TV review: Downton cheesier than a fondue party

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Matthew and Mary finally made it down the aisle on the opening of Downton Abbey's third season. Photo / Supplied
Matthew and Mary finally made it down the aisle on the opening of Downton Abbey's third season. Photo / Supplied

It's spring, 1920, at Downton Abbey (Prime, Thursdays, 8.35pm). Or it's New Year's Eve, 1922, on Boardwalk Empire (SoHo, Mondays, 8.30pm).

Either way, I seemed to have some mozzarella in my ears. This is another way, a Boardwalk Empire way, of saying: "Are ya deaf?"

It's a good way of saying it. It made me laugh. I needed a good laugh. I'd just watched the wedding of Mary and Matthew. At least, I'd just watched her turn up to her wedding and there wasn't enough mozzarella, or even enough stilton, in the world, to put in my ears to block out the schmaltz.

Had schmaltz been invented in 1920? Don't know. Did terrible bores of the calibre of Sir Anthony say, in 1920: "So, how's it going?" ("Oh, he's 'armless enough", I was dying for somebody to say, but Downton doesn't really do jokes - it does snide asides from Maggie Smith's dowager countess, but that's about as far as it goes for laughs.)

How is it going? We had the big wedding last week and the prerequisite last-minute falling out - "you're not on our side", snivelled Lady Mary, poshly, to Matthew when he announced that he wasn't going to take the money dead old Lavinia's dad had left him.

He was supposed to marry dead old Lavinia, remember, but he didn't love her and so she was conveniently felled by the plot disguised as the Spanish flu. I think. I had some cheese in my ears at the time.

Anyway, the silly old Earl has lost all of Cora's fortune (almost all, actually; I suspect the almost is so that all will somehow be saved by the plot.)

As some cynic in my living room said, while snorting: If all of the English aristocrats were as drippy and witless as the Earl, it's small wonder most of them went under.

I think Bates is about to get 'imself in a spot of bother in the pokey. He doesn't like his new cell mate. I do. I think he's the cleverest fellow in the plot. He said to Bates: "Why do you 'ave to be so pious?" What a very good question.

The big set scene (other than the wedding, during which I put a nice bit of brie in my eyes so as not to have to watch Mary be waspishly beautiful and Matthew handsomely, smugly dull) was the promised meeting between the dowager countess and Cora's mum, played, we hoped, madly, by Shirley MacLaine. So far, so Sir Anthony. In other words, it was all a bit of a snore.

There's always Boardwalk Empire if you like your period dramas to have a bit more pep, or violence. I don't mind either, and I can see that Boardwalk Empire is lavishly made, cracks along and is well written and scripted and acted.

But I can't love it. I suspect that this gangster stuff is for blokes, mostly, which obviously rules me out. Still, I did enjoy the King Tut New Year's Eve party which was very jazz age and over the top and much more fun than the Downton wedding during which there wasn't supposed to be a dry eye in the house. In our house there was instead much eye-rolling.

"Have you done something jolly with your hair?" said the one-armed Sir Anthony to the dreadful Edith. I wish they'd do something jolly with the plot.

Having Bates battered to death with a prison cheese, say, would cheer me up immensely.

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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