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'Downton Abbey' Gets Renewed Because Everyone in Britain Watches It

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Trade News | November 11, 2013 | Comments ()


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Downton Abbey just finished airing its fourth season last night on ITV in Britain, which is significant for several reasons. First, today I learned that the show is not broadcast on the BBC, which I find to be baffling and an entirely unnecessary complication. Everyone knows that Britain has one television channel and that it is the BBC. There’s no need to have these confusions added to the mix. It’s so middle class.

Second, the show’s completion was immediately followed in the press by the announcement that it had been renewed for a fifth season, which came as little surprise to anyone since 9.6 million subjects (the don’t level up to citizens until they slay the queen) watched the show last night, which amounts to some 40% of people watching television in Britain at the time. Proportionately, that’s roughly twice the ratings that NCIS gets on a good night in America, which is really every night if you’ve got NCIS. Thinking of Downton Abbey as the British Super Bowl somehow makes absolute and perfect sense to me.

Third, I find it to be an international hate crime that Britain sits on this show for months before allowing PBS to broadcast it in America. I can only imagine that every year, PBS executives make the traditional vision quest to the British television palace housed underneath a remote mountain monastery in the Welsh Himalayas in order to make their humble gilded offerings. “We are but penniless state television executives like yourselves, please gift us with Downton!” They undoubtedly sob.

But the lords of British television are cruel, and have grown haughty upon their piles of Downton money. You can have it in January, they mock, or you could have it now if only you would genuflect to the Queen’s portrait, and burn this American flag… but the deacons of PBS are stubborn, proud Americans, and so we wait every year until January.


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • BiblioGlow

    Can storytime with SLW be a thing?

  • foca9

    “(…) I find it to be an international hate crime that Britain sits on this show for months before allowing PBS to broadcast it in America.”

    Welcome to our lives, America.
    Sincerely, the rest of the world.

    (Downton Abbey is into its third episode in Norway, by the way—which is close enough to keep me away from the dark side. And yeah, I’m a male watcher of the show.)

  • sproff

    See, what's even more complicated is that ITV isn't even public television, unlike the BBC and PBS. SO I think this Welsh Himalayan scenario actually just involves ITV execs working out all their hatred of their BBC rivals on what they vaguely think of as "the American BBC".

  • Mrs. Julien

    I can understand the cultural necrophilia from the North American perspective, but how is it possible from English perspective? Doesn't it just want to make them rise up and slaughter what remains of the class system? Watching this should be "the sort of thing that causes French Revolutions and Declines and Falls of Roman Empires". They should put Downton Abbey, Gosford Park, and The Man Who Bought Mystique on a loop and see what happens.

  • Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes again.

  • ExUSA

    I lived over there for three years-- you have a very American take on it, but the Brits fundamentally do not think like us. We're very individualistic, them? Not nearly so much.

    For instance: I was absolutely baffled that Bonfire Night was not a celebration of Guy Fawkes and his moxy, but rather the state's execution of him.

  • Mrs. Julien

    AMERICAN TAKE? AMERICAN TAKE?

    Dude, I am Canadian. You couldn't possibly know that, but you just pushed every displaced ex-pat Canadian button I have. Now I need to put on my runners, lock myself in the washroom, and drown my sorrows in butter tarts, pemmican and maple syrup while watching This Hour Has 22 Minutes on a PVR loop.

  • Yyyyeahhh, but then again Guy was on the side of a possible future Catholic theocracy trying to overturn a relatively decent Protestant government at the time, so it's not quite as clear cut as that.
    However, ask a typical Brit this, and it's most likely that they won't know the details. It's generally just an excuse for fireworks.

  • Chris

    It's created by Julian Fellowes, a conservative member of parliament, and to me it seems to have the clear purpose of making us all think that "Upper class people are good people too. Let's keep the system."

  • emmalita

    That might be more effective than Russell Brand.

  • No we don't.
    In fact I have no idea where all these people watching it are. I meet a whole buttload of people, and nowhere in that buttload have I ever met anyone who watches Downton.
    Now, thinking about it, that must be either because,
    a) They don't admit to watching it,
    or
    b) They're all inside watching the bloody thing so I never get a chance to meet them.
    Right, I'm taking my hoodie and spyglass, and I'm a-going peering through some windows.

  • Andrea P

    You've met people that watch Downton, just not anybody interested in talking about Downton.

    I think it's a situation where people that don't care about telly don't talk about telly, but they tune into the channel showing the main costume drama when plonked in front of the box on Sunday night. People that care about telly might watch Downton (I watch it on Mondays on catchup after both Corries) but we talk Breaking Bad and Orphan Black.

  • Mrs. Julien

    That sounds way less satisfying than all the time you spend with your hoodie and spyglass a-going peering in the windows of recently separated God's Blueprint for Womens.

  • Of course it is! But you know how long it'd take to charge up my lightning teleport again to get to those particular windows?
    Much easier to do a similar, if far less fulfilling, thing.

  • Mrs. Julien

    There's a tunnel now, you know. You could be violating her privacy in mere hours if you leave now.

  • Aaron Schulz

    man thats in the top 10 of simpsons gags i love. you made me snort at work

  • JJ

    I'd like to think it's also that Britain can't resist contributing to another Golden Age of Piracy.

  • JustOP

    In the past 20 years or so, Britain had five basic television channels - BBCone, BBCtwo, ITV, Channel Four, and Channel Five.
    Everyone knows about BBCone and two - Sherlock, Dr Who, Merlin etc are all shown on these channels.

    ITV airs a bunch of dramas such as Downtown Abbey and Broadchurch, and also two of our most popular soaps (Coronation Street and Emmerdale).

    Channel Four is a bit of a mixed bag - it does a lot of 'edgy' 'modern' shows like Skins, Shameless, Misfits but also airs a lot of reality tv crap.

    The less said about Channel Five the better.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    While I appreciate the cultural translation, now I *must* know of Channel Five. This falls under my things-I-must-know-about-because-they-are-wrong.

  • JustOP

    Channel Five is reknowned for its established programming featuring timeless classics such as - Got Fat! Got Thin!, Police Procedural: Name of City, and the entirety of Steven Seagal's filmography.

    Oh and don't forget, the 20143rd season of Big Brother!

  • Used to have those fantastic soft-core flicks on Friday nights too.
    Gave a young zeke much...'amusement' as a kid.
    Now the amusement comes from remembering the titles, which were always something like, 'Illegal Briefs' - about a female lawyer who ends up falling for her client who may or may not be a serial killer and then - oh no! - outoffocussex!

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    Wow, I really think maybe NTSF:SF:SUV should have gone with "Police Procedural: Name of City" because that is genius. I'm stealing that forthwith.

    Also, how can you hate the pajama wearing magic that is Steven Seagal? He's just the best self parody he fills my heart with glee.

  • BWeaves

    Hehehehe! JustOP, I loved your synopsis of the British TV channels.

    When I lived in England in the 1960's it was basically BBCone vs. ITV. BBCtwo was there, but was off the air more than it was on.

  • Sassy Pikachu

    ... I feel bad because I already watched the entire season via online streaming. Will I watch it again when it comes to PBS? Of course.

    But yeah... there're other methods >.>;;;

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