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Downtown Withdrawal: A Recovery Plan

Ah Friday.  Unfortunately it is not so sweet sans the punctuation mark of Downton Abbey at 9pm on Sunday nights, now is it? If you sense mocking in my tone, you are not mistaken. Because SOME of us had to work Sunday nights this winter, and then jam all of our Downton Season 2 into a 36 hour period when we just happened to wander over to PBS and realize there was a friggin deadline before they pulled it offline! What kind of crap is that?

Do not fret, my friends. For I was not at a complete loss. I did manage to jam all but episode 6 into that 36 hour period, and then afterwards rest of the time I put salve on the wound with other British shows which I have long been dependent upon. I would like to say, for the first time out loud (sort of) that I, Kerina Pharr, am an anglophile.

This is how it all started: Gosford Park is one of my favorite movies, and as the rest of you diehard Downton fans know, it was written by the same person who created Downton Abbey. That movie is friggin genius. Hard to follow, but genius. Acutally most movies and tv shows made in Britain are hard to follow the English have a tendency to mumble and not blow things up as much as Americans like to do in movies, but their genius and enjoyability lies in their underemotion and lack of a directorial equivalent to Michael Bay.

the best version of Being Human that everyone who gets BBC America should watch. P.S. If the dude who plays Mitchell asked me to be his vampire bride I would cross over to the dark side in a heartbeat.

So last year, after moving to my sleepy hometown hamlet tucked away in the Berkshires, I found myself with a tingling affinity for all things quaint and desperately wanting to watch something set in the English countryside. But the seeds of my addiction were really planted a few years ago when I stumbled on BBC America’s broadcast of one of my favorite shows of all time, Being Human. Not the shitty American version (WHY oh WHY must we remake a perfectly good English show just so American’s don’t have to strain to understand the British accents? The end results are never good). A love of sci-fi/fantasy was my gateway drug to all things deliciously British.

So it wasn’t very long until I found myself meandering around the British selections on Netflix to try to quell my undying anglophiliac thirst. On a semi-side note, listening to British people untie the knots of a murder mystery in the most calm of manners is probably the only tried-and-true remedy for insomnia. At least it works for me. Have you ever read Beatrix Potter to a small child? It has similar narcoleptic affects.

So, whether you’re in the need for the televised equivalent of Ambien or a pick-me-up while you wait for Season 3 (Shirley MacLaine!!), I’ve assembled a few shows for you to check out to tide you over, all of which are handily available for instant streaming of at least one season on Netflix! (Or as the Brits like to call it, one series. Pip, pip).

I hope they make a Downton reference at the London Olympics. Dame Maggie Smith should be the MC. That would be FLY, yo.

If you miss… Mr. Carson

"We never should have installed those bloody bells"

Try…Midsomer Murders

“My opinion? She’s Dead.”

Carson is the beating, curmudgeonly heart of the Abbey. You’d be lying to yourself if you said you didn’t miss him muttering curses at the newfangled contraptions they drag into his pristine domain. Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby is this century’s answer to Mr. Carson, grumbling to himself as he waddles around fictional Midsomer county solving the murders and incestuous plots that occur at an alarming rate for what you thought was just the sleepy English countryside. White people problems.

If you miss…the Earl of Grantham

I would miss him more if he wore that hat.

Try… The Commander

You know that beneath that supposed camaraderie with the 99%, The Earl is secretly pissed that he has to bend over backwards every weekend to kiss the asses of the help and go running after them every time they leave their posts because of some baby mama drama. “SO UNGRATEFUL! I should have listened to Mother…she always said it was impossible to get good help.” That Earl is a serial killer waiting to happen. But you don’t have to wait til Season 3 to watch him suffocate people with a plastic bag if you watch Commander (Woopsie. Belated spoiler alert). As a bonus, there’s a something very Mrs. Hughes about the Commander, who is also a woman. If anyone were to uncover the murderous plots of her employer, it would be this lady.

"I have not smiled since 1899"


If you miss….The Ladies Crawley

Lady Mary wore that dress for like the ENTIRE season. Fashion faux pax, AMIRIGHTLADIES?


Saucy, sassy, adultery

I’m pretty sure the Crawley daughters have more scandals between them than any twenty-first century melodrama could muster. It’s hard to top Turks who die post coitus, shotgun weddings with Irish rebel footmen, and desperate gerophiles/stage 5 clingers (seriously, Edith, you’re not THAT dowdy). But an affair with a married and dying patient, a 9/11 mystery, and an event planner lesbian fling with the girl from Fringe and you’ll come as close as you can get to charades of the girls of Downton. Ladies, my foot.

If you miss…O’Brien

Try…The Ruth Rendell Mysteries

"I'm just not that into you." - Colin Firth in 'Master of the Moor'

OK, admittedly this one is a bit of a stretch because it’s not a series, per se, but a bunch of separate episodes which are sometimes murder mysteries and sometimes just stories about creeps being creepy. But they all have the same uniting acidic/this-just-isn’-going-to-turn-out-well, it is? quality that makes me think that they were written by the real life O’Brien who used the pen name Ruth Rendell to get her jollies off. O’Brien clearly has a lot of rage to channel, and that would lend itself to an illustrious murder-mystery writing career, especially with the likes of Thomas chain smoking and shouting over her shoulder while she writes “Make Colin Firth GAY!!”

If you just miss the whole gang

Please, please watch Gosford Park

It’s not the kind of movie you can watch without paying close attention to, but it’s worth it for the greatness that is a good old English murder mystery, plus the all star cast, and of course, Dame Maggie Smith basically playing the exact same Dowager Countess role. Here’s a quick breakdown to prove that all your favorite character/types from Downton are present in Gosford Park, except played by more famous people:

Kristin Scott Thomas playing a sluttier, goldigger version of The Countess of Grantham, and Ryan Phillipe filling in the requisite annoying American role.

Michael Gambson playing an older, crustier version of the Earl of Grantham. Plus he has the dog from As Good As it Gets. Win/win.

Emily Watson taking on the O'Brien character, except she is also sluttier.

Clive Owen playing a more delicious version of the Bates: MAN WITH A PAST character

Dame Maggie Smith playing the old lady/displaced queen of the castle character like only she can, and Kelly Macdonald taking on the hapless newbie character that is most similar to Daisy


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