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Jack Bettridge archive

February 2013

Maker’s Mark—Proof Positive?

Posted: Feb 13, 2013 12:00am ET

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Soap-Opera Confessions

Posted: Feb 8, 2013 12:00am ET

I have a confession to make. For three seasons now I have been hooked on what is essentially a soap opera: Masterpiece Classic’s “Downton Abbey,” produced for British television, but shown here on PBS. Sure it’s very classy and all, telling the fictional story of a noble English family during the last days of the great manor houses in the early 20th century, but still—I admit—it is a soap opera. And I’m hooked at the gill on this show—addicted to this show that is more the kind of thing my wife would watch than my smoking buddies. Even while I was performing the manly rite of watching the Super Bowl on Sunday I was secretly recording “Downton Abbey” on DVR for later viewing. (No! I didn’t forsake my beloved Ravens during the brownout.) Despite its scrupulous attention to cultural details and the historical underpinnings of the show—it begins on the day of the sinking of the Titanic, continues through the First World War and its aftermath, with steady references to then-current events—something of the unrealistic pervades the plot. For instance, all seems lost for a hoped-for union between Matthew Crawley, a third cousin, and the lord of the manor’s eldest daughter that would save the family from giving up Downton Abbey, when Matthew is paralyzed in the war. After a miraculous recovery revives hope, it is only dashed again because of his previous commitment to another. But relief in the guise of the Spanish influenza pandemic swoops in to put the romance on track once again. You get the picture.

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