Victoria Is Strong, Stubborn, And Successful: Just What We Need

Victoria On MASTERPIECE on PBS *SPECIAL TWO-HOUR PREMIERE* SUNDAY, JANUARY 15, 2017 AT 9PM ET Continues Sundays, January 22 – February 19, 2017 at 9pm ET Season Finale on Sunday, March 5 at 9pm ET Episode One – "Doll 123" Sunday, January 15 at 9pm ET As a new queen, the young Victoria struggles to take charge amid plots to manipulate her. Victoria’s friendship with the prime minister leads to a crisis in Parliament. Shown: Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria (C) ITV Plc


Written by Rachel Buchman, GPB

If she needs advice, she’ll ask for it.

This is what the newly appointed Queen Victoria insists to her advisors in the first episode of PBS’ new series Victoria, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for television. As the change in the United States Presidency approaches, people ask themselves “How much of the Inauguration and political coverage do I feel comfortable watching, if at all?”. Many thought that it was time to elect the first female leader of the United States, and those hopes were dashed when Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election. With Donald Trump moving into The White House, women look to other sources for inspirational leadership.

With this in mind, Victoria is a worthy addition to any television schedule on Sunday nights. Jenna Coleman (of Doctor Who fame) stars as the titular queen, who upon being informed her uncle, the King, has died, takes no time in adapting to her new role as monarch of one of the greatest nations in the world. The men in parliament doubt her abilities and wonder if her age and sex makes her qualified to be in charge, and those close to her plot to control her every decision. Thus in the first episode, Victoria makes it clear that she’ll look for assistance as she sees fit.

Which she does. After all, she must understand the full responsibilities of being a queen. She pledges her trust to Prime Minister Lord Melbourne (played by Rufus Sewell), a prominent leader of the Whig party whose days as Prime Minister are numbered. Members of the Tory party are displeased, as is Sir John Conroy (played by Paul Rhys), who has formed a close relationship with Victoria’s mother (the Duchess of Kent) and would wish to see her rule as Regent instead of her daughter, so he can influence her as he sees fit. But Victoria Creator, Executive Producer, and Writer Daisy Goodwin chooses to show a blossoming infatuation Victoria has with Lord Melbourne, something that while may not have been historically accurate, Yet it reveals that despite being a queen, Victoria is still an 18 year old young woman who feels attraction and affection as easily as the servants downstairs who help run Buckingham House (soon to be Palace, as Victoria exclaims as she moves in).

Viewers may recognize actors from other programs, such as Tom Hughes as Prince Albert (Dancing On The Edge, Miss Marple) and Nell Hudson as Miss Skerrett (Outlander), which proves to be an enjoyable game of “Where Have I Seen That Actor Before?” amidst the political and romantic issues of the day which Victoria must contend with in her early reign. But above all else, Victoria is firm in her decisions on love and life, and handles criticism gracefully (usually) while being honest with her priorities and feelings. Something leaders no matter the time period and country could stand to learn.

Victoria airs on GPB on Sunday nights at 9 p.m., now through March 5th.





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Fans Celebrate End of Downton Abbey with Live Chats and Galas

MASTERPIECE Downton Abbey The Final Season Premieres January 3, 2016 at 9 PM ET The top PBS drama of all time approaches its climactic chapter as Downton Abbey embarks on its final season. The year is 1925, and momentous change threatens the great house, its owners, and servants. Past scandals are also looming. The beloved ensemble is back for their farewell performance, closing the book on a television legend. Shown: MICHELLE DOCKERY as Lady Mary Crawley © Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE This image may be used only in the direct promotion of MASTERPIECE. No other rights are granted. All rights are reserved. Editorial use only.


Written by Guest Blogger, Rosemary Jean-Louis, Desperate for Downton

The last season of “Downton Abbey” is finally airing in the U.S. and its storylines have already elicited big smiles. (*Spoiler alert: plots to be revealed in this article so if you haven’t watched the season so far, you may want to skip ahead!)

Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes tied the knot in episode 3. Mr. Branson’s unexpected and welcome return during the reception induced tears of joy. The Bates are cleared of any connection to Mr. Green’s murder and have a baby on the way.

All is really well at the Abbey, but unfortunately fans will get to enjoy this bliss for only a few more weeks as the last episode airs March 6.

No worries! Just as tours of movie locations have extended the fan experience of the beloved films, several events are extending the viewer experience offscreen to celebrate “Downton’s” ending. Here are some of them. 

Downton Abbey Live Chat Sundays: Every Sunday for the past five years, I have been hosting an online live chat during the broadcast of “Downton Abbey” on the Desperate for Downton Georgia Public Broadcasting blog. My group of chatters convene there loyally. Some participants have come from Texas, California and New York and join in because they enjoy the camaraderie. Others have joined in because they were too sick to attend a friend’s real life “Downton” watch party. They appreciated finding one online.

