Hugh Bonneville (National Treasure) is one of my Discoveries. I have quite a good future-star-spotting technique that works in reverse.
Like this: I watch a TV episode or a film; I notice a particularly hapless, camp or unappealing character, and I think, “Poor guy (the actor). He’ll certainly never be cast as a dashing leading man.”
So far I have reacted like this to
- David Tennant (a dishonest and bullied cleric in “He Knew He Was Right”)
- James McAvoy (Mr Tumnus in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”)
- Benedict Cumberbatch (an upper-class nerd in “Starter for Ten”)
- Hugh Bonneville (the idiot in “Notting Hill” who didn’t recognise Julia Roberts)
I think you’ll agree that, given what these gentlemen have since achieved, this is a pretty impressive record.
Hugh Bonneville is a break from the general principle, because it is still true that no one is likely to cast him as the next James Bond. (No, wait a minute. What a fabulous idea.) But he seems never to be out of work, usually playing the Decent Harassed Man who somehow fails to be boring. He can do other roles, too – despite his intelligent teddy-bear appearance, he was a very sinister villain some years ago in “Daniel Deronda”.
And of course he is the Earl of Grantham, which leads me neatly to the end of Downton Abbey. So, after The End Part 1, which ended the series, we were treated to The End Part 2 (This Time For Real), and unlike the infamous events of a few years ago, no one died on Christmas Day. Indeed, one can say that although there was a multitude of storylines, virtually all were utterly predictable. (All right, I didn’t expect the invasion of Lord Merton’s castle by the Granny Brigade.) Kind Julian Fellowes gave Bates and Anna a baby, Edith a husband, and allowed Good Thomas to finally replace his doppelganger Evil Thomas and be reinstated in heaven, sorry, Downton. (Come on, you’re not telling me that the two Barrows are one believable character?)
And Lord Grantham survived, and helped to save the day at one point, which is nice, because despite sometimes being idiotic, prejudiced and hotheaded, Robert has always been the steady centre of the series, allowing us all to pretend that the British are, and have forever been, terribly nice.
Others have criticised the lack of social realism in a series in which the upper classes cannot stop worrying about their servants’ private lives and happiness. I will just make one point, connected to the multiplicity of plots.
Thomas got a plot about a new job. Carson got a plot about retirement. Spratt got a plot about not being sacked, despite his unconventional extra-curricular activities. Mary’s Henry and Tom got a plot about a new business venture. Robert got a plot about learning to accept and value his wife’s activities.
And the women? Edith, Daisy the kitchen maid and Cousin Isabel got their men. There were hints of future romance for the ever-wonderful Mrs Patmore, and the very likeable Baxter. Because that’s what women want, isn’t it? Edith even said to her father on her wedding day, “Did you ever think this day would come?” It was plausible dialogue in context, alas, but depressing story-telling. Yes, Edith, all your parents and fans have ever wanted for you is marriage.
Daisy’s story was particularly annoying. The romance itself was sweet, of course, but what a waste of several series’ worth of education and aggressive socialism. Is she going to have a career, run a business, stand for Parliament? The General Strike is on the horizon – what will you do about it, Daisy? And incidentally, how much trouble should she have been in for “borrowing” Lady Mary’s hairdryer? In real life, surely servants were dismissed for much less.
Other festive viewing… well, there was “Sherlock: the Abominable Bride”. Excellent and fun, of course, although it did feel as if Steven Moffat a) was trying to get himself out of an impossible Moriarty is/isn’t dead corner; b) is a bit more interested in Sherlock’s psyche than he needs to be; and c) had recently watched the film “Suffragettes”. I know no one wastes much pity on the murder victims in Sherlock, but I did wonder if the actual dead people would have been so cavalierly treated if they had been women. But they were men, and Victorian husbands, so obviously not fit to live. The Bride committed murder-cum-suicide, and was described as a “martyr”. Hmm, did you really intend the modern parallel there?
“And Then There Were None” was indeed very creepy. It was impressively faithful to Agatha Christie’s book, which is also very creepy, although the adapter (Sarah Phelps) and the actor (Burn Gorman) deserve plaudits for the wonderful things they did with the character of Blore (aka “Tubbs-Stop-Calling-Me-That”.) This to me was much more involving than counting the amount of minutes Aidan Turner spent half-dressed.
I didn’t manage to watch the Doctor Who special, and would be grateful to know what you all thought. Even more grateful for comments on “Dickensian”, which looked like a very interesting concept, and will presumably be out on DVD in time for my birthday.
(Yes, I have heard of iplayer, but our TV doesn’t approve, and it’s a bit fiddly for a multi-episode series.)
From the Partial, Prejudiced and Ignorant Blogger
PS Ian Storer has another lovely picture on the site (see under World)!