 close-ups of gloves.
  92. The new wireless greeted with enormous suspicion. And the toaster. And the fridge. And the telephone. Just imagine what the Dowager Countess would have made of Snapchat.
  93. Mrs Hughes becoming the faintly menacing fixer of Downton. 
  94. Sergeant Willis being dispatched to solve every single crime in the county. 
  95. Names that defy parody. Take a bow Archibald Philpotts, Atticus Aldridge and Lieutenant-General Sir Herbert Strutt.
  96. Relentlessly unappetising food choices. Kidney soufflé, anyone?
  97. Denker (and not in a good way)
  98. Thomas's endless search for a new job. Just apply to BuzzFeed already.
  99. No one ever ageing.
  100. The fact that, despite the above, millions of us failed to tear ourselves away.

Read theartsdesk's full Downton Abbey coverage

How long before Fellowes unleashes an all-singing, all-dancing, all-nonsense stage version upon unsuspecting theatregoers?

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Comments

Comprehensively done. Now soliciting predictions as to the Christmas finale. Will a certain publisher lost in Germany resurface minutes from the close? I say ja!

All the above, and the fact that Daisy hasn't been thrown out on her ear, despite becoming an increasingly and annoyingly demanding bottom-of-the-heap servant.

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