It’s not too late to watch the last season with people who love the show very much too. Join us at 9 p.m. on Sundays. We’re welcome you.

Downton Abbey Galas in Macon and Savannah: Bid goodbye to the Crawleys in style by attending a “Downton” themed soiree. Georgia Public Broadcasting held one in Atlanta this past December where Jessica Fellowes, the niece to “Downton” creator Julian Fellowes, and the author of the companion”Downton Abbey” books was the headliner. Plus attendees got to see the first episode before others did.

GPB Macon is hosting a similar function, dubbed “A Farewell to Downton” on Saturday, January 23 at 7 p.m. at the Library Ballroom in Macon, Ga.  There will be dinner, dancing and a preview of episode 4. Get tickets here.

If you can’t attend that one, you can head further south to Savannah. That’s where GPB Savannah is hosting their “Diamonds & Dinner At Downton Abbey” on February 23 at 6 p.m.  at the Jepson Center at the Telfair Museum. Guests will get to see the final episode before everyone else and get an insider’s perspective from the show’s official jewelry designer, Andrew Prince.  Get tickets here. 

Downton Abbey Weekend at Sea Island: For its final “Downton Abbey” themed weekend the Sea Island resort has pulled out all the stops, flying in cast, crew and companion book author to give fans multiple insiders’ perspectives on how the last season came together. Four stars of the show will be there: Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes)  and Michael Fox (Andy) are appearing for the first time. Raquel Cassidy (Baxter) and Kevin Doyle (Moseley) are returning as is Jessica Fellowes. Executive Producer Liz Trubridge, costume designer Anna Robbins and historical advisor Alastair Bruce are also coming in.

I’ll be there covering and live tweeting the event. I hope to see you there. Find out more here.


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Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael On Lady Edith’s Emotional Season 5

Photo courtesy of Rosemary Jean-Lewis

Written by Rosemary Jean-Louis, Guest Blogger

Season five of “Downton Abbey” had the melodrama of a telenovela with no character being untouched by conflict and troubles.

But Julian Fellowes heaped the heartache on the Crawley middle sister, Lady Edith.

At the beginning of the season, Lady Edith had taken back her daughter Marigold and hid her away with tenant farmer and adoptive couple the Drewes.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, should have been the tagline for this scheme. Lady Edith planned on checking in on Marigold as much as possible. But Mrs. Drewe, unaware of Marigold’s true identity, made the Crawley sister miserable with each visit. At one point, she denied Lady Edith seeing Marigold during one stopover. By midway through the season, Mrs. Drewe banned Lady Edith from seeing the little girl altogether.

Add the confirmed death of Mr. Gregson, Edith’s lover and Marigold’s father, and what an emotional rollercoaster ride for the character and the actress who plays her.

That would be Laura Carmichael and at the second annual “Downton Abbey” themed weekend at the Sea Island Resort this past January, she shared how she navigated playing so many scenes with such a heightened sense of emotions.

“Really when you’ve got a day which is a lot of your big storyline (days), those are kind of easier. You’re in it,” she explains. “They tend to schedule them together if they can. So they’ll put all of your big scenes in one day which can kind of help the concentration.”

“It’s a performance. So much of what happens to Edith is that she has to show that she’s fine even when she’s not. So it’s my job to always keep it in my mind and be on top of that.”

You can watch Carmichael discuss it in this video snippet of a panel discussion she appeared on during the weekend event alongside Kevin Doyle (Mr. Moseley) and Raquel Cassidy (Baxter) moderated by Jessica Fellowes, niece of Julian and “Downton Abbey” book author.


If you’re suffering from “Downton Abbey” withdrawal, here’s a fix. Visit Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “Downton Abbey” store to stock up on t-shirts, mugs and other swag.



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The Secrets and “Manners of Downton Abbey” Revealed


Written by Guest Blogger, Rosemary Jean-Louis, Desperate for Downton

The fifth season of “Downton Abbey” premieres on Georgia Public Broadcasting on
January 4 at 9 p.m.
You won’t want to miss this new season as it promises to churn up more scandals
and unveil jawdropping character secrets.

You can live chat with us all season long during the broadcasts by going to GPB’s Desperate for Downton blog. My new co-blogger, Rachel Buchman and I will field your comments and questions during the broadcast and 10 minutes after each episode airs.

One of the reasons why “Downton Abbey” is so appealing to Americans is because it
transports viewers to a time of refinement and propriety in British culture. It was a time when
gents courted ladies, servants knew their places and everyone donned the correct gown or
dinner coat to dinner.

Alastair Bruce is the key to why the show gets the details of the period correct. Nicknamed
“The Oracle” by the cast and producers, he is the show’s historical advisor and he takes the
job seriously.

