My, but the British can make the soapiest of soap operas seem like, well, a "Masterpiece."
Because a soapy soap, essentially, is what "Downton Abbey" really is, masked in the finest of the queen's English and adorned in the most magnificent of period-piece costumes and scenery.
I came late to the "Abbey" party, just now joining as season three gets under way. It was past time to see what so many viewers of this "Masterpiece Classic" offering on PBS have been rejoicing about for two previous seasons.
Luckily for this "Downton" novice, PBS aired the entire second season last Sunday, leading up to the much-anticipated return of the series that evening.
Honestly, I decided to finally watch mainly because it seemed like I had to, not because I really wanted to. After all, if you're going to remain a card-carrying member of the TV lovers club, you'd better be watching as many of the most-lauded shows as you can.
So, while my expectations for "Downton Abbey" were pure boredom, happily, the reality fast became pure addiction.
I stayed up until 1 a.m. (on a school night!), devouring as many season two episodes as I could earlier this week.
It was love at first sight. But, then again, I've always been a sucker for a good soap opera (for a bad one, too, actually).
The show, in all it's British uppercrust finery, contains just about all of the classic daytime soap plot lines: Love! Betrayal! Tragedy! Hidden passion! Scandals! Star-crossed lovers! Heck, there even was an amnesiac-presumed-dead heir to the manor!
And, of course, muuuuuuurrrder. Well, sort of. The story of the beloved Mr. Bates and his estranged wife probably isn't murder, but he was convicted of it anyway. Wait a wrongful murder conviction?! Oh, for the love of "General Hospital," the things they think of over on the other side of the pond.
Seriously, if all that isn't soapy soap fare, what is?
But the blood is so blue and the dialogue so very English, you kind of forget all the smarmy stuff; well, you forgive it, anyway.
The story of British aristocracy and the people who served them, circa the early 1900s, "Downton Abbey" weaves a fun and lavish tale about their lives and loves and dramas, with a backdrop of actual history.
There's no zealot like a convert, of course: six-plus hours into viewing and I repeatedly have had to quash the desire to take on a British accent and walk around the office saying things like "rubbish, that" and "stiff upper lip, old chap."
I remain behind the fan curve, though, still wading through the second season before getting to that big season-three debut.
Plenty of folks are way ahead of me: according to wire reports, Sunday's show had 7.9 million viewers, a seriously high number for public television. Note, the season two premiere garnered only 4.2 million.
The increase likely is partly due to the awards and critical praise the show has been getting, but also because of a massive publicity blitz. The "Downton Abbey" craze has been everywhere leading up to the debut. Which, of course, makes me wonder what the heck I was thinking in not watching sooner?
Well, better late than never, old chaps.
Speaking of television crazes, there's a resurrection of sorts about to begin of a former all-the-rage show "Sex and the City."
"Of sorts" because it's a prequel to the story of the loves and exploits of New York City it-girl Carrie Bradshaw, not a return-to.
A series laying out Carrie's back-story begins Monday on the CW network, called "The Carrie Diaries."
According to the Los Angeles Times, "Diaries" is set in 1984 and "stars AnnaSophia Robb as 16-year-old Carrie, a Connecticut high school student reeling from the recent death of her mother, falling hard for a dangerous new transfer student named Sebastian, and discovering the excitement of New York City for the first time."
Well, this is a tough one. I adored "Sex and the City," but I'm just not all that interested in this idea.
Fans of the original show fell in love with the four lead characters and their friendship and, of course, their shoes. Rewinding all that, nixing the other three women and focusing on a teenager?
Pass the tea and return to "Downton," please.