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Column: Another successful British invasion

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Diane Ward originally from Scotland and Steve Charlton originally from England enjoy kidsCommons Uk 02/9/13
Diane Ward originally from Scotland and Steve Charlton originally from England enjoy kidsCommons Uk 02/9/13

Four months ago I said I was done writing a weekly column. I wrote that I didn’t want to stay past my expiration date as Willie Mays did.

Yet here I am, back again, although on Wednesdays instead of Sundays. What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment. And I missed it. Feel free to start calling me Willie.

Way back in 1776, we couldn’t wait to be rid of our British rulers. Today, 237 years later, we can’t seem to get enough of all things English.

There’s little doubt that the past couple of years have been huge for Great Britain. The marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton was watched on TV by millions around the globe.

The world focused on London last year during the elaborate celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, marking her 60 years as monarch, followed by the Summer Olympic Games.

While 2012 would be nearly impossible to top for Great Britain, it won’t be completely in the background. Now that William and Kate are expecting a little prince or princess, we’ll soon be back to all royals, all the time.


And just last Saturday, kidscommons’ Carnivale, with a United Kingdom theme, raised an estimated $62,000 for the local children’s museum.

Meanwhile, those of us who were sad to see the end of England’s latest moment in the world spotlight still have “Downton Abbey” on Sunday nights.

For the unfamiliar, “Downton Abbey” is a PBS Masterpiece Classic series in the midst of its third season. Set in the early part of the 20th century, it focuses on life at Downton Abbey, a huge English estate occupied by the family of the Earl of Grantham, tended to by a large staff of butlers, footmen, maids and cooks.

Imagine an American daytime soap opera in formal wear and you’ll be pretty close to the feel of “Downton.”

My PBS viewing usually is limited to “Austin City Limits” and the various music programs it seems to show only during pledge weeks. I didn’t really hear about “Downton Abbey” until its second season had ended.

Deciding to see what all the fuss was about, I watched the first episode of Season 3, even though I was told I’d be lost unless I first watched Seasons 1 and 2. While I’m missing a lot of the back story, after watching several episodes I feel up to speed on the current story lines.

I’ve detected a theme: rich English folks whine about their lives, while maids and butlers help them get dressed for dinner. But I love it.

While I still haven’t decided whether or not to invest the time — and money — to watch the first two seasons, I will definitely watch from here on out.

I can’t quite put my raised pinky on it, but something about “Downton” is just good fun.

The house itself is a major attraction. The series is filmed in the real-life Highclere Castle, home to the real-life Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, who I’m sure are earning a few pounds for opening their home to the actors and camera crews.

While “Downton Abbey” certainly has some elements of soap opera, it’s also a fascinating lesson in British history.

And the actors are excellent, with the possible exception of the annoying woman who, as Countess Cora Grantham, communicates in something resembling baby talk. But that’s a minor complaint.

In my mind, “Downtown Abbey” is a jolly good show. A juicy story set in a fantastic house crawling with people with British accents — what more do you need?

I suddenly feel the urge to don white tie and tails for dinner tonight.

“I say, m’lady, be a dear and kindly pass the tater tots.”

Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or

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