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Talking ‘Downton’ To Us Simple Americans

Talking ‘Downton’ To Us Simple Americans

Americans vs. Europeans—who’s smarter? Or dumber, for that matter? While one may guess that general perceptions lean in Europe’s favor, it’s simply not true. In fact, based on a number of factors such as IQ, literacy rates and higher-education, Americans are as smart, if not smarter, than many Europeans (check this out for an entertaining read on the topic: Cecil Adam’s Straight Dope column). However, one point that I’m sure both sides of the pond can agree on: Americans are relatively blind to happenings and news in other parts of the world.

The reason I address this question is due to recent news surrounding the US adaptation and release of the wildly popular UK Masterpiece Classic, Downton Abbey. For all of you “stupid Americans”, it’s basically Gossip Girl set in 1912 London with a much better cast and much better clothes. I was turned on to the series through a British friend and a Vanity Fair spread on Elizabeth McGovern (who stars as Lady Cora in the series). Downton is scheduled to debut in the US on PBS starting as early as January 9th—however what US viewers will enjoy is, as The Telegraph reports, a “simplified” version that panders to the US’ lack of knowledge of British history and terminology, as well as their collectively short attention span. PBS will be cutting large chunks of the program, condensing the plot and adding educational introductions to help guide viewers.

I’m not sold. I will say the series is brilliant (I watched the entire 6 hours in one sitting), though the reason almost 11 million Brits tune in to this program each week is because they’re obsessed with royalty, class and money in the same way Americans clamor for news of Paris Hilton’s coke stash and Heidi Montag’s surgical endeavors…not because they’re more intellectual!  Ultimately, Downton is a high-brow, high-production soap opera. Further, I have to imagine the only American audiences who will find this series of interest are the typical PBS-ers who typically tune in to Masterpiece Theatre and are well acquainted with British references, drama and humor. If you ask me, PBS should have left it as it was…hey, consider it a brain teaser for all of us!

So my recommendation – watch it, you’ll love it! – but do yourself a favor and download the original UK version online or buy it here (best $29.99 you’ll spend this month).

Posted by Sam