Dumbed-Down Abbey: Mysterious Character Reboots for Season 4

In great peril from my family and friends, I write the following on a beloved, quality show… To jump-the-shark is a term coined from the infamous Happy Days episode when the series started heading south. There aren’t many sharks, leather jackets or jukeboxes on the moors, but Downton Abbey could use an Inspiration Point. Granted, Season Four is only a couple episodes old (here in the States), but a passenger can still not like the way that iceberg looks looming in the distance. In sit-coms, characters are two dimensional more than three. You don’t expect Norm in Cheers  to suddenly weep into his beer because he misses his invisible wife, Vera. Fonzie can’t become a feminist, even if he is on water skis over shark tanks.. Modern Family‘s Phil doesn’t turn into a thoughtful, sullen guy.  The last thing we want in a sit-com is for characters to change much…. Read More…

The Power of a Well-Placed Smart-Ass: Roger Sterling, Lord Tyrion and the Dowager Countess of Grantham

“What’s the definition of a smart-ass?” began one of my dad’s favorite jokes.   “Someone who could sit on ice cream and tell what flavor it is.” In 1998, the internet was new in our school and I was doing a demo in class of how cool it was.  We had the projector on and I was discussing how easy it was to find information. “For example, if you wanted to check out the President’s website, you just had to www.whitehouse.com,” I dictated proudly to my student at the keyboard who typed it in. I could see from their expressions that they also weren’t expecting the porn site on the big screen behind me. “Back arrow!  Back arrow!” I screached, convinced that the principal, governor or Bill Clinton would walk in on me at that very moment. Without missing a beat, a student raised his hand, “Mr. Walsh, can I… Read More…

Downton Abbey: Bringing Characters to Life–and Death

[No Spoilers Below for those DVR and Netflix viewers] Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, reportedly sick of his Sherlock Holmes, killed him off only to have to resuscitate him years later from his waterfall drop with Professor Moriarty.  The public outcry at their favorite character’s death was so severe (and the author’s writing in other areas not so popular) that the detective did, in fact, return. Sunday night, millions of Americans had to suffer the terrible death of a fan-favorite on PBS’s Downton Abbey that the British already experienced a few months ago.  The next morning, people admitted to crying and going through the same stages we all go through in real life. I’m always amazed by the gift of good writing that can not only “bring a character to life” but to death as well.  Perhaps, if you were to go to www.imdb.com and look up the star’s activities you… Read More…