PBS_Alastair_BruceHe explains how much of a task it is – a  joyful one at that – in the upcoming special “The
Manners of Downton Abbey” which airs at 10:15 p.m., right after the season premiere

I had the pleasure of meeting, interviewing and hobnobbing with Mr. Bruce this month when
he was GPB’s guest at its annual gala premiere for the show. What a delightful man! (Here is
my post with pictures about the evening. Be sure to check back for more posts on his visit.)

Some of the trade secrets Mr. Bruce told us about filming the show:

  • 120 takes of a scene equals four minutes of screen time.
  • Real British Iraq War veterans played injured World War I veterans in season 2.
  • Dan Stevens, who played Matthew Crawley, had to be taught how to cast a fishing line in a key scene in season 3 as he had never fished before.

Here is a preview video of “The Manners of Downton Abbey”:

Interested in other period tv shows? Check out my personal site starting Monday December 22, where I’ll be giving you the lowdown on other history-based shows like the History Channel’s “Vikings”, the CW’s “Reign” and “Outlander” on Starz.


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Anatomy of a Masterpiece Hit – Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey Season 4 - Signature Image (2)

Why would anyone want to watch a series about a British aristocratic family and their servants living at the end of the 19th century? HBO execs pondered that question four years ago and are allegedly still kicking themselves for turning down airing “Downton Abbey”.

The cable network’s loss has been a phenomenal gain for PBS. Millions of viewers tune in every year to watch “Downton Abbey”. Many of the show’s admirers include celebrities and prominent figures. Count FirstLady Michelle Obama, the Rolling Stones and Salma Hayek among the faithful watchers.

The show was recently nominated for several Emmys again and over the years has racked up Emmys wins, Golden Globes and SAG awards.

Which begs an answer to HBO’s original question – why would audiences adore this U.K. drama? Scrutinize “Downton” a bit further and the answer surfaces.

Here is a brief anatomy of the Masterpiece hit.

Stellar Writing from a Passionate Scribe

“Downton Abbey” is the brainchild of Sir Julian Fellowes, the Oscar winning writer of the similar period film “Gosford Park”. Already passionate about the turn of the century time period, Fellowes drew stories from his own family history as well as the book “To Marry an English Lord” as the basis of “Downton Abbey”. The bestseller chronicled how American heiresses crossed the Atlantic to find English aristocratic husbands.

Characters Cora Crawley, an American rich woman and Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham are based on real people referenced in “To Marry an English Lord”.

Brilliant Ensemble Cast

“Downton Abbey” is about the tribulations of the upper crust Crawley clan and the sordid lives of their loyal domestics. The beauty of the show is the upstairs and downstairs characters receive equal billing. Class issues, gender politics and the response to encroaching modernity are spread throughout each group. While the cast is large, the actors play their counterparts so well that they are all memorable.  Of course there are standouts.

There is the zinger prone matriarch, Violet, the Dowager Countess, played by Dame Maggie Smith. There is the loving servant duo, the valet John Bates and ladies maid Anna Bates who met on the job and got married. There is the well-played villain Thomas Barrow, a valet trying to climb the ladder at the expense of others. He also happens to be gay.

Jaw Dropping Plots and Popular Character Deaths

“Downton Abbey” quickly showed it was not your “mother’s” Masterpiece theatre program with many of its jaw dropping plots. Early in the first season, a Turkish diplomat dies in the bed of Lady Mary Crawley, the eldest daughter of the family. They were at the start of their throes of passion at the time. The show continued to buck conventional television rules by killing off main characters.

The middle daughter, Lady Sybil, succumbs in childbirth. In the finale episode of season 3, Matthew Crawley, a popular romantic lead and husband of Lady Mary, dies in a sudden car crash.

Viewers all over the world were outraged and incensed by the plot twist. Some American viewers were so upset that they petitioned the White House to force Dan Stevens who played Crawley to return to the show – or otherwise face deportation.  Fellowes regularly receives letters on how the character can be resurrected.

Stevens, meanwhile, continues to apologize for leaving the show, even though he has moved on to focus on his movie career.

A Majestic Setting

“Downton Abbey” is filmed on a real working British estate: Highclere Castle. Tourism to the castle and its sprawling grounds have skyrocketed as viewers clamor to catch filming or tread in the footsteps of their beloved characters.

Appreciating the simplicity and refinement of the times, those who can’t make the overseas trip stage their own “Downton Abbey” themed parties, decked in costumes and all. (Georgia Public Broadcasting hosts a gala to screen the first episode of the new season for costumed revelers every December.)

Viewers can also get a personal glimpse of the real clothing worn on the show by visiting traveling exhibits at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware and next year at the Biltmore House in Ashville, NC.


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