Monday, January 24, 2011

Baron Julian Fellowes? For shame, for shame!!

My dear Baron,

It is with the utmost dismay I write you this day. I was always amused by you -- after all, you have written exceedingly well when you've put your mind to it.
I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed the rancor and jaundiced view of the relationships of your "upstairs downstairs" people in Gosford Park for Robert Altman.

Whereas Upstairs Downstairs for PBS wears a rosy glow and a rather benign face, your Gosford makes mincemeat of the former's staff and aristocracy. In your capable hands, the curtain of the genteel is stripped away to reveal tawdry behaviour below stairs and wicked fangs above stairs.

In truth, the reality of the Bellamys at Eaton Square flirts with a wonderful naïveté and tremendous heart even when it metes out harsh events and painful extremes. As such, it sits at the pinnacle of excellence for Masterpiece Theatre; its indelible characters, however altruistic at times, remain long after we've viewed Gosford Park, or The Young Victoria for that matter.

But, despite longevity problems, and apart from discussions of self-delusional egos, your work has always beckoned me with a sense of discovery. I do so like new takes on old ideas.

Tonight, however, I retract my high-minded view of your talent. Tonight, alas, you fell off that pedestal of writerly worthiness and had best consider a tour of your country estates and a quiet life of sheep herding and drinking port. For you are guilty, dear Baron, of literary theft and for this sin, there can be no forgiveness.

I have been following PBS' latest Masterpiece Classic, your creation, Downton Abbey. It's a respite to my day, a lovely touch of British soap, best taken with a sponge cake and plenty of treacle.
Granted it isn't stellar, but in the wasteland of television, it is, to be fair, a few grades above Hoarders, Jersey Shore and American Idol.

Unfortunately, tonight's episode dealt with Dowager Countess Violet Grantham's 'crise de coeur' when it was suggested to her that perhaps she ought to let a certain Mr. Molseley win top prize at the flower show for his beautiful roses. After all, dear do know that the judges are never impartial when it comes to awarding you that very same prize each and every season?

And so, in a lovely touch of plot padding, we, the audience, were treated to the softer side of the crusty old bag -- for, yes, in keeping with this week's theme -- change -- she finally did something brave and wonderful. She was handed the judge's decision on a piece of paper proclaiming her inevitable victory, whereupon she neatly ignored it and announced Mr. Moseley as the winner.

A big hooray from young viewers (whom I do not think watch PBS at all) and a royal raspberry from all of us who have not only seen Mrs. Miniver at least a dozen times, but well remember it.

In Mrs. Miniver, it is Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty) who is asked by Mrs. Miniver (Greer Garson) to set aside her selfish grasp on annual rose awards and let the best rose win -- that, being the beautiful hybrid, named after Mrs. Miniver, bred by one very humble stationmaster, Mr.Ballard -- with the same result. Crusty biddy shows softer side.

Baron Fellowes, I must send you a cleaning bill, for my Spode teacup and saucer fell to the Chinese rug and despite immediate ministrations, it remains stained. As does your good reputation.

I hate the presumption that I am brain dead. Did you honestly think you could get away with this?

I loathe the idea of plagiarism, and certainly what you did was as close to it as you'll ever get.

If it's come to the point when you are now casting about, despite any assistance from Shelagh Stephenson, for fresh ideas, you have only to call on me and I shall at least keep you on the straight and narrow.

Now do be a good chap and lose the haughty assumption that only a select few are as widely read, and widely in tune with retro cinema as you.
I say this because after much thought and head scratching, I cannot come up with any other reasonable explanation as to why you tried to get away with this.
Nor will I accept that you did so unaware, that you suffered brain fog, that the dog wrote it, or the cat.

In fact, the only thing I will accept is an apology.


  1. I absolutely agree! This was no homage, this was a total lift, and not even well done. More than one person must have green-lighted this lazy move. As much as I am enjoying the sets, costumes, and performances, this series has at times shown a real lack of subtlety and sophistication in it's script and direction. Baron Fellows—please go back and watch Mrs. Miniver AGAIN and figure out why it won six Academy Awards.

  2. Still haven't had a chance to watch Downton as we're usually at my in-laws while it's on. But thank you, Carol, for pointing this out! I never would have caught it myself, and I hope I remember if I do get a chance to see the show.

    (word verification is 'swore'!