Saturday, June 19

“Downton Abbey” Is Back … Well … Sorta-Kinda …


For the benefit of those of you who have been vacationing somewhere outside the orbit of Neptune for the past year or two, and whose sub-space radio went belly-up, be it duly noted that you have missed the most momentous television event since the last episode of M*A*S*H, arguably even more momentous: the end of the epic series Downton Abbey, about the trials, tribulations, triumphs, and failures of a late-Edwardian English dynasty, the Crawleys, headed by the seventh earl of Grantham, Lord Robert Crawley and his wife the Lady Cora. The Crawleys are of such stature as to make Mitt Romney look like Oliver Twist by comparison – “Please, sir, may I have some more caviar-and-Ritz-crackers casserole? And with a magnum of Chateau d'Yqem next time?Thenks awff-leh!” – and even came through the Great War, i.e., World War I before we started numbering and indexing them, virtually unscathed. (Lord Grantham’s heir-apparent Matthew Crawley was killed in an auto accident, but that was after the War.) My wife and I watched the series finale, anaesthetizing ourselves against bereavement as we did so with a bottle of good champagne, and it is only recently that Diane and I have emerged from a cognitive haze, composed half of grief and half of alcohol, to become privy to both good news and bad news. Good news first: Downton Abbey is returning. Bad news: Downton Abbey is returning under the auspices of Donald J. Trump, who recently bought the rights. Remember: you heard it from your faithful Skeptic-In-Residence first!


Why is this bad news? Strange that you should ask … but, under the circumstances, even stranger that you would need to ask. Aside from the fact that Mr. Trump’s idea of subtlety is to install low-energy bulbs – which he calls “Jeb-bulbs” – on the Vegas Strip, there is the fact that, while I am not privileged to know details about the entire, comprehensive story arc, my sources inside Downton Abbey and in the Trump organization have managed to smuggle out a few brief but revelatory tidbits. Consider the following, at least until violent nausea seizes you:

o The series will be renamed Drumpfton Abbey

o Mr. Trump plays the part of the lord of Drumpfton Abbey, Donald, the Duke of Drumpf who rules his estate with all the effortless savoir faire of Kanye West at an awards ceremony … which is probably to be expected, since Phil Robertson was the consultant for historical accuracy in matters pertaining to the authenticity of etiquette, manners, and deportment, e.g., how to spit out a fish-bone at a formal dinner without having it land on another guest's plate.

o In an early episode, Mary, the daughter of the Duke – he prefers the Italian honorific “Il Duce” – seduces a certain Mr. Pamuk, a minor diplomatic functionary visiting from Turkey who then proceeds to unceremoniously die in Mary’s arms in the height of passion. (Imagine a 1950s grade-B George Romero horror movie:  The Orgasm from Hell.) To avoid scandal, Mary enlists the help of her ladies’ maid Anna and Mary’s mother, Cora, the Duchess of Drumpf, Il Duce’s wife, to remove the body, which means that Mary is immediately caught in flagrante delicto, since there is no way to “make it look like an accident,” and the naked bodies of errant Turkish diplomats in single ladies’ boudoirs in late-Edwardian England are not calculated to enhance the reputation of any great house, or the scions thereof,  for probity and circumspection.

Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary)

o At about the same time that the Mary-Pamuk tryst and its aftermath are reaching their climax -- so to speak -- a clandestine romance is blossoming between Duke Donald’s youngest daughter, Sybil, and Tom Branson, the chauffeur of Drumpfton Abbey. Now, Mr. Branson is an altogether admirable and upright chap … with one conspicuous exception: he is Irish. And it is in the early to middle teens of the 1900s that the “Rising” occurs – as anyone will attest who has, to this day, observed the bullet marks in the main post-office building in Dublin.

