We take up the story of Downton Abbey several years after Lord Grantham’s mismanagement has lost his beloved manor house and estate to an unhappy band of creditors. Lord and Lady Grantham now share a bedsitter with Carson the butler in the nearby town of Bleakly-on-the-Never-Never.
Lord G: I say, Carson, do set a third place for dinner. MaMa will be joining us.
Carson: Very good, my Lord.
Lady G: Dearest Robert, must we see MaMa so soon again. The tiresome old crone was here only six months ago.
Lord G: Cora, how many times must I ask you not to call MaMa a tiresome old crone? She may be tiresome but she represents the Way It Used To Be. I say, Carson, what is on tonight’s bill of fare?
Carson: I’m afraid it’s bangers and mashed again, my Lord.
Lord G (sighing): Good heavens, Cora, this is what it’s come to — bangers and mashed two nights in a row. MaMa will be appalled. I say, Carson, let us hope at least that we will have some of that delicious spotted dick to finish.
Carson: That we do, my Lord. There’s enough spotted dick here to last out the month.
Lady G: I think your beloved MaMa will be lucky to get anything after the way she’s behaved. Of course, we wouldn’t be in this situation if you had worried less about your studs and cufflinks and more about the management of the estate.
Lord G: Only an insensitive colonial would talk that way to a peer of the realm. You really must try harder, my dear, to understand the British upper class.
Lady G: My dear Robert, to understand the British upper class one had only to watch the episode where an entire hour was devoted to the issue of which dress shirts and ties were suitable for wear with certain dinner clothes. Is it any wonder the British Empire has all but disappeared?
Lord G: Some issues are more important than they may appear to an outsider. Besides, that episode was no less compelling than the one that had me lusting after one of the maids like a demented goat. Or that tedious business with Bates and whether he murdered his wife. And let us not overlook the romance between our darling Sybil and the Irish chauffeur. Who would believe any of that?
Lady G: I would, for one. Given the general intelligence level of the script, one is expected to believe just about anything. Why would a rich, good-looking woman like me marry a dithering relic like you, for instance? You squander my fortune on idiotic investments. You insist that birdbrain with a title attend Sybil in childbirth with disastrous results, and then you manage to lose our house. So now we eat pub food at a card table and the butler sleeps on a Barcalounger in the kitchen. I should have divorced your sorry ass thirty years ago and moved back to the States.
Lord G: Yes, so you say. But then you wouldn’t have been Lady Grantham anymore, would you, my sweet? You wouldn’t have been able to cock a snook at those barbarians who spawned you in Pittsburgh, or wherever it was. And you wouldn’t have had all those wonderful years at Downton Abbey playing lady of the manor with that ghastly smile pasted on your face.
Lady G: My smile comes from good breeding. I am a lady. I had an example to set.
Lord G: Your smile comes from the makeup department. And the only thing you ever set was your hair. If there is anything that provokes my contempt it is a snob who has no reason to be a snob.
Lady G: Unlike you, I suppose, a bona fide snob.
Lord G: Exactly. I am the real thing, a snob’s snob. I am convinced that I am better than everyone else, even though I’m not very bright, not in the least bit interesting, and have never accomplished anything except to learn how to tie a white bow tie.
Lady G: Well, of course you’re right, my dear. That’s what won my heart all those years ago. I saw in you a man who presided over the biggest, ugliest house in all of England, a man with whom I could create a family of girls every bit as uninteresting as their parents, all living and yawning together in a vast pile full of servants whose intrigues, romances and betrayals were just as boring as those of their masters. It was life imitating art — in this case a TV miniseries that threatened to last until the end of time.
Lord G: Beautifully put, my dear. I couldn’t have said it any better myself. I say, Carson, might we have some tea?
Carson: Very good, my Lord.