Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Downton" Withdrawal? Try "Titanic" and "Sixbey."

Yearning for "Downton Abbey"? Season 3 won't be here till September 2012 in the UK and January 2013 in the US, but you can still get a little bit of a "Downton" fix.

The PBS "Downton" site has videos, interviews, photos and merchandise, including DVDs for Seasons 1 and 2, a lovely book, and an "official soundtrack" cd. They're offering 15% off plus free shipping through Monday (if you buy at least $90 worth of "Downton" or other PBS merch.)

In other news,"Downton" creator Julian Fellowes has written a four-part miniseries simply called "Titanic," with parts 1-3 airing tonight on ABC to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic in the north Atlantic. Part 4 is scheduled for tomorrow at 8 central. The miniseries features some 89 major characters, with Linus Roache as Hugh, Earl of Manton, Geraldine Somerville as his wife, James Wilby as J. Bruce Ismay, and Linda Kash as the "unsinkable" Molly Brown. ABC's main page for this "Titanic" effort is here, including behind-the-scenes videos and trailers and whatnot. This 2012 "Titanic" mini aired in Canada and in the United Kingdom last month, where reviewers noted that Fellowes' script once again focused on the haves and the have-nots, the upstairs and the downstairs, as he did in "Gosford Park" and, of course, "Downton Abbey."

Over on NBC, Jimmy Fallon has begun his own "Downton" tribute called "Downton Sixbey." (His studio is 6B. Sixbey, get it?) The first episode is embedded below for your viewing entertainment.


  1. Watching "Titanic," I find myself mildly surprised... with 4 hours to play with, we hit the iceberg at the 45-minute mark, and they're getting into the lifebeats at 0:55? What's left? (I'm picturing a Groundhog Day structure where we rewind time and follow other stories in other episodes -- and on checking wikipedia, I find that that's exactly the case! Cool!)

  2. Groundhog Day isn[t quite right, as I realized the moment I hit Publish. What has the structure I'm thinking of? The Norman Conquests?

  3. What did you end up thinking of this Titanic, Jon? I didn't watch it. (I have a limited tolerance for All Things Titanic, which is probably why I've seen only three of the movies -- the blockbuster Leo/Kate Titanic the first time, before 3-D, "A Night to Remember," and Debbie Reynolds in "Unsinkable Molly Brown" -- and the "Titanic" musical on stage, and read no books and partaken in none of the TV movies.) It was not well reviewed in Canada or the UK, and most people found the separate storylines, where each character focused on prepares for the evening, taken up to the moment the ship starts to sink, in the zigzag method you describe, dull rather than exciting. And speaking of the zigzag, to me it's more "Rashomon" and different views of the same events, than "Norman Conquests," although "Rashomon" implies that people's opinions contradict each other and they're all telling the same story, which these are not, so... Dovetailing stories? Maybe I should stick with zigzag.

  4. I pondered "thread structure," but that doesn't seem to fit all that well, either. And I'm starting to think your "Norman Conquests" is closer than anything else, although what that's missing is the way all the stories weave together for the last section of the plot. Or at least I'm assuming that's what happens with "Titanic," that we see separate stories from point A (people get on boat) to B (iceberg), and then all the separate people are there for C, post iceberg/live or die/epilogue. So A-1 up to B-1, A-2 up to B-2, A-3 up to B-3, and then they converge with only one C. I have no idea what to call that, although it is something like thread structure, but I think it usually involves more cutting to and from the separate threads through the beginning and middle of the film, instead of doing one whole chunk, the second whole chunk, and the third whole chunk, and then the conclusion for all three together.

    I may go back to zigzag. Or "Meanwhile, back at the ranch."

  5. I don't know... I think this was a feasible structure, but I'm not much taken with the way it turned out. Focusing on very few characters in each thread (some of them fictional or fictionalized) left me wanting to see more people, and more of the Titanic. Maybe the story really can't be told in filmed form on a (relative) low budget. What we actually saw was so focused on class conflict. Which I can go for, as a dramatic subject, and it's certainly Fellowes's subject in general. But honestly, the voyage of the Titanic wasn't *only* about that. It seems like a lot of trouble to go to, to just revisit that same topic.

    I'm in between as a Titanic-fan. I've never gotten involved in the literature and lore. But when it comes up (as it did when the musical and the big film both appeared in the same year), it intrigues me. Sometime that year, I even checked a book on it out of the library. And it was really interesting: the details of accommodations (despite the miniseries calling it "steerage," the third-class rooms were way above the norm on other vessels) and dining and entertainment and all. Partly, as with "Downton Abbey," because it's a long-vanished way of life that I'll never see, but also partly because it really was a marvel worth getting excited about when it was about to launch.

    And then I returned the book and haven't felt inclined to look at another.