(Duke Donald also has a stunningly lovely middle daughter, Edith. But when it comes to matters of the heart, Edith has always ended up about as lonely as the dude who won the lottery ticket to be seated next to an African-American nominee at the 2016 Academy Awards.)

o Eventually, as you might expect, the truth about Mary’s dalliance with Mr. Pamuk and about the Sybil-Branson romance comes to light. Duke Donald is livid … one might even say “incensed”, did not the word “incense” conjure up unfortunate associations with Catholicism, which, especially within the context of the ongoing "troubles" in Catholic Ireland, is still a tender subject in the staunchly Anglican England of the early 1900s. In fact, so enraged is Duke Donald that he invites his fellow nobility to Drumpfton Abbey for a fox hunt – except that, instead of hunting fox, the hunting party hunts immigrants, i.e., Mr. Pamuk’s family and Mr. Branson himself. In fact, the problem with the Pamuks is twofold, as far as Duke Donald is concerned: they are not only immigrants – granted, visitors protected by diplomatic immunity, but "Il Duce" does not trouble with such bourgeois technicalities – they are also Muslims. In any case, it is not Mr. Pamuk’s and Mr. Branson’s status as aliens in England that troubles Duke Donald. Rather, the kernel of the problem is that they both – Messrs. Pamuk and Branson – got “dibs” on two of Duke Donald’s daughters, for whose affections Il Duce has publicly evinced some rather un-fatherly designs. So one does not "out-dib" the Duke with impunity, for fear that one's "out-dib-bing" days will come to an abrupt and catastrophic end, whereupon one's only remaining career path might be a permanent position as a middle-aged castrato member of the Vienna Boys' Choir. (There is even talk in the House of Commons about amending British law to include a new and highly alliterative capital felony:  "Dibbing Duke Donald's daughters" or just "depraved dibbing".) Duke Donald stoutly avers that his zeal to capture the Pamuks and Mr. Branson is motivated by his chivalrous reverence for women:  he says every man ought to own one. But the Pamuks and Mr. Branson manage to escape the hunt: the Pamuks to the sovereign protection of the Turkish embassy in London; Mr. Branson, to the States via Dublin.

Allen Leech (Tom Branson)

o The escape of the Pamuks and Mr. Branson frustrates Duke Donald’s retribution … which prompts him to begin construction of a 40-foot-high wall around the Drumpfton estate made of concrete, re-bar, and steel. He vows that Turkey and Ireland will jointly pay for the wall, which Duke Donald promises will be, in his words, a “yuge” wall, in fact, the “greatest wall ever built” – the one in China not excluded. "Il Duce" also begins lobbying His Majesty's Government to begin deportation proceedings against all British subjects who are descended from the Norman French, since the latter are presumably descended from the loins of William the Conqueror of Normandy who defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 ... and who are therefore illegal immigrants into England.  (Duke Donald is magnanimous enough to allow "anchor babies" to remain in England ... but only so long as they are used as anchors.) This controversy is interrupted by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand at Sarajevo in 1914, the outbreak of World War I, and the landing of the British Expeditionary Force on the Continent.

o Lord Donald wins a contract from His Majesty's Government as the official trench-digger for British forces ranged along the Western Front. Problems are immediately encountered when the ditches ignominiously collapse under light rainfall ... and heavy dews.  Notwithstanding, Lord Donald wins a second contract from His Majesty's Government to provide Trump Steaks and Trump Wine to British forces, but the Government cancels the contract when Trump Steaks prove to be mostly compressed gristle mixed with (what seems to be some form of) spam and Trump Wines prove to be mostly vinegar.

o Lord Donald celebrates the Allied victory and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles -- incorporating Lord Donald's original idea of imposing ruinous reparations payments on a prostrate Germany -- with a lavish party at Drumpfton Abbey.  The celebration is attended by Lord Donald's heir apparent, Matthew, who returned from the War a wheelchair-bound invalid.  Lord Donald wows his assembled guests with a boffo comic impersonation of Matthew's pitiful attempts to walk on crutches ... and people who decline to laugh are roughed up by Lord Donald's butler, Chris Christie, and the Dowager Countess, Duke Donald's mother, played with virtuoso verisimilitude by Kim Davis -- who was fired by the WWE for excessive gratuitous vulgarity.

Dunno about you, but I am looking forward to the reincarnation of Downton Abbey as Drumpfton Abbey.  It's gonna be YUGE!

James R. Cowles

Image credits:

Highclere Castle -- Richard Munckton from Windsor, Melbourne, Australia ... Creative Commons
Attribution 2.0 Generic
Donald J. Trump ... Michael Vadon ... Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
Michelle Dockery ... J. Deering Davis ... Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
Allen Leech ... Richard Goldschmidt ... CC BY-SA 3.0

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