|What’s Hot Now: Downton Abbey and a Certain Sexy Book
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Posted: January 10, 2013
by Ted Greenberg
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Ever read an online dating profile? They are full of contradictions. For example, “I am a devotee of The New Yorker, but cannot devour US Weekly fast enough.” Or “my favorite restaurants are Per Se and Mamoun’s.” Or “I bow down to Apple, but am in love with my Android phone.” And the list goes on and on. One moment the wind blows cold and to the East and the next it changes directions and is hot as hell. So, what am I getting at? We are currently living in the greatest cultural contradiction in possibly the history of the free world.
Sixty five million of you across the globe have turned Fifty Shades of Grey into the greatest selling book series based on fan fiction. Filled with erotic scenes and bondage, the book is read by every second female on the subway in New York City. And, a friend who recently visited Seattle was asked by foreign tourists to take their photo outside the hotel featured in the book. Fifty Shades of Grey is pumping fifty shades of money into the Emerald City. And, yesterday, the big story was that screenwriter Kelly Marcel, who is adapting E.L. James’ novel, admitted that the film version is intended to be rated NC-17, normally the kiss of death rating for films. But, this very popular book turned into film may buck the trend.
On one hand, you have an edgy, sex-charged book soon to be movie that is rocking pop culture. Everyone — ok 65 million people at least — is reading this phenomenon. On the other very well manicured hand,vyou have the buttoned up British soap Downton Abbey, which has become appointment television stateside. The show’s third season premiere drew nearly 8 million viewers on Sunday night, making it the second-most watch program in the United States for that time period. Downton Abbey’s Season 3 picked up in post-World War I as the Crawleys — Robert, his American wife Cora, their three daughters, his mother the Dowager Countess, their distant cousin Matthew and his mom Isobel — struggled with the new world order and the arrival of Cora’s mother (Shirley MacLaine) from America. The series, a startling intricate and lovingly human look at an upper class family and the servants they employ at their larger-than-life estate, lit up Facebook and Twitter. As popular as Fifty Shades of Grey is on the subway cars of the Big Apple, Downton Abbey scores as easily with New Yorkers. I wouldn’t be surprised if half of the 8 million viewers lived in the five boroughs.
What exactly is going on? Fifty Shades of Grey and Downton Abbey are both cultural juggernauts? Can we love them both? Apparently so. And with zingers like the ones below, Downton Abbey will continue to capture Americans’ hearts.
When one of the servants Mrs. Hughes notices a lump in her breast and decides to go to the doctor. Mrs. Patmore, the head cook, says, “If you’re going to pay money, better to a doctor than an undertaker.” Well said. And the Dowager Countess, played by the incomparable Maggie Smith was in rare form in the first episode, particularly since she had American legend Shirley MacLaine with whom to spar. Two of my favorite lines from her include: “Never mistake a wish for certainty,” and in a moment of delirium when she mistakes her son, Robert, for the help and asks for a drink, “I’m so sorry I thought you were a waiter.” Her delivery was so priceless on the last line that it’s become a meme of its own.
While I haven’t yet joined the 65 million in reading E.L. James’ novel, I have drunk the Downton Abbey Kool-Aid. It goes down quite smoothly.
Tags: catch-22, downton abbey, fifty shades of grey, online dating